Conference Topic – Green Roofs

Green roofs have been shown to be a powerful tool in sustainability efforts around the world. The advantages of green roofs include improved storm water management, increase roof membrane life, reduced noise and air pollution and increased urban biodiversity, mitigation of the urban heat island effect and decreased heating and cooling costs. From an aesthetic standpoint, green roofs can play a part in satisfying biophilic needs of humans, helping to improve human well-being, health and productivity.

Green roof installation has increased world-wide in recent decades, particularly in Germany, where the standards for green roofs were established. In the United States, most green roofs are found in areas with more rainfall and humidity and less intense sunshine than in arid regions. Therefore, the plants that are often used in green roofs are not ones that might flourish in desert areas. Scant research has been done to identify plants that might be suitable candidates for green roofs in arid regions. In addition, most extensive green roofs are planted in a single species, but research has shown that plant communities can be more robust than a monoculture.

The objectives of this research were to 1) compare the performance of plant communities with that of monocultures and 2) compare the growth of natives to non-natives in a simulated green roof setting. The research, conducted over two years in an outdoor setting in the Chihuahuan desert used four different plant types (groundcover, perennial, succulent and grass), comparing a native and non-native of each type. The native plants selected were damiantita (Chrysactinia mexicana), blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum), candelilla (Euphorbia antisyphilitica) and mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima) and non-natives were hardy ice plant (Delosperma nubigenum), lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina), orange stonecrop (Sedum kamtschiaticum) and blue fescue (Festuca glauca). The workshop will discuss the results of this study, as well as future research possibilities.


Rachel Gioannini graduated in December 2017, with a Master’s of Science in Horticulture from NMSU. Her graduate research was in native plant communities for green roofs in arid regions. Prior to grad school, Rachel owned her own landscape design company, which began in Tucson, AZ, then moved to Las Cruces in 2013. While practicing landscape design, Rachel was an active member of the Tucson Chapter of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, then founded the New Mexico Chapter when she moved here. She obtained her APLD certification in 2008 and received the Monrovia “Distinctively Better” Plant Design Award in 2011.

Rachel is also a Master Gardener in Dona Ana County and an active member of the Optimist Club of Las Cruces, where she serves as secretary. In her free time, Rachel loves mountain and road cycling, as well as reading, crocheting, quilting and cooking, though not all at the same time.

Rachel Gioannini –  Curriculum Vitae


Masters of Science, Horticulture
Minor: Applied Statistics
New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM

2015-present Graduate Teaching Assistantship
New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM

  • Plant Materials I (primary instructor for class and lab) August, 2017 to present
  • Plant Materials II August-December, 2016
  • Introduction to Plant Materials January-May, 2015 & 2016
  • Plant Materials I August-December, 2015
  • Landscape Design August-December, 2015

2002-2004 Certificate in Landscape Design
Fleur de Lis Institute (unaccredited)
Tucson, AZ


  • 2017 Dean’s Award of Excellence, Graduate Student
  • 2015-2017 William Mayfield Blythe Scholarship, awarded to a student studying xeric and native plants
  • 2016-2017 Albuquerque Area Extension Master Gardeners Scholarship


  • 2015-present Environmental and Plant Science Graduate Student Organization, member
  • 2016-2017 Vice President, NM Chapter Association of Professional Landscape Designers
  • 2009-2017 Certified Member APLD
  • 2015-2016 President, NM Chapter APLD
  • 2014-present Certified Master Gardener Dona Ana County Extension Service, Las Cruces, NM
  • 2013-present Certification Committee APLD
  • 2010-2012 Treasurer, Tucson District APLD
  • 2006-2008 Member APLD
  • 2011, ‘12, ‘16 APLD International Design Conference, San Francisco, CA, Cleveland, OH and Santa Fe, NM


  • 2017 Gioannini, R., D.M. VanLeeuwen and R. St. Hilaire. Plant Communities for Green Roofs in Arid Regions. American Society for Horticultural Science Annual Conference. September 19-22, Waikaloa, HI
  • 2017 Forrest, Lauren, R. Gioannini, D.M. VanLeeuwen, R. St. Hilaire. Shallow substrates support the growth of contrasting plant types installed in irrigated arid climate green roofs. J. Environ. Hort. (accepted with revisions).
  • 2016 Bsoul, E., R. Gioannini, and R. St. Hilaire. Bigtooth maples from three geographically different origins endure root zone salinity. J. Environ. Hort. 34(4): 111-117. (Peer reviewed publication)
  • 2016 Gioannini, R. Effective green roofs in the desert southwest: research into plant materials for a successful roof. APLD International Conference. September 15-18, Santa Fe, NM.
  • 2012 Desert Horticulture Conference, Tucson, AZ Title: “Yay! They signed! Now What?!?!” A guide to the design process from signing a client to completing a landscape design, including budgetary issues, and phased landscape installation.
  • 2014 The Designer (APLD Magazine) “Namibian Adventure”
  • 2012 The Designer “My Trip to Paradise”


  • 2005-2017 Owner/Designer Casa Serena Landscape Designs LLC, Las Cruces, NM
  • 2005-2006 Construction Coordinator Sonoran Gardens Landscape Design, Tucson, AZ
  • 2004-2012 Freelance Designer and Design Assistant for landscape design/build firms in Tucson, AZ


  • 2012 Judge’s Award, Arizona Landscape Contractors Association Awards—Moore Residence
  • 2011 Monrovia ‘Distinctively Better’ Plant Design Award—Leporini Residence. This is an international award, presented to one recipient per year, “in recognition of exemplary landscape planting plans”.
  • 2011 Award of Merit, APLD International Awards—Leporini Residence
  • 2011 Award of Excellence, Arizona Landscape Contractors Association Awards—Leporini Residence
  • 2010 Judge’s Award, Arizona Landscape Contractors Association Awards—Couch Residence
  • 2009 Award of Excellence, Arizona Landscape Contractors Association Awards—Bergmann Residence


  • 2000-2002 Instructor: Stage Management University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
  • 1999-2000 Instructor: Stage Management The Juilliard School, New York, NY
  • 1997-1999 Instructor: Theatre courses New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM
  • 1995-2002 Production Stage Manager (PSM) positions in various theatres. The Production Stage Manager works in conjunction with all artistic and technical departments of a production to keep the rehearsal process moving efficiently and smoothly towards the opening performance. The PSM is the primary liaison between the technical and artistic unions, ensuring compliance with all relevant union rules and regulations (AEA, IATSE, AGMA, etc.)
  • 1993-1996 MFA, Stage Management University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music
  • 1993-1995 Graduate Teaching Assistant University of Cincinnati, CCM, Cincinnati, OH Classroom and in-theatre instruction for undergraduate stage managers.
  • 1987-1993 Theatre Lighting Designer, Volunteer Coordinator, Stage Manager at 3 theatres.
  • 1982-1987 BFA, Design & Technical Direction University of North Carolina, Greensboro