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Living Umbrellas Provide More Than Shade
Dave Tilley had an epiphany when he saw people crowd around a tall potted plant seeking shade from Las Vegas’s scorching sun and 120-degree heat on a swimming pool patio. Why not use vegetation to create living umbrellas?
    As an ecological engineering professor at the University of Maryland, the idea fits perfectly with his focus to incorporate nature into urban areas with things such as green roofs, living walls and rain barrels. With financial help from the University of Maryland, state and national grants, he and three other team members developed an aluminum prototype that debuted at the U of M campus, trade shows and restaurants around the Mid-Atlantic region.
    The umbrella rib frame peaks at 9 ft. tall and includes a container with soil and nutrients to fertilize plants and support up to 100 lbs. through an entire season. The solor power can be used to irrigate the plants on top.
    “We plant Mandevilla vines and treat it as an annual. It’s a phenomenal flower producer beginning June 1,” Tilley says, adding that the plants are 3 to 4 ft. long when planted so that they will create a canopy within a month.
    The team is looking at other species, including edible plants that could be grown and used in entrees at restaurants.
    Tilley notes that during development, engineering students focused on the shade aspect and how growing plants add an extra cooling factor.
    “When we talk to restaurant and hotel owners, they feel these (living umbrellas) are a way to show patrons they care about their health and the environment,” Tilley explains.
    Tilley and his partners created Living Canopies Ltd. They are testing the market with trial sales this year and plan a full-scale market launch in 2018.
    The Living Umbrellas are expected to sell for $2,500 to $3,000 with options of wheels, plant varieties, etc.
    Tilley welcomes inquiries.
    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, David Tilley, Living Canopies Ltd., 4318 Sheridan St., University Park, Md. 20782 (ph 301 789-5099; www.livingcanopies.com; dave@livingcanopies.com).

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2017 - Volume #41, Issue #2