It’s not heaven, but it’s close: As students gather to pray and meditate below, the plants of the Edenic green roof atop NYU’s Center for Spiritual Life reach skyward, kissed by bees and butterflies.

While most green roofs primarily feature sedums, hardy succulents valued for their ability to hold water, George Reis, NYU’s supervisor of sustainable landscaping, brought variety to the 3,700 square foot sky plot at 238 Thompson, mixing in native plants like primrose and wild columbine when the roof was planted in fall 2011. He and his team visit the rooftop weekly, maintaining some 3,000 plants without the use of herbicides, fungicides, or insecticides. Nearby, the School of Law operates another green roof at Wilf Hall.

“One advantage of using native perennials is that they have different looks in all seasons—sedum roofs tend to be more static,” Reis says. To catch a glimpse of goldenrods blooming this fall, head to the upper floors of the neighboring Kimmel Center and look west.

While not quite barred by pearly gates, the roof at 238 Thompson isn’t open to the public—so from his perch high above Washington Square, Reis is in a unique position to watch flora transform with the seasons, both on the roof and beyond.

“I like to take pictures from there because it creates the illusion that the green roof is an extension of the park,” Reis says. A handful of his choice shots, captured between April and November 2012, appear above.