Urban Roof Garden Has Been a Ten Year Project

roof sedum photo

Photo: B. Alter

This roof garden has been a ten year labour of love for the owner who is both the architect and designer. It all started with an eco house, built on a small piece of land in a dense residential area.

The architect wanted to be environmental and he had a passion for gardening. A decade later, house and gardens are flourishing.

front house photo

Photo: B. Alter

Starting with the house: the plot was formerly the back end of a neighbour's garden. Sold to an architect with some interesting ideas, the local government unfortunately had different ones. They insisted that the house be one story at one end and allowed two storeys at the other side. The design was the result of these decisions. The lovely sloping roof which faced south cried out for something green and the architect/owner was just the man to respond to that opportunity.

The house is made of treated UK timber, it is insulated with recycled newspaper insulation and the paint is eco. The cladding is sustainable as well.

front garden photo

Photo: B. Alter

The local officials also said that the house had to be set back 5 metres, in keeping with the neighouring houses. This left no back yard, but a large front space.

Hence the lush and exotic front garden /entrance. After a massive infusion of soil on the concrete front yard, the planting began ten years ago and has gone through many cycles and changes. Originally the owner was growing tropical, sun-loving plants because of the hot British summers and the concentration of heat into the area. But the last two winters have been bitterly cold and many of the plants such as oleanders, have died. So a new series of plants more suitable to moderate weather have been introduced. However palms, yuccas and bamboo are still happily flourishing, although he is giving up on the bananas.

water butt photo

Photo: B. Alter

In the corner is a rainwater collector. It holds 450 litres and is used for irrigation. It has been so dry this year that he has already emptied it twice.

garden roof photo

Photo: B. Alter

The roof garden is reached via a ladder. It is 50ft x 18ft but it is hard to judge the slope when you are at the top looking at the wonder of it all. There are varying depths of soil on the roof and varying plantings. These include agaves, aloes, cacti, bromeliads, alpines, sedums, bulbs, grasses, Mediterranean shrubs and aromatic herbs.

The thing about England is that everything grows here so easily and beautifully because of the rain and comparatively temperate climate. So the owner is not particularly insistent on using only native plants. He believes that most plants will adjust to the environment and the butterflies and birds and bugs will be attracted. Build it and they will come and it seems to work here.

The garden was open to the public as part of the wonderful National Garden Scheme. It's a country wide programme that collects funds for charity by asking people to open their garden for a single Sunday afternoon. Garden lovers adore looking at other people's creations; it's a chance to admire, snipe, envy and copy the lives of the rich and famous in the gardening world.

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