Thursday, April 2, 2009

Rooftop garden: cluttered canvas

By summer, this exposed rooftop, still under construction, should, hold thumbs, look very different.

The water tower, one of two, is one of my favourite features. Above, Zoltan, Transylvanian stone mason extraordinaire, writing notes to himself.

One of two levels, this part will feature a beech hedge, espaliered apples, a herb garden, two small lawns, a shrub border and neat boxwood hedges.


  1. When you do roof gardening like this, do you have to work with an architect or civil engineer to make sure the roof is impermeable and can support the weight of a garden? or is it the client's responsibility to do that?

  2. The roof is always impermeable if it has a properly installed membrane. The substructure for the surface one puts on top of it - deck, stone pavers, lawn, etc - obviously has to be cushioned correctly to maintain the integrity of the membrane.

    With new construction there are either built-in weight restrictions per square foot or load-allowances, if there has been the foresight to take a future roof garden into consideration.

    In old buildings a structural engineer assesses what load the roof can safely support.

  3. Thanks! a consultant with my employer has talked about putting roof gardens on many of our buildings (especially the ones that date back to the 1960s that have flat roofs) but the properly installed membrane is a big issue since it usually isn't...and there's also the problem of untrained personnel wielding a shovel as if they were digging in bottomless dirt...

  4. Hire a reputable garden design firm and go ahead and install roof gardens on your buildings! Nobody who does this professionally hires untrained personnel who wield shovels that dig into roof membranes:-)

    Hopefully your rooves can also be retrofitted for greenroofs.

  5. I don't think we had ever used a shovel on a roof top install.

    Except to clean up sweepings.

  6. j and i were staying at the pod hotel in midtown last summer and a new water tower was being built on an adjacent rooftop. we spent quite a bit of time watching with fascination as it went up (quickly, i might add). seems like a wonderful feature to have as part of a garden backdrop.

  7. One of my London gardens was on a roof. To access it, I climbed out of a 2nd floor window and went down a horrid old fire escape. Everything was in lightweight pots and all water (other than rain or snow)was carted up by watering can. Was I mad? Perhaps, but I had the earliest, tastiest jersey potatoes and tomatoes and beans all through summer.
    (Tomatoes were grown in big bags of potting mix. A year later, a major garden centre introduced "Gro-bags" Perhaps after hearing about mine?)

  8. Can't wait to see it! You have a great job Marie. x

  9. Mheart, I'd love to see one being built. A lot of people find them quite ugly. I really like them.

    Dinahmow - I would have done the same...But your bag idea was very clever. Now people grow potatoes in cardboard boxes, too. I wonder if my aesthetic sense could handle it, though?

    Louise, I can't wait to see it either. The logistics can be daunting. But seeing what you drew on paper come to life is always slightly amazing to me.


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