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Design spotlight: Rooftop garden design

Last Updated on : 6th September 2019

Fulfilling your love for gardening or peaceful time spent outdoors can be hard to achieve if you’re lacking even the tiniest patch of garden. As a city-dweller, minimal outside space is something you come to expect when you’re looking for a home. But what if the solution has been under your nose, or, over your head, this whole time?

One of the most overlooked and underused parts of the home, the roof is an ideal location to build your very own rooftop oasis above the bricks and mortar below.

What to consider when planning a rooftop garden build

As with any build of sorts, there are a number of elements that you need to consider before you go ahead.

Before you get busy choosing your water features and patio furniture, you need to find out if your roof is suitable for a rooftop garden. And this is all determined by the weight that it can hold. Finding out the load-bearing capacity of your roof is easy; your title deeds should give you this information. However, for older properties this may not be the case and it’s advisable to contact a structural engineer to tell you what you can and, more importantly, can’t do with your roof.

Planning permission
As is the case with many buildings, there are strict covenants on what work can and can’t be carried out, so it is wise to check with the property management company or local authority before you start planning. Again, you can check your title deeds or tenancy agreement if you need clarification.

How you get up to the roof, and safely, is something that needs to be at the top of your list of considerations. Likewise, if you’re planning a decadent build, you need to consider how you are going to get the materials up on to the roof. It will be fairly easy to carry plants and smaller items of furniture, but larger items might require a crane or hoist which will take more planning and a larger budget.

Rooftop garden design ideas

Once you’ve ascertained whether or not it is feasible to build your garden in the sky, you need to consider what it should look like. We’ve put together our top considerations for rooftop garden design to help you turn that unused space into a relaxing and enjoyable garden that you can use all year round.

Deciding on the flooring for your rooftop garden should be the same as choosing flooring for any other room in your house. It needs to be suitable for the space available, fit within budget and be neutral to blend into the surroundings.

If you’re looking to add light to the room below, investing in a glass lantern in the roof will allow light to pour in while also adding interest to your patio. Clear glass will flood the room below with light, whilst a frosted effect will make a statement and be a talking point in the garden above. It’s important to note that this will be a large investment, both in terms of time and budget, as you’ll probably need to refer to professionals to carry out the work needed.

Decking is a lightweight and affordable choice that lends itself to both rustic and smart patio designs. Decking adds warmth and the illusion of more space, with elongating lines flattering the length of the terrace.

Paving slabs come in all sizes, shapes, colours and materials. These are particularly good for irregular-shaped patios and will add a neutral base from which you can decorate upwards. However, the cost of them can vary dramatically depending on your choice. You should also consider whether you’re going to do it yourself or hire a tradesman to lay your paving for you as this will also affect your overall budget.

Sometimes less is more, and a simple pebble or shingle base can be used to great effect. Create pathways leading to seating areas, flanked by plants and shrubs for a beautiful effect. Using pebbles is also a hassle free DIY option that’s kind on your pockets.

The view
If you’re lucky enough to have a beautiful cityscape view you should try and work with it. Frame the view with plants or sculpture and draw the eye by facing any seating areas towards the view.

If, on the other hand, you overlook a car park or a busy road, use a trellis or shrubbery to hide them from view and create a truly hidden gem.

Cities are known to be windy, and you’re going to be more exposed to this the higher you get. If your rooftop terrace is prone to being battled by the elements, try to minimise the effect by adding a windbreak.

Tall shrubs or bamboo will filter the gusts, allowing a gentle breeze to permeate into the garden. If you’re after a more robust wind-break, trellis is good, but ensure it has a strong base, otherwise it could be blown over by the wind. Glass is a dramatic and modern option for a wind-break and has the added benefit of not blocking the sunshine, or the view.

To thrive on a roof terrace, plants needs to be tough. It’s a harsh environment that’s open to all the elements, come rain or shine, so choosing hardy plants is your best bet for a healthy and happy garden.

If you really want to go nature-friendly (and the roof can take the weight!), adding a small pond, water feature or bee hive will give you so much joy and brings a little nature to the city. For a more rustic feel, you could even plant a mini-meadow, with mixed flowers scattered through a small patch of soil. Come summer, it’ll be a tiny cacophony of colour and insects.

Kitchen garden
The number of edible plants you want to grow will depend on how much free time you have to spare to nurture them. Although one bonus of being high up is you shouldn’t have a problem with slugs and snails.

Small fruit trees are a gorgeous addition for their fruit, air purity, and their durability. Tomato and strawberry plants love the sunshine, so should do well in a sheltered but sunny spot in the summer. A row of carrots or courgettes is easy to grow, and herbs are always satisfyingly easy to cultivate.

When it comes to furnishing your rooftop garden, you need to choose your furniture wisely. Just like any other room in your house, consider what style is best going to suit your space. For instance, wrought iron furniture works well for a Victorian style property, but block sofas and seating may be better suited to a modern build.

And, for a rooftop that’s a true extension of your home, its essential to make it cosy. Use cushions and throws to make your seating more comfortable and inviting and consider installing weatherproof storage so you can keep these important additions close at hand all year round.

The final flourish for your rooftop garden design will be warm lighting. When the sun sets, outdoor fairy lights and candles will really complete the look.

Dot tea lights along pathways and surround seating areas with church candles in large glass lanterns. Fairy lights hung from trellises and shrubbery give a cosy vibe. Solar options are also eco-friendly.

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