For city dwellers, the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors often requires a walk for the dog, a trip to the park, leisurely dining at a sidewalk cafe, or an afternoon admiring animals at the city zoo. In many city homes, a convenient backyard for leisure and outdoor entertaining is either non-existent or too small to accommodate the luxuries of outdoor living. City slickers have to rush along bustling city blocks just to get a few moments of outdoor rest and relaxation. But by taking advantage of a city’s reputation to build up and not out, city dwellers can create a rooftop garden retreat that will give them the pleasures of outdoor living without having to endure the outside city pace.
A rooftop garden escape often has more immediate landscaping constraints than a suburban back yard, but once the structural requirements are met, nature can take care of the rest. Taking a good look at the roof is the best way to start planning your new rooftop outside living quarters. The roof has to be in stable condition and be able to support the additional weight and weight distribution of your new rooftop room, but the roof has to be protected as well. Building a deck on the roof can add style, structural integrity and protection.
Before any measurements or garden plans are taken seriously, you need to take a good look at your surroundings. If a deck is built, the deck must be pitched correctly to allow for water runoff. For proper draining there must be at least six inches between the roof and deck. Structures, appliances, grills, sinks, lighting and furniture on the deck and roof must be planned around drainage, electrical wiring, shafts, storage areas, overhangs, stairways, fire codes, and lot property lines (even in the air).
Imposing structures will also affect garden plans. Water towers, neighboring buildings, smokestacks and skyscrapers will directly affect sunlight, shadows, water flow, wind and temperature. Spending a few days tracking the weather, wind and sunlight patterns will give you the information you need to make better plant buying decisions. Japanese black pine, juniper, yew, cotoneaster, daffodils, narcissus and the traditional marigold, geraniums and snapdragons tend to fare well on rooftop city gardens, but broadleaved evergreens and sensitive plants do not. Needless to say, hardy plants on a hot, dry rooftop in Phoenix, Arizona will be different than those surviving the cold blustery rooftops in Chicago, Illinois.
No matter where you live, a rooftop garden scene is best created with container planting and hardy vines. Containers allow you to customize soil conditions, move the plants based on weather patterns or the number of guests, and better manage rooftop weight distribution. Container plants are also useful for creating pathways, designating eating or lounging areas, carrying out color palettes, creating tiers, and bringing in decorative elements. However, no matter how much you enjoy tiered and elevated displays, you must consider the yard and pedestrians below – make sure there is nothing unstable around the rooftop borders.
Vines are nature’s natural tool for covering railings and structures that take away from your ideal rooftop view. Vines can also be used to designate traffic patterns, sitting areas, and create backdrops for container plants. They give you the masses of green you need to turn your roof from a city building to a rooftop retreat. Use a color variation in your rooftop landscape, but balance it out with green space to achieve a fluid garden scene deserving of outdoor admiration.
Outdoor rooftop retreats are easy to admire. You can relax only footsteps away from refreshments and the comforts of home – and your dog is always welcome. Convenient outdoor friendly gatherings with family and friends can be arranged without having to worry about business hours, menus, dress codes, and street safety. But most of all, you’ll be able to admire the added rest and relaxation you can get while you watch your outdoor enjoyment rise to new heights.