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Designing a rooftop garden

rooftop garden

Article by Nick Rinylo

Even when the temperatures drop, it’s hard to beat a day in your garden. If you’re a city dweller, however, garden space can be pretty hard to come by. But turning your rooftop into a garden could provide the much needed escape you’re looking for.

After all, the higher the garden, the closer to the sun. No more worrying about your neighbour’s tree preventing you from getting a killer tan. Sounds almost too good to be true, right?

Having said that, rooftop gardens can be tricky to design. But they don’t have to be! All it takes is a little creativity and some planning and you’ll have an elevated outdoor space you can enjoy with your friends and family in no time. Here are our top tips for designing a rooftop garden. 

Add a garden screen for privacy

When you have a rooftop garden, you don’t necessarily benefit from the privacy that a traditional garden provides (or doesn’t, in some cases). Even if your garden is high in the sky, it can still feel like the rest of the world is watching your every move. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your lovely slice of paradise in peace. Consider adding a garden screen to make your space feel more secluded. Not to mention, this will act as your garden’s first line of defence against the wind. Head here for more windbreak ideas for gardens

Create the illusion of more space

Let’s face it, rooftop gardens tend to be on the smaller side. Whilst your guests may not be expecting acres of greenery and space once they make the ascent up to your oasis in the sky, you want to make your space feel as big and inviting as possible. “But how do I make my rooftop garden look bigger?” we hear you. The answer: don’t let square footage limit you! 

There are plenty of ways you can make a rooftop garden feel more spacious. The most obvious answer is to prop up a mirror in your garden to trick the eye into thinking there’s more space than there actually is. Plus, you can easily check how your tan is coming along. Whilst this is certainly a handy trick, it may not work for every outdoor space, particularly gardens bordered by taller buildings. So, it’s important to be strategic about where you place mirrors.

Yes, the city skyline can be beautiful. However, if you want to make your garden feel less enclosed, it’s wise to cover walls and fences in greenery. Think beautiful climbers, such as ivy, clematis, and honeysuckle – all perfect for the fence line as they enjoy growing up towards the sun. We couldn’t think of a better way to camouflage any not so pretty fences or walls. To top things off, if you live in an area where there is lots of greenery, this will create a sense of cohesion, blurring the boundaries between your garden and the rest of the world.

rooftop garden

Choose sun-loving plants

Yes, planting isn’t exactly rocket science. However, planning planting for a rooftop garden requires a little more brainpower. For one thing, you can’t dig into the ground, which limits what you can actually plant. But above all, by their very nature, rooftop gardens get lots of sun and hold heat. This means that your precious garden could become a pressure cooker for plants during the summer. And we’ve all seen what too much sunlight and not enough water can do to even the most evergreen of plants – be it flowers scorched by the summer sun or sweltering leaves. Not a very pretty picture, indeed.

If you haven’t picked up what we’re laying down yet, it’s sensible to choose plants that are drought tolerant and will eat up the sun. Of course, there are obvious choices, such as cacti and aloes. But if you’re looking for something to really wow your guests, why not try exotic flowers? Exotic flowers thrive in warmer climates and totally transform an ordinary rooftop garden into a peaceful sanctuary; think pansies, begonias, and petunias. 

Just because your garden is a few stories up doesn’t mean you can’t plant trees, hedges and shrubs. It’s best to think small. If your roof can take a bit of extra weight, plant dwarf trees and shrubs in giant plant pots. Dwarf conifers and Japanese maples can really take your rooftop garden to new heights (pun intended).

lady gardening in rooftop garden

Set up a seating area

Our next top tip for designing a rooftop garden? Create a seating area! Even though rooftop gardens can be compact, you’d be surprised what you can do with your outdoor space. With some ingenious shuffling, you can set up an area for your family and friends to while the day away. 

Understandably, you may be worried about leaving your outdoor furniture in the sun for an extended period of time. After all, if your garden is ten stories up or more, it’s not always easy to put your furniture in storage when it’s not in use. 

Whilst you can invest in a parasol to protect your furniture (and of course, yourself) from the sun, it’s a good idea to invest in outdoor furniture that’s durable

At Skyline Design, we use a process called mono extrusion to give outdoor furniture its own in-built UV protection. When you buy from us, you can rest assured that your furniture will last for generations if it’s taken care of properly. For more handy tips, read our blog on how to clean rattan furniture.

outdoor seating area

Designing a rooftop garden with comfort in mind

Thanks to climate change, we’re experiencing more sunshine than ever before. In fact, sunshine hours have increased by more than 13% in certain parts of the UK over the past 30 years. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to turn your garden into the go-to summer hangout for your friends and family.

“How?”, you may ask. It’s simple really! Design your garden with comfort in mind. No one wants to bask in the sun on rickety outdoor furniture. Soft furnishings can make a world of difference, so think about getting some cushions and an outdoor rug. This will make your rooftop garden feel like a second living room.

We hope these tips help you in designing a rooftop garden. Now, over to you! If you need a helping hand, get in touch today and see why we’re specialists when it comes to outdoor furniture and garden design.