Gardens on the roof

A rooftop garden (photo credit: YUVAL YAM)
A rooftop garden
(photo credit: YUVAL YAM)
In the not so distant past, a house with a garden was the preferred way to live for many Israelis. Today, those who own a penthouse or a rooftop apartment can enjoy the luxury of having a garden on the roof.
Modern architectural trends are going retro. Up to the mid-1960s, most apartments had large terraces. This trend was discontinued up to the end of the last century, but now most modern condominiums have terraces that can be turned into mini-gardens. A rooftop garden or a terrace mini-garden is a wonderful addition to any apartment. Plants grow best in their natural environment with earth and water. A terrace or rooftop with a concrete floor is not a natural environment. For plants, growing in a pot of any size is growing in an artificial environment.
Creating a verdant garden with trees and multicolored flowers is a complex affair. It requires expert knowledge. I have 20 years’ experience in the field. I know what kinds of plants are most suitable for roofs and terraces, when to plant, and how to create an irrigation system that will supply the necessary amount of water and nutrients, as well as remove excess water.
Terrace gardens
When creating a terrace garden, safety features must be taken into account if there are children living in the apartment. It is necessary to have a high railing to prevent them from falling.
In a terrace garden, the location is important. The direction the terrace is facing (north, south, east or west) will indicate the amount of sunshine it receives. The plants used will be determined by this factor. There are plants that need full sun all day or at least most of the daylight hours, and there are plants that flourish in the shade.
In a terrace garden, the irrigation system is very important. And great care should be taken to prevent water dripping down to the apartments below.
Rooftop gardens
Rooftop gardens can be created on the uppermost level of penthouse apartments. In many cases, the apartment includes the whole roof or half of it. For penthouses that include the entire roof, the options are many.
I have planned and designed rooftop gardens in which the roof was covered by a thick layer of earth in which there were trees, flowerbeds and lawns. In such a set-up, it is important to make the roof completely waterproof and install an efficient irrigation and wastewater removal system.
Rooftop gardens are situated on high floors; some can be on the 30th story or more. At such altitudes strong winds can be expected, so the plants selected for the garden should be able to withstand high winds.
A roof of one's own

When planning a rooftop garden, the design should be holistic. A rooftop garden on an existing building must be adapted to include waterproofing and flooring. The types of flooring can be, for example, ceramic tiles, stone flooring or a synthetic lawn.
For rooftop gardens that cover the entire top floor or half of it, a shaded area should be part of the planning. In addition, one should have well-planned lighting. In a hot climate like Israel’s, a rooftop garden can be very enjoyable in the evening.
Those planning to have a rooftop garden in a newly constructed building should engage the services of an experienced horticulturist to design the garden. Then they should make sure that the contractor includes all the elements of the design into the building.

The writer is a horticulturist who specializes in designing gardens of all types, with an emphasis on rooftop gardens. yuval@yamyarok.com