Design a stunning rooftop terrace garden

Whether you own a compact balcony or a large rooftop space, there are a host of ways to make the most of outdoor living this summer. Here garden designer Patricia Fox of Aralia Landscape Architects shares her expert tips on what to consider…

Garden A
Garden B This low-level roof terrace in Kensington features a limestone paving with pebble mat edging, polished granite-top gas-fire table, framed overhead by a curved metal bespoke archway and lush, green planting.

1. How strong are the floor and walls?
Strength is an important issue when it comes to designing a roof terrace. Weight loading is critical and you need to be sure that your roof can support what you plan to do - even a planter can become incredibly heavy when full of very wet soil, for example. Speak to a structural engineer or garden designer first if you’re unsure.

2. Stay safe
Don’t put planters immediately adjacent to balustrade or fencing. You need to maintain a minimum height of 1.1m from ground level (or top of planter if placed adjacent to) to the top of the balustrade. This is a legal requirement, and for very good safety reasons.

3. Consider the drainage
Often overlooked but so important. If you’re introducing planters with live plants you will need to consider how the water will wash away from the planter, and if the dirty liquid will stain your lovely light stone paving? Rainwater will also need to find its way down a drainpipe, so make sure you don’t cover these up.

4. Think about access
If you fancy some really dramatic large trees on your terrace, don’t forget that you need to get them up there! You need to consider whether you can carry them, if they will bend round the interior corners available, or if they will fit in the access lift. Or you may need to consider some other method and bring in the professionals.

5. Screen to your advantage
Disguise poor views with planting or lovely contemporary slatted trellis, and frame good views by positioning planting either side of a view you want to draw attention to. Don’t use solid boundaries above 1.1m since they will create a wind tunnel!

Garden C
Garden D This Chelsea roof terrace includes a bespoke glass art panel, outdoor kitchen, hardwood pergola, green walls and glass under-lit strips in hardwood decking

6. Pull up a pew
Carefully position outdoor seating or dining areas in the most sheltered spots, protected from the wind, as it can get windy and cold on a roof terrace. Choose furniture that is sturdy and will not blow away and those built to withstand the ever-changing conditions of a roof terrace.

7. Plant wisely
Select plants that will withstand the harsh climate of a roof terrace. Plants that are suitable for coastal conditions are generally very good for roof terraces, since they are good in windy, drier conditions. Ideally install an irrigation system.

8. Plan your lighting
If your budget will stretch, make sure you get a professional in to design and install your lighting. You can create some beautiful, illusive effects with lighting, and on a roof terrace the glow and effect on the night sky can be amazing. Well worth the money!

9. Create ambiance and warmth
The introduction of some kind of firepit or outdoor fireplace will not only keep you warm but will also provide a lovely focal point.

10. Design a fun space
Roof terraces make great entertaining spaces, so consider installing an outdoor kitchen or, at the very least, somewhere to cook food. If the terrace is a fair walk from your kitchen, it’s a great idea to install a sink and mini fridge too! This means you can spend more time with your guests enjoying yourself rather than having to run back and forth.

[Images credit: Copyright Aralia]

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Emily Peck, Editor

View all posts by Emily Peck, Editor

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