wildlife roof terrace


This summer I designed a new roof terrace in Clerkenwell in the centre of London. This busy junction is devoid of trees or green of any kind; wildlife is scarce and the view is pretty gloomy. The area is needless to say highly polluted. I wanted to find a way to incorporate a contemporary design, in keeping with the apartment and surrounding architecture, yet use a planting scheme which will benefit wildlife. The clients stirred the idea from the outset and were passionate about it. Being a private residence, we were able to create an intimate space, which blends architectural design and care for the environment.

1. Bees 2. Butterflies 3. Birds 4. Seasonal 5. Edible

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wildlife terrace - before

The intersection of Old Street, Clerkenwell Road and Goswell Road is a busy, grey and gloomy junction with no living green. The loss of habitats and the use of pesticides in both town and country mean that the numbers of bees, birds and butterflies, which are crucial to our ecosystem, are declining at a rapid rate. Every one of us who tends to a garden - be it a roof terrace, balcony, patio or courtyard can contribute by introducing flora which attracts and supports wildlife. This can also extend the flowering seasons in the garden, add edible elements and help soften the harsh architectural components of the space.

wildlife terrace - after

The long and narrow terrace is divided into three areas with hardwood decking, sandstone and artificial grass. The view is framed with a focal point native Spindle tree - Euonymus europaeus 'Red Cascade'. This tree selection not only satisfies my appreciation of multi-stem architectural forms and the ability to withstand wind on the terrace but also provides seasonal autumn colour and berries for birds.

wildlife terrace - flowers

In late summer, the Alder Buckthorn, Rhamnus frangula 'Asplenifolia', is surrounded by colour produced by Buddleja davidii 'Empire Blue' and Echinacea purpurea. The Buddleja is important in attracting butterflies and the Echinacea is a magnet to all types of bees.

wildlife terrace - bees

Angelica gigas, although only a biennial and a non-native from China, provides instant nectar for hundreds of bees, which began frequenting the terrace - first bumble bees and then the honey bees.

wildlife terrace - bumblebee


wildlife terrace - herbs

Each section of the terrace contains species which extend the flowering season thus providing additional food for visiting wildlife. Native and European perennials are dotted throughout to attract bees and butterflies while the shrubs offer berries for birds. Alpines and herbs in the central seating area provide an extended season indeed - right up from April until November.

wildlife terrace - planting

The Laurel hedge on the right provides much protection for birds, together with berries from shrubs such as Cotoneaster, Crataegus, Euonymus, Rhamnus and Viburnum. Butterflies and bees benefit from rich nectar from perennials and shrubs such as Achillea, Centranthus, Digitalis, Dipsacus, Erysimum, Lavandula, Lavatera, Lonicera, Papaver, Perovskia, Phlomis, Pimpinella, Salvia and Vitex.

wildlife terrace - view


wildlife terrace - edible

While the main terrace contains culinary herbs in its central area, the sheltered upper terrace is primarily dedicated to the production of edibles. There are also some wildlife attractions here to supplement the main, lower terrace. Grapes, figs and Apples are trained against the warm brick wall, while a Lemon tree in a pot on the other side sits next to a Rhubarb trough. Crops which are unwanted or surplus are needless to say useful for birds.

The immediate success of this scheme proves that with forward planning a lot of environmental care for wildlife can be incorporated into every roof terrace in the centre of town. There is so much habitat loss with land development that it is a garden designer's responsibility to adjust their design to accommodate habitats for insects and birds wherever possible. Roof terraces do not have to remain bleak architectural statements devoid of flora that are wildlife-friendly. In fact, seasonal interest can be extended much further with the use of native species in the right amount to create a balanced scheme.

amirWritten, photographed and posted by Amir Schlezinger.

wildlife terrace - berries

View of the Barbican Towers through the berries of the native Spindle tree


Before and afterBefore and after
11 before & after 10 garden lighting 10 paving stones
10 garden benches 10 garden decking 10 garden seating

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