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In this roof terrace, timber raised beds and benches detailed with Iroko are configured on 4 levels. The lush planting features palms, bamboo, ferns, grasses and Banana. The low voltage lighting is remote controlled with automatic irrigation. This is the 2nd roof terrace design in a series of 4 in Butlers Wharf SE London. The terraces vary north and south, allowing contrast in the designs.



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Roof terrace design:: Shad Thames


Whilst working in Butlers Wharf I was approached by the neighbours to redesign their own outdoor space ahead of their wedding day.


We naturally remained on site, whilst I refined the design with the client, who was an interior designer. As with most of the penthouses in the wharf the terraces abound north and south and upper and lower, in other words 4 outdoor spaces.

With the terrace being fairly sheltered, getting some sun and immediately outside the kitchen, both the client and I were interested in a three-dimensional composition that will give a lush view. We matched the white of the walls with smooth raised beds and iroko hardwood coping to match the deck. An evergreen collection of exotic looking plants follows the layout of the raised beds giving a strong architectural elevation.

Here I was able to use  some of my favourite architectural plants. They had to be combined so that textures contrast as well as heights and colour. I would not usually use bamboo on roof terraces as too much wind and it will not perform well and may end up looking unsightly and suffer. Yet here with the high walls of Butlers Wharf the space had more of a courtyard sheltered feel. Black bamboo gives height surrounded by Phormium, Fatsia, European palms, ferns and grasses. A hardy, ornamental Banana provides a lush tall statement in the right border underplanted with variegated Hosta.

Viewed from the upper roof terrace the space feels more like a sunken garden than a courtyard and you may forget for a minute that you are at the top of Butlers Wharf. Gardening in raised beds has many advantages and some disadvantages. It may be difficult to replant certain plants due to restricted root growth. This may also limit the ultimate life span of the plant. That said, with excellent drainage and timed irrigation the performance is optimised. Good drainage with available moisture is the key to growing so many plants. Here the Phormium which requires high moisture is isolated at the top bed. Where plants have different water needs it is possible to use drip irrigation and increase and decrease the amount of water to specific plants.


Location:
Type of garden:
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Style:
Butlers Wharf, Shad Thames, South East London SE1
roof terrace design
40 sqm
20k
Iroko
raised beds, benches
Palm trees, bamboo, grasses, Banana, Fatsia, ferns
2002
1 week
Mediterranean



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Always consider access as it may not be possible to get long items into the site such as wood and tall plants. The lift should always be checked for size and all openings en route to the roof terrace measured for width and height. Larger planters are preferable on roof terraces as they are well balanced and the compost tends to retain moisture for longer.

Where the look might call for taller or narrower planters it is advisable to use an anti-topple device at the back of the planter and secure to it to a wall or the handrail of the roof terrace. Drainage for planters and containers tends to get overlooked and this means that calcium from the water gathers on surfaces tarnishing their appearance. It is far more preferable to have drainage outlets at the bottom of the rear elevation of the planter rather than the base. This way water excess can be diverted elsewhere on the terrace.

Many roof terraces will be exposed to high winds. Plants should be selected for their tolerance of wind – plants with small leaves tend to cope better with wind and grey leaved plants tend to cope better with hot sun. Automatic irrigation not only eradicates the need for manual watering and saves a great deal of water but is paramount in sustaining plants on roof terraces. The right programming for the different seasons promotes good performance in plant growth and should be customised for the varying conditions of each unique roof terrace design.

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