With the terrace being fairly exposed, getting some sun and immediately outside the living room, both the client and I were interested in a three-dimensional composition that will give a contemporary view. We matched the white of the walls with smooth powdercoated planters and hardwood decking to match the interior floor. An evergreen collection of foliage follows the layout of the terrace giving a strong architectural elevation.
Here I was able to use some of my favourite architectural specimens. They had to be combined so that textures contrast as well as heights and colour. Betula albosinensis 'Fascination' - the Chinese Red Birch - is a winner on all levels. Having used it before on a 40th floor Barbican penthouse I knew it is wind resistant, fast growing, inexpensive and sculptural. In fact, I could zoom in from the terrace towards the Barbican and witness its progress having planted it years earlier. In order to bring in tall tress we used a small crane to reach over to the 6th floor.
Viewed from an upper roof terrace the space feels more like an outdoor room and you may forget for a minute that you are at the top of the Ziggurat building in the middle of London. Contemporary gardening in raised planters has many advantages as with excellent drainage and timed irrigation growth performance is optimised.
Contemporary roof terrace design
Access is paramount as it may not be possible to get long items into the building. 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 will retain moisture for longer.
Discrete drainage for containers helps keep surfaces free from staining and does it's magic away from view. Plenty of light-weight drainage material at the base of the planters, generous flow outlets and the right compost can sustain healthy roof terrace displays for a long time.
Exposure to high winds calls for low vegetation, small or grey leaves, which tend to cope better. Automatic irrigation not only eliminates manual watering and saves water but is vital on roof terraces. Correct seasonal programming can sustain good performance in growth and should be customised for the varying conditions of each unique design.