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design & words Amir Schlezingeramir schlezinger

Rooftop Soft Landscape

Once an exclusive speciality, roof terrace planting has evolved into a mainstream design discipline in both the private and public realms, and while maintaining thriving roof terrace plant palettes remains a dedicated, specialised gardening endeavour, the rudimental rooftop terrace ideas, garden design elements, landscaping techniques and structural frameworks which sustain them have progressed accessibly and purposefully. With London's rooftop terrace tally on a meteoric skyward track, alongside every single major megalopolis worldwide, the pure ideas of curative, long-lasting roof terrace soft landscaping promote not only much-needed urban well-being, but also garden biodiversity and sustainability in highly polluted greenless cities.

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1. trees 2. floras 3. foliage 4. wildlife 5. lighting 6. planters 7. sculptural 8. landscape 9. cultivation 10. microclimate

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1 trees

Main requirements: plenty of growing medium, robust anchorage, site suitability, logistic access for large, mature specimens. Core elements: Arbutus, Betula, Eucalyptus, Euonymus, Ginkgo, Laurus, Olea, Pinus, Quercus ilex, Salix, Vitex. Central ideas: architectural, multi-stemmed silhouettes, pollution-tolerant and wind-resistant inherent attributes. Design essentials: appropriate, symbiotic underplanting, distinct flora and wildlife associations, sculptural forms, effective lighting methods.

2 floras

Main requirements: suitable selections and juxtapositions. Layering for additional shelter, contrasting textures and scale. Core elements: sun-tolerant, Mediterranean and coastal species, desert and succulent genera, drought-tolerant vegetation. Central ideas: follow affiliation in habitat preferences and maintenance needs. Utilise compact, vigorous plant forms. Design essentials: evergreen compositions interspersed with deciduous, herbaceous and seasonal interest. Dense groupings, integrating advantageous Australian, Californian, and Chilean species – in particular plants from New Zealand.

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3 foliage

Main requirements: durability, pliability, resilience, robustness, sturdiness. Core elements: small, glaucous and silver-leaved foliage, high-altitude, long-lived plants. Central ideas: graceful movement in windy rooftops, alongside solid, shrubby outlines. Grassy necessities with drifts of tough, grass-like perennials and copious, true grasses in minimalist swathes. Design essentials: ground-cover combinations of culinary herbs with well-matched alpines, accentuated by spiky and piny focal points. Low-growing, compact palm trees with dense crowns such as Brahea armata and Chamaerops humilis, and slow-growing palm species including Butia capitata and Cordyline australis.

4 wildlife

Main requirements: native species interspersed into diverse, eclectic plant palettes. Core elements: profusely berried trees and shrubs for birds. Undisturbed thickets for butterfly habitats. Nectar-rich blooms for bees. Central ideas: well-balanced roof terrace frameworks which accommodate ecological sustainability alongside architectural design blueprints. Design essentials: multilayered, multicoloured and multi-sensory rooftop environments to promote and synchronise balanced, nurturing and sustainable urbanisation.

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5 lighting

Main requirements: well-planned circuitry to facilitate variety of settings and architectural focus. Core elements: highlight colourful branches, stems and textured bark, illuminate central, vegetal focal points. Central ideas: interconnect with surrounding city architecture utilising perceptive outdoor lighting techniques, while highlighting intrinsic qualities of individual roof terrace planting schemes. Design essentials: versatile lightscaping vitally amplifies leafiness, structure and verdancy at night-time, augmenting the compositional aspects of roof terrace planting designs amid citified backdrops, and generates intimate, liveable rooftop hubs.

6 planters

Main requirements: ample drainage, integral irrigation, endurance, stability and contrasting visual variation pivotally enhance the unique growing containers required to maintain flourishing roof terrace plant life. Core elements: Bespoke, free-standing planters, built-in raised beds, custom-made troughs, powder-coated pots and vases. Central ideas: anti-topple brackets, integrated drainage and lighting outlets, movable castors. Design essentials: articulate balanced scale between planters and plants, while flawlessly merging prominent silhouettes with distinctive architecture.

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7 sculptural

Main requirements: well-selected sculptural flora magnifies spatial qualities across a broad range of roof terrace scales and withstands prevailing wind tunnel effects in urban grids. Core elements: broad-canopied, candelabra-like and multi-branched plant forms endure windy rooftop microclimates effortlessly. Central ideas: architectural plants produce engaging focal points, paramount in conveying natural, interconnected and well-integrated roof terrace landscapes. Design essentials: seductively sculpted trunks, elevated by carpet-like, low-lying vegetation. Asymmetrical compositions with see-through veils to borrowed cityscapes. Sculpturally designed urban rooftops which communicate art, design and nature.

8 landscape

Main requirements: detailed planning strategy, structural engineering, electrical and water infrastructure. Drainage, irrigation, lighting and floating surface systems. Core elements: adequate compost, surface and substrate permeability. Provisions for wind load onto plants and structures. Central ideas: Expressively green-oriented, city-focused, landscape-related and skyline-merged. Design essentials: Function, permanence and serviceability reiterate the significance of well-landscaped roof terraces, the relevance of their design ethos and a renewed sense of place within a vacuum of sombre architecture.

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9 cultivation

Main requirements: plentiful compost depth enables rooftop planting vessels to amply nourish long-term, green vascular systems with soil porosity, sustenance and pH vitality. Core elements: decorative mulch aggregates stabilise compost in windswept rooftop terraces. Efficiently varying roof terrace irrigation programmes in sync with the changing seasons optimises plant growth. Central ideas: well-drained and well-irrigated roof terrace planting schemes thrive in highly challenging site conditions. Design essentials: simplified layouts maximise visual clarity and eases roof terrace upkeep.

10 microclimate

Main requirements: site-conscious, astute selection of plants and materials. Core elements: Tweaking of traditional landscape design inclinations to fulfil specific roof terrace necessities. Central ideas: visually synced, aesthetically aware and environmentally friendly roof terraces impart consistency, consonance and longevity within a broad range of challenging microclimates. Design essentials: Each rooftop terrace we design, build and maintain becomes an integral part in a network of aerial landforms, portraying verdant connectivity, which restates its capacity to endorse microclimatic aptness, and furthers new climate patterns amid a gripping matrix of city roof terraces.

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Terrace Design by Planting

The arboreal, floral, foliar and herbal merits of well-planted roof terrace gardens heighten London's skyline with paramount verdancy, and their espousal, proliferation and cultivation sustain horticultural ubiquity in immanently utilisable, high-reaching city locations. Well-watered and well-maintained rooftop terraces produce vital leafiness in urban zones, while the unique planting ideas, designs and growing formats which display them echo, frame and reciprocate with native city landscapes, positively transforming disjointed architectures into timeless environmental matrices through natural roof gardens.