mylandscapes contemporary garden design & build

project recap hampstead rooftop

landscaped rooftop terrace designs north london

roof terrace blog / sunny roofs

design & words Amir Schlezingeramir schlezinger

Foliar Landscape

We designed and built this Hampstead rooftop terrace a while back, and I returned to site to meet up with our clients, check on overall progress, absorb the views and hear some insights. Based in North London, we develop countless outdoor spaces in the area, throughout Belsize Park, Highgate, Primrose Hill and St John's Wood, and this particular location, in the heart of Hampstead Village, is undoubtedly unique. The compact, intimate roof terrace surrounds a contemporary glass pod amid a 360-degree panorama, where an eclectic ambience is discernible in the contrasting nature of the landscape and the clients' penchant for art, foliage and growing Agapanthus!

explore topics

– skip to –

1. lily 2. pine 3. cook 4. earlier 5. village 6. berries 7. custom 8. pouffes 9. sea pink 10. revisited

roof terrace landscaping modern cooking area
cook
roof garden terrace native pine tree
pine
colourful modern rooftop summer planting blue red
lily

1 lily

red & blue rooftops

I haven't been on site for nearly a decade, and while I noticed the silhouettes of our Strawberry and Pine trees from street level, the first sight which truly caught my eye, when up on the roof, was an exuberant clump of blue African lilies. I couldn't remember planting it, so I asked Derek: “Weren't these originally Chilean bromeliads?” DE: “Spiky things, not easy to maintain around even with gloves!” AS: “I hear you, they're arid plants. It's warm and fairly breezy up here – I thought they'll fit in usefully, given their adaptability.” Derek's daring combination of blue Agapanthus ‘Amourette’ and red Japanese Cogon grass, Imperata cylindrica, is far daintier, and blends beautifully into the red walls and Hampstead village rooftops, remaining evergreen – the visit is turning out to be an inspiring perspective!

2 pine

scots pine for a scotsman

We include diverse Pine trees when conditions are optimal, and rooftop garden projects present such ideal environments, where these resilient, sculptural species thrive in strong sun, thermal heat, high altitude and powerful wind. The Scots pine's natural outline enhances the expansive city vistas across this roof terrace, when on clear days, London's distinctive, architectural skyline glistens above Hampstead Village. Pinus sylvestris is one of three Pine species native in the UK, and as both Derek and his wife Pamela hail from Scotland, such a specimen is a fitting inclusion. Graceful, slow-growing and unfussy, the tree was in full cone mode when I visited, displaying captivating combos of juvenile and mature strobili.

3 cook

gastronomic on the roof

When I saw the open cook book beside a bouquet of African lilies on the way up to the roof terrace, I knew the outdoor space we crafted is getting plenty of use. The Red mullet roasted on the new barbecue had left a wonderful aroma, in keeping with the Mediterranean flora and Hampstead village's distinct ambience. Since I last met Derek, I've become a vegan, yet, no matter what's cooking up on the roof, it's a terrace experience like no other. While the home's kitchen is located two floors below, the layout enables more restful time to spend in this intimate roof terrace of scents, sounds and energising vistas.

4 earlier

snow-capped hampstead

The first time I arrived here, it was February and snowing; the rising sunbeams highlighted eclectic, inspiring views in every vantage point. The space felt somewhat exposed amid a myriad of rooftops, halfway between Hampstead Heath and Belsize Park. It's a unique elevation, set amongst the distinctive topography of this historic and beautiful part of London, stretching from Highgate, through Kenwood House via Hampstead Village. It was a blank canvas, except for a deck which was to be removed. The house has a charm, and its owners clearly love this place. Amid an open aspect, and 30 square metres to work with, we'll enjoy developing roof terrace ideas for this space. Access, however, was less than favourable, as you might expect!

hampstead village panoramic roof terrace view
earlier
roof garden native wildlife planting
berries
spectacular hampstead rooftop view nw3
village

5 village

soak up the ambience

Hampstead Village is certainly one of the most eclectic streetscapes in London; it's a thriving scene, set within picturesque views and a contemporary lifestyle – deeply rooted in historical essence. Located within a Camden conservation area, there's much preserved charm here, and no tall buildings. London clients relocate frequently due to continual work commitments, a growing family, or merely needing a bigger home. Having created numerous gardens in North London, for us, working on a rooftop was a breath of fresh air. When I asked my clients how is it they're still living here after so long, they said they've no plans to move from this enchanting Hampstead milieu.

6 berries

food for wildlife

We love planting Euonymus, the native Spindle tree; its autumnal scarlet spectrum, remarkable berries and easygoing essence are truly precious. To conceal the chimney pots, we sought an evergreen shrub, and there aren't many small, all-year-round plants which achieve this task as elegantly as Euonymus wilsonii. Collected in Western China in 1904 by the plant explorer Ernest Wilson, this resilient species is rare in cultivation, forming a valuable addition to the terrace's flora. Birds adore the unusual Euonymus berries, and make this rooftop terrace, with its abundant wildlife sources, a regular sunrise stopover.

7 custom

contained landscape

We design bespoke planters for every client and project, and for this rooftop terrace, we sought to contrast linearity with curvilinear forms shaped into low planting vases. We modified an earlier prototype, and enhanced its features by utilising wider folds on the end rims, while increasing length to two metres. In reducing the depth, and creating more height, further space is allocated for social use. In such a small terrace, the length of these planters increases sense of depth, and provides an ample growing medium for plants. The vases' light taupe colour distinctly contrasts the deep red walls, foliage and petals.

8 pouffes

lounge synergy

There was no furniture here when we completed the roof terrace makeover project, and the new pouffe set adds much comfort and curves, creating a mellow hub by the Agapanthus. This chic rooftop lounge is facing Hampstead village, amid copious sunshine and a wonderful expanse of sky. The beige seats blend into the deck and planters, enhancing the space with delicate textures and a dash of on-trend rooftop accentuation. Our clients have certainly infused further character by including these cosy, circular hassocks from which to relish peaceful Hampstead vistas.

modern roof terrace low round seats with striking planting
pouffes
roof terrace bespoke beige trough blue agapanthus red grasses
custom
red japanese grasses modern roof garden planter
sea pink

9 sea pink

maritime mini landscape

Planting design evolves over time, and by removing the original half-dozen Bromeliads, our clients layered maritime textures and colours into the scheme. Armeria, the native Sea pink, defines a refreshing addition, producing dainty textures below the grasses, and providing a long flowering season. Thriving in constant breeze, these colourful coastal gems energise the rooftop and sync with the red walls. Local wildlife appreciates this plant too – every bit of it, in this dense, terraced environment – above Hampstead's urban treeline.

10 revisited

a grasp of outdoor space

We enjoy revisiting previously landscaped roof terraces to document progress and take photographs, while at times, we need to improve unforeseen dilemmas. Whatever the reason for a follow up, it's always an edifying experience – a one which usually exceeds expectations. More insight was achieved in an afternoon, under a balmy Hampstead sky, than in countless days in front of a drawing table. This hands-on approach is also beneficial for the clients, as our informative input in subsequent years accomplishes an effortless terrace mindset – a one of attention to detail, in expressing immersive roof garden designs.

outstanding roof terrace vivid colours
cogon grass
sleek rooftop terrace garden with luxury seating
phillyrea
stunning roof garden terrace landscape planting
amourette

– coda –

Landscaped by the Heath

They say timing is everything, and in this sense my visit was truly apt. I was chuffed to see the flourishing Agapanthus – the pride and joy of our clients. When Derek emailed to say there was an issue with one of the terrace planters, I didn't quite know what to expect; one of the trees had toppled over in a gust of wind, and we sought a way to improve its stability. I asked Derek: “How is it I haven't heard about the rooftop in such a long while?” DE: “I enjoy occasional gardening, and carry out the maintenance up here. This rooftop terrace is a little bit of landscaped haven – our very own Hampstead Heath!”