All About Nature
With abundant autumn colour, winter scent, spring energy and a spectacular summer scene, this natural roof garden is certainly all about nature, seasonal cycles, British native floras and local wildlife. Situated on the Holborn / Clerkenwell border at fifth-floor height, the prime focus of this brand-new penthouse apartment is sustained by a wrap-around large decked terrace transformed into a thriving rooftop garden. Envisioned as a truly wild, diversely planted, eco-friendly and conservational habitat, nestled between treetops and an upper green roof, this sprawling urban garden features a naturalistic design which maximises the limits of containerised planting by utilising every inch of available space and the sunny aspect – embraced quite favourably by our Australian clients' open-minded approach to outdoor living.
Design & Words: Amir Schlezinger
natural roof garden 75m²
Ever since we created a wildlife roof garden in Clerkenwell in 2014, a paradigm shift in our planting designs surfaced both environmentally and aesthetically, impelled by an all-embracing rationale. When our clients relocated into a new Holborn apartment, travelling frequently between London and their nature reserve and homestead in Brogers Creek, New South Wales, we've been putting the finishing touches to a 0.5-acre native garden in North London, evolving our methodology of both natural materials and indigenous plants. Inspired by the clients' ethos and sensitivity to their native habitat, distinctly evident in eye-opening imagery from down under, we developed a wildly natural roof garden in their London residence, albeit with British Isles flora.
Diversely planted and leniently maintained, this natural wild garden encompasses a decisive ratio of sixty percent native plant species, interspersed with North American and East Asian woodland floras. A subtle colour palette of blues, pinks, yellows and whites softens the terrace's perimeter brick wall and existing deck, accentuated by red berries throughout to sustain a robust wildlife ecology. Brimming with trailing plants at over a third of the framework, this peaceful planting design pervades every inch of utilisable surface both horizontally and vertically, creating miniature biomes with herbs, perennials, scented creepers and bacciferous subshrubs which cater for critters, birdlife and the bipeds who are aptly mindful of their significance... Canopied architecturally with graceful multi-stemmed trees and shrubs, while underplanted with grasses, wildflowers and bulbs, there are seventy-five unique species here across an equal amount of square metres, where plant density typically reaches four plants per centiare.
Secluded, sunny and asprawl with plant life, this roof garden forms an ideal setting to support the biota of an inner-city environment. Archetypally arboreal, though utterly abloom throughout most of the year and abuzz with diverse insects, this wild roof garden produces a blazing autumnal display of tree foliage, grasses, berries, fruits and nuts. While we often design unusual roof terrace planters which fulfil pivotal focal points, here the troughs articulate simplicity in form to elevate the dense, multilayered vegetation. Laid out perpendicularly at rhythmic intervals, forming inward sections to segment the terrace through l-shaped corner planters, and accented by larger squares for trees, the bespoke planters are specced with greater depth and height than usual at 50cm deep and 45cm high to enable long-term healthy plant growth. Powder-coated in a Tellurium colour for troughs and a green-beige for squares, these fresh, light tints not only contrast the warmth of brick and wood in the terrace's fabric, but also create a striking distinction of dainty foliar silhouettes across the surfaces.
The coalition of native, naturalised and a handful of allied species provides a well-adapted structure both contextually and sustainably, where an abundance of cascading plants effectively cloaks the hard-edged containers. From vernal to hibernal phases, this wide-ranging biodiversity enables optimal zonality, where each distinct space is focused towards its flora – from a shaded woodland by the master bedroom, to a coastal habitat by the kitchen windows, along a veiled sylvan breakfast spot facing east, and within the meadow and grove section of the main seating area. Positively synced with their garden and zealously composting, our clients established a small wormery; a much overlooked biological element in roof garden cultivation. Along with a beehive on the upper roof, organic feeding and nematode use, these proactively ingenious methods articulate the truly integrative and highly rewarding aspects of modern ecological gardens.