Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Raising the Roof; A ROOF GARDEN OR BALCONY CAN BE AN OASIS OF BEAUTY IN THE SKY - BUT CHOOSE PLANTS CAREFULLY

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Raising the Roof; A ROOF GARDEN OR BALCONY CAN BE AN OASIS OF BEAUTY IN THE SKY - BUT CHOOSE PLANTS CAREFULLY

Article excerpt

Byline: YOUR GARDEN With Diarmuid Gavin

MY WORK has been high in the sky this week, planting a rooftop garden in London. Like much of the country, it's been bitterly cold and very windy.

The tops of roofs provide little shelter making it colder and more exposed than at street level - and it's important to remember this fact when choosing plants for such situations.

At street level or in courtyards in towns and cities, the heat and shelter provided by buildings creates microclimates where even slightly tender plants can survive.

But higher up, whether it is balcony gardening or on the rooftop, plants need to be tough enough to brave the elements, and not get blown to bits by the wind or freeze in the chill.

Summer also brings challenges in these exposed areas - because there is typically no shelter from sunshine, plants will dry out very quickly.

Also, many terraces or balconies may be situated beneath another balcony so you can't rely on rainfall to keep them hydrated.

The plants that survive best in elevated situations are those that also thrive by the sea or are drought resistant. Their leaves are adapted to withstand the desiccating effects of salt-laden winds and retain moisture. For example, the leaves of escallonia are slightly sticky which repels salt, elaeagnus has leathery leaves with a silvery underside and hebes have double thickness skins.

Silvery looking shrubs such as lavender, santolina, stachys, corokia and olearias have fine layers of hair that protect leaves from drying out.

Dwarf pines with their needle-like leaves, grasses and sedges are also suitable, as are plants with tough leaves such as phormiums and cordylines.

Of course, you'll also want colour - again think of resilient plants that grow at the seaside such as pinks, thrift, osteospermum, valerian and erigeron.

The type of container you use is also important. Small terracotta pots will dry out very quickly but there are plenty of other options that are non-porous such as metal, plastic, fibreglass and resin. …

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