A Short History of Roof Gardens

April 20th, 2022 by admin Leave a reply »

Wherever it might be roof top gardeners are a breed apart. With space at a premium I’ve seen meadows growing in eaves and roses trailing into the sky. In the most exposed spaces I’ve seen mature trees thriving and come across orchards and allotments in sheltered city gardens.

Its never easy growing up in the sky but you’ll be amazed what can be achieved with a little planning and a close understanding of what you have got to deal with. It’s harder than gardening on a ground level but boy is it more inspirational!

Over half of new homes being built today are apartments so roof gardens and terraces are becoming more and more popular and vital to the green environment. If you think it’s too much effort and need a financial motive then research tells us that a great roof space, smallest balcony or terrace can add 8% to the sales price of a house and 25% to the turnover of a restaurant!

In this article I’d like to just show you where we started creating roof gardens because many people believe it’s quite a modern phenomenon.

The hanging gardens of Babylon were probably the most famous roof gardens of all time. One of the Seven Wonders of the World probably constructed during the rebuilding of Babylon by Nebuchadrezzar II to console his wife Amytis who missed the greenery of her homeland, Media. We only have mention of the gardens from writings made 200 years after their destruction probably by Xerxes I around 482BC. It is described as having lofty stone terraces, closely reproduced mountain scenery with planting to create the mountain surroundings of Media. Siculus (Greek historian 1st Century AD) describes them as being 100 feet long by 100 feet wide and built in tiers to resemble a theatre. Vaults carried the weight of the plants with the highest at 70 feet. Gardening on a grand scale but still with a mind for weight limits!

The next significant point in roof gardens were the Roman roof gardens of Pompei. We don’t know much about them but the eruption of Mount Versuvius in AD 79 preserved almost perfectly a building with what we would define as roof garden terraces. The Villa of the Mysteries just outside the northwest gate of Pompei has a U shaped terrace along its north western and southern perimeters where plants were planted directly into soil. The terrace is supported by a colonnade on all three sides. This became a tomb for those escaping the falling ash. By careful excavation including pouring plaster into the root spaces the plants that were used have been identified.

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