Creating a Balcony or Roof Terrace

Before you go ahead with any plans for a balcony or roof terrace it is essential that you check planning permission at the property you are looking to transform. Structural checks by a professional will also need to be completed as these projects can add a lot of weight to your roof you will also want to ensure the roof is water proof.

Once the above has been checked and approved you can now begin your project transforming your old balcony or roof into a new beautiful utopia.

One important thing to consider is the excess wind. Even if your roof is only on the 2nd or 3rd floor, the extra height can expose your garden to unnaturally strong winds, meaning your plants will have a tougher time surviving. Perennials, Shrubs and Evergreen's especially can fall victim to what is known as wind scorch or leaf scorch.

Protection for your plants is deemed essential to protect from the likes of wind scorch. Ideally you will want to filter at least half of the wind. You can do this by adding windbreaks to the garden, these can be made with materials such as netting, due to the rising popularity in roof terraces pre-made windbreaks can now be purchased relatively cheaply.   

An alternative and more aesthetically pleasing method of filtering the strong winds would be to erect a trellis, these are wooden frameworks to support the growth of fruit trees or creepers. They have a visually pleasing appearance even without the plants but when they are full of plants growing up them they can be stunning.

One important thing to consider is the excess wind. Even if your roof is only on the 2nd or 3rd floor, the extra height can expose your garden to unnaturally strong winds, meaning your plants will have a tougher time surviving.

With no deep natural ground to plant on your roof or balcony you will require some containers. There are several options available, terracotta containers look fantastic, however they are very heavy which may add unnecessary weight. With this considered we would recommend plastic or galvanised steel containers as a replacement. They may not sound as fancy but the endless varieties and options now available you will be able to find them just as good for a fraction of the price.

For the best look we advise choosing a variety of sizes of containers in order to make the best displays, with two or three marquee containers containing multiple plants to set your garden off. Containers with good depth are advised as this will prevent them from drying out quickly. To improve the water retaining ability further, add stones or chopped up polystyrene to the bottom of the containers.

There is a unwritten rule in the gardening world to plant in odd numbers, so for the best look,  aim to plant in batches of 1, 3, 5 etc. Plants and flowers are available in a whole multitude of colours, however ourselves and professional gardeners recommend sticking to a chosen colour palette, rather than have many clashing colours.

Choosing the right soil or compost can be more important than you think. A soil based compost would be better than a peat based mix as this will perform better in terms of water retaining. Although a soil based compost may be heavier you can use this to your advantage to ensure no pots or containers are not blown over during the strong winds.

The best planting times would be considered to be Spring or Autumn as this will allow time for your plants to establish themselves before heading into the months of harsher weather conditions.

You will want water all year round to ensure your plants and flowers remain healthy, the only time you would chose not to would be in freezing conditions. Top dressing can be done annually by removing the top few centremetres and replacing with new fresh compost. Using a organic mulch (bark) around your plants will also actively reduce the amount of water loss.

We have compiled a list of some of the best plants suited to a roof terrace environment:

  • Pines
  • Cotoneaster
  • Climbing Hydrangea
  • Blue Fescue
  • Maidengrass
  • Ajuga
  • Japanese Wisteria
  • Daylily
  • Kousa Dogwood
  • Lavender
  • Lambs-Ears
  • Escallonia
  • Cordylines

Now with help from this quick guide you should be able to transfer your old roof or balcony into something that would not look out of place overlooking the Kensington or New York Skyline.

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