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7 tips for creating an elegant garden on your roof deck or balcony

Living in the city doesn't mean you can't have a beautiful garden. “The key is to visualize the end goal, and then work backward.” said Craig Jenkins-Sutton

Whether it's an apartment or a mansion, roof deck gardens can be accessible to everyone. Topiarius, a Chicago-based leader of urban gardening services, works with rooftops of all shapes and sizes to create the perfect escape.
According to Craig Jenkins-Sutton, President of Topiarius, the key to any roof garden isn’t about square footage, it’s what is done with the space available. “You can make a basic roof deck garden simply by adding a covering of potted plants, or you can make an elaborate roof deck garden by creating a sky-high park filled with trees and shrubs,” said Jenkins-Sutton. “The key is to visualize the end goal, and then work backward.”
Jenkins-Sutton provided the following tips on how to make the best use of any roof deck space.
1. Create a destination. A roof deck should be a place to enjoy spending time with friends and family, so it’s important that it’s a relaxing, inviting space—not a half-finished project that’s too cluttered or too stark. Consider what is wanted in an outdoor space. Is it for grilling? Garden? Watch TV? Read? Sunbathe? Eat? Play bocce ball? Add the elements to the deck that are appealing, while also making it an extension of the home.

2. Plan for privacy. Plants and containers provide a lush, garden feel, while also enclosing the deck. Consider using other products such as wood, Plexiglas or metal to create panels. Topiarius has also created box-like panels with lighting as privacy screens. And outdoor fabrics (solids and sheers) work well as curtains on stainless steel rods.

3. Find shade/shelter. The best decks are all-weather decks. By placing something overhead, like pergolas or an umbrella, the outdoor space can be enjoyed rain or shine. Pergolas, which are structures with four corner posts and beams running from side to side, come in all shapes and styles and they can be designed to cover partial or full spaces. For shade and privacy, grow vines on the structure or add retractable shades.

4. Go vertical. Build up, not out, to make the most of the limited space. Consider a water feature, artwork or even a “green wall” on the deck. Green walls are beautiful, but it's important to know that in the Chicagoland climate (zone 5), the best bet is annuals.

5. Grow your veggies. Some of the best sunshine hits roof decks, so why not start an urban farm? Use simple containers to grow a tomatoes or herbs. For a higher crop yield, consider a raised bed planter. With a peat-based potting soil, rooftop veggies will be very happy.

6. Slake your plants’ thirst. Drip irrigation is key for container gardens, which need more water more often for almost all seasons in order to thrive. When building a new home, make sure to have a spigot with a backflow preventer installed in an accessible but off-to-the side place. For existing roof decks, run water lines from a spigot on the side of the house.

7.Find audio/visual aids . Whether ambient lighting, safety/directional lighting or entertaining lighting is being used, the ambiance of the space is important. Lighting can be hard-wired and incorporated into the whole design or accomplished through usage of outdoor lamps. And don’t forget sound. Consider incorporating outdoor speakers into the design to transform the area into a prime party space.

by S. C.
03 june 2013, Food & Fun > Nature

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