Last weekend I visited another garden open under the National Gardens Scheme - gardens open for charity. This is the roof garden at risc (Reading International Solidarity Centre).
This garden is just 200 square metres and is on the top of building right in the centre of the town. Walking up the iron staircase to the building we left the town behind and found ourselves in a very peaceful and green space. The garden planting was completed in 2002 and I was surprised by how mature the garden looked, the plants obviously thrive in their elevated location.
All the plants are growing in just twelve inches of soil. There are over 200 hundred different species including several large trees far taller than me. The garden was cleverly laid out with paths snaking back and forth making it feel much bigger.
|roof lights in the garden let natural light into the building below|
The garden was designed as a forest garden, based on a natural woodland ecosystem, with different layers of planting from trees, through bushes and shrubs and smaller plants at ground level. There were also climbers planted against the railings so no space was wasted. All the plants grown have uses such as food, medicine, scent, natural dyes.
The green roof provides insulation for the building keeping it warmer in winter and cooler in summer and also acts as a giant sponge absorbing rainwater and reducing runoff, an important feature in towns which have mostly impermeable surfaces leading to flash floods when the rain water cannot drain away. This intensively planted roof can absorb up to 80% of the rain that falls on it.
Although this roof garden is very different from normal domestic gardens, the principles of the planting can be applied to any garden and I came away with lots of ideas to try at home. Now I no longer have an allotment I am growing a few vegetables at home in amongst the existing flowers and shrubs, this garden showed me how much can be squeezed into a small plot.