10 March 2011

Wardour House Roof Garden

Almost a year ago I visited Wardour House in Soho after being approached by the TA to advise on gardening on the roof space.  This was much underused and as you can see was not all it could be (even so I was wildly jealous having just windowsills myself).  We worked out the budget for the garden so they could apply for some funds and I came up with a plant list for them, suitable for the conditions on most roofs - sunbaked and windswept - and quick growing, the roof is very overlooked and they are keen to gain some privacy. They were awarded a grant from the management body, Soho Housing Association, for the renovations, but building improvements wrapped the block in scaffolding for summer and autumn so we couldn't do anything further until now.
In working out the planting for the roof I wasn't surprised to see at the top of the wishlist were the large specimen plants - bamboos and palms - that everyone seems to want.  I am not an advocate for these as  large specimen plants often struggle to cope with the change of conditions from sheltered nursery to exposed rooftop and can be a disappointment when planted into small tubs that dry out quickly. [bamboos are woodland plants and don't really like droughty exposed positions - palms get tatty and grubby looking sitting dormant over winter, they are much better in hotter climates than ours]
Smaller cheaper plants will usually establish much more successfully than larger and they are substantially cheaper - i'd always go for £4.99 that grows than £100 that doesn't. With a limited budget (or unlimited for that matter) I would always advise that the majority should be spent on large planters and compost - large planters give stable conditions and are slower to dry out  

With the building works nearing completion the residents sourced the largest planters the budget would allow - large planters can be phenomenally expensive but they managed to find these reasonably priced ones online and at 150cmx50cmx50cm they can hold enough soil for good plant growth - 15 were delivered flat-packed along with 80 bags of compost.  Thankfully the end of the works coincided with the delivery and they managed to negotiate everything being taken up to the roof.  I don't think I could have managed  getting all that up all those stairs!
A couple of residents constructed all the planters during the week before the planting day and I accompanied the shopping trip for the plants.  I really do enjoy shopping for 'my choice' plants with other peoples budgets!  The plants bought included a range of Ceanothus, Lavatera 'Barnsley', Senecio 'Sunshine',  Callistemon, Buddleja alternifolia, Escallonia, rosemary, sage and oregano.

The planting day started with arranging the planters on the roof and agreeing on the arrangement - before they were filled (it's too late after!).  This done the containers were filled with 5 bags of compost each.  
It is always surprising how much compost is needed for a large container.
A break for tea gave me time to arrange the plants ready for planting and a chance to enjoy the odd burst of sunshine breaking through.
Planting up the tubs didn't take long...
and everyone got a chance to try their hand...
before posing for the obligatory group photo (the camera shy ran for cover at this point!))
Completed. I think it looks great, but I can see the future when everything has grown...
and before long those lavatera will be head height.  (I can tell no one quite believes this at the moment but at least they are going with me on this -  I shall be proved right come August!)
Well done Wardour House!


  1. Well done to all of you , and to Leslie for having the the vision for a rooftop garden

  2. Well done Chris!!! Couldn't have done it without you - can't wait for it to grow.
    You helping local community projects is fantastically kind.

  3. There are better ways… and you can grow food too, lookup living walls and vertical gardening.