21 April 2011

return to sandringham - the roof

The first gardening day with Sandringham Court residents was a success so I was looking forward to the second to work on the middle roof.  This is how it looked when I first visited, under-used but great for drying washing - behind me, on other sections of roof (it is big), are a great selection of container plants already planted by residents.  The conditions are the same as most roof gardens; windy, sun-beaten, exposed, so when the residents asked for advice on planting and said they would like a mediterranean theme, I was pleased - plants from mediterranean climatic zones like sun and wind.  
First came the containers.  The same large wooden planters we used at Wardour House.  Big enough to hold a substantial amount of compost and affordable for the number required.  Arriving flat-pack they had been put together ready for the day and after being laid out in position,
the compost could be carried in to fill them.  Each container holds just over six bags each and they  are immovable after filling but they will be stable in strong winds.  We used soil based compost which is heavy so the planters were positioned mainly round the sides and well spaced out to spread the load.  Soil-based compost has more 'body' and supports plant growth over a longer period so is much better for the large shrubs chosen.  
Some could heft the bags easily, 
 For others it was 'many hands make light work'.
The plants were waiting in the residents hall ready for laying out - a selection of drought tolerant trees, shrubs, herbs and bedding plants for quick colour.  I encouraged everyone to have a tea break to give me time to get them out - it is difficult to make plant position choices with enthusiastic audience participation.  Working with the required 'mediterranean' theme one end will be an olive grove with scented foliage plants and blues, yellows and pinks, the other a scented herb garden with purple Cordyline and Phormium to move in the wind.  Once everything was in position everyone got to planting.

Then a break for lunch.  Yet another fine sandwich selection was laid on (bit frozen in the middle,  but nothing a quick blast in the microwave couldn't sort out).
After lunch we worked on the existing roof garden areas to renovate some of the old containers and add some new large planters.  Some of the old root-bound shrubs were released from their bonds and they  will get a new lease of life with root-room and fresh compost around them. 
As there usually is there was one surprise waiting in the wings - lots of the existing containers had broken glass hidden in them, mixed into the compost.  This caused the only injury of the day, a nasty cut finger.  It transpired that this had been added by someone due to a mistaken belief that it prevents slugs & snails.  I took the opportunity to explain that snails can dance along the edges of razor blades so it was not an effective deterrent - I hope the new planters don't get a similar treatment.
Apart from this and someone trapped in a lift with an enormous bamboo plant (fire brigade soon in attendance) the day went very well and this happy biscuit summed up the reaction to the finished 'mediterranean' roof garden.  It was great to see people get straight down to enjoying the garden, to chat. .
and for quiet contemplation.

The finished planters and the plants we used:
Cotinus 'Grace', variegated Phormium, Solanum jasminoides, Pittosporum Tobira.

Solanum crispum 'Galsnevin', Buddleja 'Lochinch', marguerites, silver Helichrysum.

Pittosporum tobira, Senecio 'Sunshine', green Sage, Cistus sp., Miscanthus 'China'.

Cistus sp., purple Fennel, red Cordyline, Buddleja, Pony Tail Grass (Stipa tenuissimma), Rosemary, dark leaved Phormium.

Buddleja alternifolia, Cistus sp., Oregano, yellow Bidens, variegated Phormium.

standard Olive tree, Cistus sp., Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve', Euryops pectinatus, yellow Bidens.

Ceanothus 'Autumnal Blue', purple Sage, Oregano, Geranium 'Ann Folkard', Solanum jasminoides,

Thyme, Lavender, purple Sage, Euryops pectinatus, Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve', Senecio 'Sunshine'.

standard Olive trees with Rosemary and Lavender.

Olives, Lavender, Cistus, Mock Orange, grasses and herbs.
dark Cordyline, dark leaved Phormium, purple sage and fennel. 

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