Grow your own roof
Author Helen Hodson
Last bank holiday weekend I achieved one of my ambitions. I single-handedly planted 250 sedum plugs; not as part of the revamp of our garden, but on the roof of my husband’s music studio.
I was first introduced to living roofs ten years ago when desperately trying to find a topic for my undergraduate dissertation. One evening they featured on a TV news piece and I was instantly hooked. I sprang into action and contacted the influential people in the living roof world. I soon found myself being shown the sedum roofs on Canary Wharf’s tallest sky scrapers by Dusty Gedge, soon followed by a tour of the long-established roofs in the Swiss city of Basel by Stephan Brenneisen. These trips were a real eye-opener and left me puzzled as to why living roofs weren’t part of every building design.
Their benefits are numerous, but the one I’m most interested in is the creation of a habitat in what is an otherwise lifeless and overlooked space. My husband’s studio measures just four metres by three metres, but what we’ve managed to create on its roof is a tiny nature reserve which will hopefully be buzzing with life very soon.
The make-up of the roof is simple… pond liner which acts as waterproofing, recycled aggregate from a local quarry as the growing medium and expanded clay as a drainage gully at the front. All this is kept in place by timber upstands which surround the perimeter. We opted to use a mix of sedum plugs and native wildflower seed – the sedums do well in the harsh environment on a roof top and the wildflowers will add a bit of diversity and colour, as well as supplement the nectar supply. To make the space attractive to as many species as possible, we varied the depth of the substrate to create humps and hollows, added a small log pile, an area of stones and kept a patch free of any planting.
The concept of living roofs is so simple yet so effective. Anybody can create one. It just takes a bit of planning (and a sturdy structure!). The internet is full of free DIY guides and advice from people who have completed their own projects.
Now the real fun begins. Each week I will be able to climb the ladder and see what’s growing (and what’s failing to grow) and observe which creatures have stumbled across our little brownfield site in the sky.