A brief history of rooftop gardens

Wherever you are, rooftop gardeners are a breed apart. With space at a premium, I have seen meadows growing over eaves and roses rising to the sky. In the most exposed spaces I have seen mature trees thrive and I have come across orchards and orchards in protected city gardens.

Growing up in heaven is never easy, but you will be amazed at what can be accomplished with a little planning and a close understanding of what you have to face. It’s harder than gardening at ground level, but it’s more inspiring!

More than half of the new homes being built today are apartments, so rooftop gardens and decks are becoming increasingly popular and vital to the green environment. If you think it’s too much of an effort and you need a financial motive, research tells us that a large roof space, smaller balcony or terrace can add 8% to a home’s sales price and 25% to the turnover of a restaurant.

In this article, I’d like to show you where we started creating rooftop gardens because a lot of people think it’s a pretty modern phenomenon.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were probably the most famous roof gardens of all time. One of the Seven Wonders of the World probably built during the rebuilding of Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar II to comfort his wife Amytis, who missed the greenery of her homeland, Media. We only have mention of the gardens of writings made 200 years after their destruction, probably by Xerxes I around 482 BC. It is described as having high stone terraces, highly reproduced mountainous landscapes with plantations to create the mountainous environment of Media. Siculus (1st century AD Greek historian) describes them as being 100 feet long by 100 feet wide and built in tiers to resemble a theater. The vaults supported the weight of the plants with the tallest at 70 feet. Gardening on a large scale but with your mind on weight limits!

The next significant landmark in the rooftop gardens were the Roman rooftop gardens of Pompeii. We don’t know much about them, but the eruption of Mount Versuvio in AD 79 almost perfectly preserved a building with what we would define as landscaped rooftop terraces. The Villa of the Mysteries just outside Pompeii’s northwestern gate has a U-shaped terrace along its northwestern and southern perimeters where the plants were planted directly into the ground. The terrace is supported by a colonnade on all three sides. This became a tomb for those who escaped from the falling ash. Through careful excavation, including pouring plaster into the root spaces, the plants that were used have been identified.

There are other gardens from the Middle Ages such as those of Mont-Saint-Michel in France, the Medeci garden in Careggi in Italy and the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan razed by Cortés in 1521. One of the most remarkable roof gardens of the 17th century and Centuries XVIII was the Kremlin Square in Moscow, razed in 1773 to make way for the Kremlin we know today. Gardens were a great luxury for the Russian nobility and in the 17th century an extensive two-tiered hanging garden with a staggering 10 acres was installed on the upper level with two terraces that sloped down almost to the edge of the Moscow River. Again built on vaults, surrounded by stone walls and with a 90 square meter pond fed by water drawn from the river. The lower garden was built in 1681 with another pond. The plants were in boxes with an emphasis on trees, shrubs and vines with paintings that gave the illusion of visually expanding the space.

Since the early 1900s, one of the most successful movements and where the term roof garden was coined has been for the rooftop gardens of US theaters in places like the American Theater in New York City. seen here.

New York conductor Rudpolph Aronson built the first one inspired by the theaters of Paris and the high cost of land. The Casino Theater he built was the first to specifically include a rooftop stage for summer performances. The most imaginative garden theater was Oscar Hammerstein’s Olympia Music Hall, built in 1895 completely encased in glass with a constant flow of water pumped to the outer edge of the roof to chill visitors and mask the sound of the street. Even then they still used the rocky slope look and included simulated lakes with live swans gliding across the surface. The introduction of air conditioning and changing tastes caused these theaters to close in the 1920s and were demolished one by one.

Now, two gardens built before WWII have inspired rooftop garden designers over the years and continue to do so. These are the Derry & Toms Garden in Kensington and the Rockefeller Garden in New York. Some would also say that the Union Square garden in San Francisco is influential and, in fact, has recently been redesigned with much praise.

Derry & Toms roof garden opened in 1938 as part of the famous department store. It hosted events with nobility and royalty until the store closed in 1978. Now part of the House of Fraser group, it was restored and has a new life. The original garden had more than 500 trees and shrubs. This has decreased as poor maintenance, age and drought have taken their toll and planting has been simplified, but it is still a great example of what can be grown. There are three main areas of Spanish Gardens, Tudor Gardens and English Forest. The garden has been changed a lot for the modern requirements of elevators, etc. and the once prolific summer bedding replaced by grass.

Some of the Rockefeller Center buildings were designed by the same architect as Derry & Toms: Ralph Hancock. He was also a member of the RHS. The gardens are much simpler, albeit with grass center beds, trimmed privet hedges, fountains, and ponds just 2 inches deep. These were completed just before the Derry & Toms gardens. The chief horticulturist of the place designed more elaborate Mediterranean gardens. The most impressive thing is that 3000 tons of topsoil were put up in the elevators!

Since the early days of gardens designed for individuals and as public spaces, rooftop gardens are springing up everywhere and an apartment without its own outdoor space is rare. But we owe our graceful London rooftop gardens to a long history of innovators leading the way to greening our cities.

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