Posts Tagged ‘our roof garden photos’

Our Garden at Night

Now that the rain has cleared, RP and I finally got to hang out on our roof last night. I was excited to see that some of the pots had completely dried out; a sure sign that summer is here! Time to start our near-daily watering routine.

Our ivy geranium in the hanging basket didn’t like the rainy weather, but it is perking up in the sun. A perfectionist could be frustrated that the color of the light coming from our mix of solar lanterns and lights don’t match, but let’s focus on how exciting it is to have a tiny roof top escape!


Our Roof Garden Daylilies Disappointed

We were excited for our daylilies in early June, but they were a let down this year. The flowers had a washed out look and were messy. I think it produced fewer flowers this year.

We weren’t too happy with this plant last year either. Maybe we’ll have to kick it out?

Our Sempervivum Is Blooming

In early June, our sempervivum — also called a houseleek or hen and chicks — seemed sleepy. We were told the sempervivium is excellent plant for a New York City roof garden — enduring the intense heat, the freezes and thaws of winter and the wind without complaint.

I realized last week that this plant was definitely up to something.

Now our sempervivium is blooming. I have to admit I almost threw this plant out this spring. I couldn’t really tell if it was alive or not. It was the pet rock our roof garden — just taking up space, space that I could use for flowers or something more showy. Now, after reading the sempervivums chapter in Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd’s excellent Our Life in Gardens, I am fascinated by our pot of “semps.” Turns out that these plants have a long history of growing on roofs. “In the ninth century, Charlemagne … issued an edict that sempervivums were to be established on every house roof,” says Our Life in Gardens (here’s a sample in Google Books).

I didn’t know why these plants were also called Houseleeks until I read Out Life in Gardens: “houseleek was also a pun, since the most decayed roofs of houses both supported the plants best and could be presumed to leak.” Leek, leak, get it?

“After flowering, the plant dies, usually leaving many offsets it has produced during its life,” says Wikipedia’s houseleek entry. With that in mind, I chopped off thee chicks. I’m trying to establish a new hen and chicks colony in the dry difficult conditions of the containers on our apartment buildings front stoop.

Paring Rooftop Trees with Euphorbia, Heuchera

We added small trees — some might call them shrubs — to our roof garden early this spring. We’ve been experimenting with plants we can grow with our trees without insulting the trees. How do you think we’re doing?

The first photo shows our Emerald Green Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald’) planted with Diamond Frost Euphorbia. The airy, bright, and always blooming Euphorbia lightens the heavy pot without taking attention away from our tallest tree. I wasn’t sure we’d like the euphorbia — some of our neighbors have it planted euphorbia their tree pits, where it looks scraggly and too diffuse to me.

R*’s close up photo shows a small arborvitae we bought last fall. We paired it with a dark purple drought tolerant Heuchera, named Dolce Blackcurrant.

How Do You Get A Water Supply Up To A Roof Garden?

Check out this great question:

We’ve been thinking about gardening on the roof for awhile now, but haven’t moved forward – I think because I was thinking “too grand”.  Looking at photos on this site, I see it’s as simple as putting some pots on the roof.  However, aside from carrying cans of water up there, how does one deal with getting a water supply to the roof? I have visions of a garden hose running up the side of the house to the roof.  Is this feasible?

Thanks for any suggestions.



Thanks for your message. The first consideration for all roof gardens — from a grouping of containers to a grand landscape — is the water.  The water supply will dictate what plants you select and how large a garden you can have.

Last year, we didn’t have a water supply on the roof. That meant R* and I had to carry four watering cans up three flights of stairs nearly every night in the summer, sometimes twice a day. We focused on growing plants that could do without too much water, including drought-resistant grasses, sedum, lantana, and woody Mediterranean herbs like sage and lavender.

This summer, we now have access to a hose on our roof. This easier access to water allows us add some trees and tender vines. We’re still heavy on the drought-tolerant plants. That gives us peace of mind, knowing one hot day won’t destroy our roof garden.

Since you mentioned that you’re looking for options beyond the watering can and the hose, you could try to find an adapter to connect your kitchen sink to a garden hose and then run a hose out your window and up to your roof garden. Seems perilous, but roof gardening often requires some eccentric behavior.

Finally, you’re so right: roof and balcony gardens do not have to be elaborate and expensive to be beautiful and fun! I hope you’ll send some pictures of your garden in process.

Good night, Moon Vine

The vision was a night garden, of sorts, with white flowers on the moon vine and in the hanging basket above. We wanted vines to soften the space. Instead, the moon vine got these spotted leaves and just looked sad. My mom think I over-watered it. I wonder if it was too windy or the pole got too hot.

I get weirdly sad about killing these plants, tearing them out before they are totally done. But our roof garden is a shared space for the entire building and I don’t want it looking un-cared-for. Flatbush Gardener tweeted to cheer me up: “I have no time to mourn all the plants I’ve killed!”

We replaced the moon vine with this stunning English ivy trained up a trellis from a flori$t in the West Village. We planted three geraniums with vinca vines at the base. The new planting — we’ll get some pix once it settles in a bit — feels a bit formal for our garden and rather Republican somehow. But R* and I both like geraniums, they remind us of his mum’s back garden in England. They also grow amazingly well in sun-soaked containers.

The Melodrama of the Basil and the Roses

We’ve had our first casualty of the season: the basil I planted on April 17 looks dead, see it in the lower center of this photo. I was eager to get roof-grown basil back in my kitchen, but seems like mid-April was just too early for annual herbs.

But then check out our heirloom rosebushes, which I planted for R*’s birthday present last June. I love that both of these special tiny rose slips the winter and one of the plants already shot up  two big buds.

A little death and a whole lot of new life on our roof garden. Tune in next week when we’ll see if that last tiny green sprout on the base of the basil seedling will turn into anything. Or, will I decide to declare the basil dead and start over. Will the oregano’s relentless domination of the pot continue? And just when will that heirloom rose bloom?

Finding Abundance Over Our Heads


This last cold day of September is feeling like the end of roof garden season to me. So I thought we’d take a look back to where our garden started. This is a photo I took of our roses and herbs that we planted in early in June for R*’s birthday. Back then I worried that these little plants looked ridiculous in those huge pots and I didn’t think they’d survive the summer.

Well, here’s how the same posts looked in the end of August:


I suppose I knew that our plants would grow, but I wasn’t expecting this lushness. While I was busy keeping my expectations low, our plants were tripling in size. Is this a small taste of what parenting is like? Watching something grow and being a part of it — that’s a little tiny miracle with lavender flowers — right up on our roof.

Now for the less ethereal part of this lesson: Herbs love growing on sunny roofs in Brooklyn. Plant lots. They will flourish and flavor your food all summer too.

The growing season is just about shot and we’re a little sad.

Best Roof Garden Plants: Miscanthus sinensis Cabaret


Miscanthus sinensis Cabaret wins the most valuable player award in our Brooklyn roof garden. As first year roof gardeners, we didn’t want to sink a lot of money on trees. We were also worried that trees might be too heavy for the roof or need too much water.So we’re using this grass to play a tree like role.

This large pots of a tall grass anchor the corners of our garden space, similar to what a tree would do. Earlier this season the Miscanthus sinensis Cabaret grass was a gracious background for perennials and some sedum. Now it is anchoring the corner with our petunias and geraniums.

This Miscanthus sinensis Cabaret doesn’t mind being whipped around by the wind and it makes a great sound as it shimmies in the wind. It’s our version of a wind chime. Also, this variegated grass has been most tolerant of roof garden’s extreme weather: the super rainy June and steamy July days haven’t bothered this plant. A few blades get brown and we trim them out in a quick monthly haircut.

We bought this beachy grass at the Liberty Sunset Garden Center after hearing that it wouldn’t need too much water and  it is “great for containers.” It has more than doubled in height since we bought it and is now about five feet tall. It is supposed to “send up coppery pink flower plumes in fall.” Something to look forward to.

We’re planning to overwinter this plant right on the roof. Come spring, we’ll cut off last years growth and fertilize it. We haven’t decided if we’ll try to split it into two 16″ pots or leave it as is. We want to do all we can to make sure this grass is with us again next summer.

More on Miscanthus sinensis Cabaret:
Grasses With Attitude – This Old House

Roof Garden Roses: Sale at


I gave R* two of Heirloom Roses’s tiny plants for his birthday in June. Here’s a shot of the tiny plants, co-planted with lavender, sage, and thyme — right when we potted them and put them up on the roof.


In this photo from yesterday, you can see that our own root roses and herbs took off. This bush is still flowering and is starting to lean against the lavender just as we hoped. We’d heard that roses are difficult to grow and often get attacked by pests, but we’ve had no problem. Call it beginners luck or credit these great plants.

We wanted to share this update on our roses because is having a sale. They’re offering over 160 roses for $7.95 each from now until August 2. This is about half off the standard price.

Some things to keep in mind:
Make sure you pick roses that are suitable for your growing conditions.
Keep in mind that these plants will be small when they arrive! Some people seem to be stunned by that.
Consider that the rose needs enough time to establish itself before winter shows up. “If planted in zones 6 and below caution needs to be taken to ensure that they make it through the winter,” Heirloom Roses explains.
Pick up some pointers about the rose sale in this GardenWeb thread.