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Rooftop Oasis

On one little rooftop in Boston, The Victory Garden has been hard at work transforming a windy deck into an elegant urban garden.

roofdeck zero
Michael heaves a new spruce to the roof.

One of the goals we set for the all-new Victory Garden was to craft the show to appeal both to urban and suburban gardeners alike — not everyone has a spread in the country! To this aim, we decided to present, along with our spacious Victory Garden west of Boston, a more cramped urban project: a roof deck transformation, five stories above Boston's South End, in cooperation with homeowners Mike and Stacy.

garden sketches

roofdeck one

In redesigning their rooftop deck, we hope to convey valuable lessons on small-space gardening, as well as instruction on how to tackle micro-climates (such as hot sunlight and ever-present breezes). With the show's regular visits to Mike and Stacy's rooftop, we'll also provide informative how-tos on selecting the right plants and building a "hardscape" to suit these special limited parameters — all in hopes of creating a lovely rooftop oasis in the city.

roofdeck two
With more to come, some new furniture and plantings have already breathed new life into Mike and Stacy's rooftop.

The space we have to work with is small — 16x14 feet — but it has wonderful potential, with some great views of the city and plenty of light. Mike and Stacy have said they use their gray-decked rooftop on a regular basis, often to entertain, though the rooftop has never undergone a full-scale design, until now. Michael Weishan has designed a number of modifications that will help to enliven and beautify this space while staying within their budget.

First, the white plastic patio furniture has been replaced with a low-maintenance, glass-top table and chairs of cast aluminum, whose aged-copper color and traditional style add a touch of formality to the space. As vertical elements, Michael placed a dwarf Alberta spruce on each of the other three sides. These hardy conical evergreens will weather the windy rooftop conditions and their large faux terra cotta pots are light yet sturdy, maintenance-free and look great at about two-thirds the cost of real terra cotta.

roofdeck three
Landscape roses and honeysuckle will cover the trellis and hide the ugly building to the south.

As for the views from the roof, they are mostly fantastic, although there is one rather unattractive apartment building to the south. Blocking, or somehow "fixing," this view was one of our primary priorities. For this ailment Michael prescribed a row of white-cedar box planters and trellises to sit along that side of the deck. 'Gold Flame' honeysuckle, ever-blooming landscape roses and 'Blue Mist' perennials will add a lovely mix of colors throughout the seasons and obscure the unsightly view. Michael has designed the plantings in the large box planters to be permanent fixtures, providing lots of color from spring to fall. Luckily for Mike and Stacy, there is a water source on the roof, which will come in handy for care and feeding up there.

Matching cedar boxes, planted with annuals, will also hang around the perimeter railing. The rot-resistant cedar won't need staining, and will eventually weather to a nice silvery gray. Cast-iron "etagere" cascading shelves will be installed in two corners as space for more plantings as renovations to this rooftop oasis continue.

roofdeck four
Looking out across the city, three new Alberta spruces add a pleasing vertical dimension to the foreground.

Partial Plant List (Large Box Planters):

Lonicera angustifolia 'Gold Flame'
* With a mix of bright pink and gold flowers, these honeysuckles will grow up the trellis to provide a striking backdrop on the end that faces the big unsightly building.

Rosa 'Betty Prior'
* Introduced in the 1930s, the pink 'Betty Prior' was one of the first varieties of the so-called ever-blooming landscape roses, which will continue to bloom on and off throughout the season.

Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Blue Mist'
* A perennial that blooms in late summer to early fall in a sea of blue flowers, the 'Blue Mist' will complement the pink roses wonderfully.

Artemesia arborescens 'Powis Castle'
* 'Powis Castle' will provide a subtle gray-green foil to all bright color in the planters.

For more information on resources used on the show, visit our Resource Directory

This segment appears in show #2705.

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Published August 31, 2007