Garden Design for Exposed Roof & Terraces:
Garden Designs to cope with the elements

Exposed Garden Design: Landscaping design to cope with the elements

Whether it’s a roof garden, a terrace or balcony, or a garden that has no natural barriers, many outdoor spaces have some common weather conditions, exposure to sun, wind, rain, extreme cold and heat. Exposed gardens design presents very specific challenges.

What are the challenges of exposed garden?

When setting out to design for an exposed garden we begin by considering all the usual questions, such as:

What style of garden would you prefer?

How will you use your outdoor space?

Do you have any favourite colour schemes or plants you would like to include in the planting design?

How much time will you be able to spend maintaining your garden?

However, as well as taking into account your needs and preferences we will also be thinking about the practicalities of creating a beautiful, manageable and longlasting garden or high-rise outdoor space which can cope with the extremes of the natural elements, the sun, wind, rain, cold or lack of water.

Exposed Garden Challenges: Garden design for excessive wind or cold

Strong winds can create problems for planting schemes by snapping stems and branches, tearing away leaves, drying out foliage and burning leaves. If trees and plants are not sufficiently anchored, the wind can also tug at the root system, causing the plant stress and making it difficult to take up water.

Similarly, some gardens, particularly away from city areas, can be prone to cold or have areas which are in a frost pocket.

The key to good planting design is knowing which plants will thrive in a particular situation. Hampstead Garden Design will work with you to create a planting scheme using hardy plants which are wind or frost tolerant. We look to nature and choose plants which have naturally evolved to cope with these conditions.

We also design to create sheltered spots, so that the less hardy plants can thrive in an otherwise exposed garden and can advise you on which plants might need winter protection.

Exposed Garden Challenges: Garden design for excessive sun and heat

All plants need light and many plants thrive in sunshine, so if you have a south facing garden, roof terrace or balcony, you’ll have a wide choice of plants and flowers to choose from. However, there is a difference between a bright, sunny spot and an exposed spot which suffers from the blaze of full sunshine from dawn till dusk.

Exposure to relentless fierce sun, particularly in the early afternoon, can really cause plants to struggle if they are not well suited to these conditions. Plants can quickly become scorched and die from the effects of too much sun as well as struggling to take up enough water to grow.

Hampstead Garden Design will choose hardy plants that are sun and drought tolerant. We find that this is a particular issue on roof terraces and looking to nature, choose plants which have naturally evolved to cope with these conditions. Typically we would suggest plants which are native to mediterranean areas, which cope well with exposure to heat and a lack of water. We might also suggest an irrigation system which will help your new planting scheme to get sufficient water.

An Exposed Roof Garden Design Case Study:

One of our recent projects was to create a stunning contemporary roof garden for clients in Marylebone, central London.

The exposed roof garden challenges:

As you can see from this photo, the space was quite exposed on three of the four sides. The position of the intended roof garden meant that it would be exposed to wind, rain and cold in the winter and sun, possibly more wind and heat in the summer. This can be a real challenge for even the most experienced gardener as plants that might cope well with one set of conditions, say cold and rain, may not necessarily be well adapted to the opposite of sun and heat.

Exposed to the elements from three sides

No natural wind breaks to stop plants and furniture being buffeted

No natural shade from the sun and heat

No protection from rain and cold

This was almost a textbook example of an exposed garden space that needed careful planning to create a garden that would cope with wind, rain, sun, heat and cold. Our clients asked us to design a space which had a modern contemporary feel and which would be easy to look after. They wanted a garden space that could withstand the British climate and be used throughout the year.

Design solutions for an exposed roof garden:

The planting for this included plants which would naturally be found in mediterranean areas, such as olive trees, lavender and Salvias. We also installed contemporary slatted screens on the boundaries, which help to slow down the wind, as well as an irrigation system.

Setting out the layout of the space taking into account the direction of the sun and likely direction of wind too.

Using hard wearing and weather resistant materials that will age well. Decking, seasoned wood, brick walls, glass and metals.

Planting up the garden with a palette of plants that can withstand the extremes of weather from wind, cold & wet to sun, heat and drought. We designed the planting scheme introducing many species that are native to mediterranean climates such as olives, salvias and varieties of lavendar.

Thought was also given to the upkeep of the seating, the design included modular seating which allowed the configuration to be altered to change the feel of the space. This seating also allowed for easier storage during the colder months when the roof garden may not be used quite so frequently.

Adding in structures to calm the wind and give partial shade to areas of the garden. We introduced contemporary screens around the boundaries that helps to break up the force of the wind and screen the garden area from the neighbours.