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A rooftop urban garden oasis

How to turn your rooftop into an urban garden oasis


Living in the heart of a city can be a fantastic experience, with life and streams of activity seemingly everywhere you look. However, that excitement can wear heavily after a while, leaving you longing for a place to unwind and get away from the hustle and bustle of the urban jungle. Just because the city never sleeps doesn’t mean you don’t have to either. 

Finding a place to sit back and relax in the city can be difficult to come by though, with lights and life in abundance pretty much wherever you go. So, what can you do?

A rooftop garden could be the perfect solution. Whether your apartment offers a modest patio, a small balcony or a spacious roof terrace, transforming a bland, concrete, outside area into an urban garden oasis can be a brilliant idea. Not only will it give you the peace and privacy you’re after, but it will also offer you a little slice of the city that’s yours – and only yours – to unwind in. 

Here are some simple and effective tips that can help you create your very own urban rooftop sanctuary.

  1. Utilise tall plants and trees.

High rise buildings are pretty common in the city, so ensuring privacy on a rooftop terrace or balcony can be fairly difficult. Fortunately, plants are here to help. Clever planting can make all the difference between feeling exposed, and being able to enjoy your garden in comfort. Whether you use trees, hedges, shrubs or grasses, tall plants can give you the privacy you’re after. 

Let’s take a closer look at what you could use:


Installing a hedge around the perimeter of a roof terrace can be a great way of delivering both privacy and definition to your outer garden space. Plus, with regular pruning, its height and shape can be controlled, depending on how small or tall you would like the hedge to be. 


Bamboo is a thin, fast-growing plant which grows to a relatively tall height. While the grass won’t form a solid green wall, it will offer enough cover to protect you from prying eyes and let you see through it. In effect, it almost acts as nature’s very own form of tinted glass. What’s more, the rustle of bamboo leaves and stems in the wind can offer a therapeutic soundtrack to your outer space, helping you relax and get away from the noise of blaring car horns below.


Combining arbours with climbing plants can be another great way of adding both height and structure to your rooftop quickly and easily. As most rooftop terraces are often in direct sunlight, installing a variety of climbing plants that thrive in direct sun exposure is a must. Why not try a mix of Boston Ivy, Star Glory and Golden Hop Vines? These will provide you with a beautiful range of colours and textures that will really add to the overall vibe.


Trees can be a great focal point for a rooftop garden, providing privacy along with beauty. Just imagine sitting underneath the beautiful white/pink flowers of a Cornus kousa in the springtime, or the grape-like fragrant blooms of a Japanese Wisteria ‘Blue Moon’ in the summer. Whether it be a crab-apple, field maple, acer or birch, whatever the tree you choose, it will become a prominent feature of your rooftop garden.

  1. Don’t lose your view.

Choosing to grow tall plants and trees can be a great way of giving you some privacy, but make sure you don’t lose your view in doing so. Rooftop gardens often offer picturesque city views, so that should be utilised as one of your garden’s most valuable amenities.

While a penthouse garden like this one might be out of most people’s price range, the view from your rooftop garden is something you might not want to lose. This design has incorporated a “visual connection to the docks and the River Thames below which encircle the development and are visible in every direction”, Andy Sturgeon.

If the view from your garden isn’t so nice though, choosing to partition could be a good option. Solid partitions, such as walls made from concrete, brick, metal or glass, can block off unsightly views and help create shelter from the wind. However, as they influence air movement, they can also produce pockets of stagnant air in the summer.

With this in mind, screens and partitions made from open materials (i.e. lattice or metal grates are an attractive alternative. Not only do they look good when combined with climbing plants, but they also let air and light through them, providing a backdrop and ensuring that your view remains somewhat visible. 

  1. Ensure simple maintenance.

Compared to more traditional gardens, rooftops and concrete patio areas are a fairly unnatural surface for landscape gardening, so why make life difficult for yourself? When developing your outdoor urban masterpiece, it’s normally a good idea to make it as easy to sustain as possible. That is, of course, unless you are an ardent gardener who enjoys the challenge and thrill of maintaining an outdoor space.

If that isn’t you though, then container gardening could be the answer. Save space and maintenance time by planting directly into attractive tubs, pots and containers. Trees and larger plants could also be grown in large containers to make sure they stay standing in the event of strong winds or adverse weather. 

Container gardening can be a simple, cost-effective method to use when designing your rooftop garden.

Also, think about installing a drip irrigation system to water your plants on a regular basis without your intervention. This system will not only keep your plants hydrated, but it will also allow you to monitor and prevent your plants from being left in any standing water, which could be bad for their health. 

  1. Seating to enjoy the urban oasis you have created

After creating your outdoor urban masterpiece, you are inevitably going to want to sit down and relax, enjoying the fruits of your labour. But, how do you choose which outdoor seating furniture to include in your space? Your choice will largely depend on two key things: firstly, how much space you have to work with. And secondly, what purpose you want the furniture to have. Let’s start with the space issue first. 

It stands to reason that if you only have a small outdoor area to work with, buying a huge swinging chair or day bed probably isn’t the best use of space. Think carefully about how certain garden furniture will look and be realistic about which options will work best. 

Similarly, think about what you want to use the chair for. If you fancy dining al-fresco in your garden oasis, a weatherproof wicker chair could be a good choice. Or, if you know you will want to share your outside space with quite a few people, modern-stacking chairs such as these could be a better fit. 

Alternatively, if you’re looking to truly lie back and relax in your garden oasis, why not try a lounge chair or day bed? Or, for something a little bit different, a swinging egg chair or garden hammock could look great – perfect for those cosy evenings under the stars of the city.

Final thoughts

By following these simple tips, transforming your outdoor garden space in the city into an urban garden oasis should be a relatively straightforward venture. Plants, such as bamboo, and garden features, such as partition lattices, can both be great ways of giving you some privacy away from the hullabaloo of the city. 

If you’re still feeling stuck for ideas though, don’t worry. Consult a knowledgeable garden designer and they will be able to help you with the design, development and delivery of your perfect rooftop sanctuary. 

This article has been written for Moving and Improving by Annie Button. Find out what else Annie has been up to over on Twitter: @anniebutton1994

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