Principal 0/ Glynde School for Lady Gardeners in Sussex Illustrations by Miss M. G. Campion
There are one or two houses in the City where business men adopt the foreign fashion of having little loggias on the roof, where they can sit on hot, stuffy evenings after a hard day's work. Here are wafted sweet scents of stocks, heliotrope, or verbena, which flourish in the painted wooden boxes that are provided for them. Somewhat of the rest and peace of country is found here, and, with Matthew Arnold, we can say:
"Calm soul of all things! make it mine
To feel, amid the city's jar, That there abides a peace of thine
Man did not make, and cannot mar. The will to neither strive nor cry,
The power to feel with others, give, Calm, calm me more; nor let me die
Before I have begun to live."
Wherever rooms look upon an ugly space of root, if a true love of flowers exists, even if the space to grow them in be limited, there is an opportunity for a roof garden. The example that a great firm has given, by having a large tea-garden above their shop in Oxford Street proves that the idea is worth consideration.
The suggestions that I am about to give are very simple ones, and they apply equally to London, its suburbs, or to a country-town. They are mostly taken from notes made in Genoa, that city of palaces, where the buildings are large, and stand so close to each other that there remains no room for gardens on the ground level.
All are on the roofs. From above the amphitheatre of hills upon which the town stands you look down upon roof gardens. It seems like one hanging garden of flowers and foliage, varied by shadow houses, rose bowers, festoons of roses, and pergolas of colour. The Londoner may plead that it is impossible to achieve anything to approach such beauty in his heavy, smoke-laden atmosphere, but, by choosing only creepers and plants that thrive without pure air, a great deal can be done.
A roof garden which shows the charming possibilities of a town dwelling
The sketch here given is typical of the outlook from many a town window. It can, of course, be adapted to any requirements.
We will imagine that the tall chimney is on the north side of the little lead-floored or tiled piazza - consequently a wooden box filled with good soil, placed at its foot, will be a home for a somewhat tender creeper. Warmed by sun and with heat rising from the chimney in winter, this should be an ideal spot for a favourite plant. A square-mesh creo-soted or painted trellis can easily be obtained. Empty paraffin tubs or old disused grocers' boxes or wine boxes may be placed at intervals, and if given three coats of good paint, they will last a long time. It is well to tar or burn them inside, as then they do not decay quickly from contact with the soil.
Climbers of different sorts can be care-fully planted at the back of these boxes, and in addition spring or summer bedding can be put in front. Take care that the drainage be good, and for this plenty of crocks must be put at the bottom, and good soil on the top of them. On no account use sour soil, and do not let it become so. It is well to renew the top spit each year for this reason, and probably some well-decayed manure added to it will act as a stimulant.
A Roof Rock Garden
Should it not be possible, for any reason, to> fix the wooden trellis to the chimney or walls, it will be found equally effective to fasten the creepers back to the wall by placing bamboo sticks horizontally over them at regular intervals. These sticks can be secured to the bricks by means of patent wall nails, which have a pliable grip for the purpose.
The colour of paint for the boxes and woodwork is a matter of personal taste. For a town a dark green is perhaps the least likely to look dirty, or something of the shade of peacock blue is good and effective.
Should the atmosphere be clear, bright red looks cheerful, and striped alternate white and dark green is pleasant.
On the roof itself it is easy to have a little rock garden of stonecrops. The way to secure them firmly is this. Make a wet paste of cow manure and soil, place it where you want it on the roof, and whilst it is still wet, plant the stonecrops in it.
There are two rather important matters that must claim your attention. As this little garden is high up and out of very easy access, you will not want to be continually carrying heavy things up to it. Of course, the first few days you will have to do so, as the boxes, trellis, soil, manure, crocks, and a few pots must all get there.
Once, however, arranged, it will not be necessary to carry more than an occasional trayful of fresh soil or manure to replenish the boxes and pots. You must, however, consider carefully how best you can be saved from the daily work of carrying water to the garden. And, too, you must think out how the water, when it has been given to the plants, can best trickle away from the tiled or lead floor of your garden.
By means of gutters and pipes you can, no doubt, easily arrange to collect a good supply of rain-water. Store this either in a galvanised tank or in several disused paraffin tubs. Then, by dipping in your small water-can each day, you are independent of having to carry a heavy can upstairs.
Now let us consider the matter of proper drainage for all this water, after use, to run quickly away and not lie in incon-venient pools about the floor of your piazza.
No doubt, you will like to have, in addition to the wooden boxes for creepers, a lot of pots, pottery boxes, foreign quaint-shaped bowls or fancy ornaments for holding bulbs and plants. The water coming from these after heavy rain or after hand watering should be collected into a small channel, and can then be guided to a drain or pipe for exit. Consider, therefore, whether more than one channel will be necessary, and where you will have it, either in the middle of the floor or at the side.
Two quaint garden chairs fashioned from homely paraffin tubs
I would suggest the foreign way of grouping flower-pots. Arrange them in a little group or geometric pattern. Even when stending pots in a frame yard preparatory to planting them out in beds, the Itafians always group them in a pattern, and it looks so much better than our English method placing them higgledy-piggledy.
As regards furniture for your roof garden, you will want chairs and a rough deal table painted the same colour as the flower-boxes. For comfortable, inexpensive chairs, I recommend paraffin tubs, which, when empty, are cut into the shape of an armchair, as is shown in the sketch. Any handyman can do this, and with a fresh coat of paint each year they stand and do service for a long time.
A little bower or shadow house, or even a four or five foot high screen, can easily he erected, and thus a small furnished room is made on the top of the roof.
If tall uprights are needed, use old disused gas piping, and have same firmly fixed or cemented to the floor. Horizontal cross-pieces of the same piping can be fastened with wire to the uprights. Against this lean and tie square-mesh trellis, and form a flat roof of same, as it is easier to make than a sloped roof.
The boxes containing creepers will stand near the trellis, and, if carefully tended and watered, the top of the roof will soon be covered by them. Should you wish to make the little bower a real shadow house, line it inside with straw mats. It is quite easy, if space permits, to have all sorts of quaint designs upon your roof garden. A pergola can easily be achieved, leading to a rose bower, and festoons of ivy or roses are also easily made.
It is somewhat difficult to advise about creepers and flowers, without knowing the exact locality and the amount of smoke in the atmosphere.
For planting in very large tubs or boxes. I recommend lilac, laburnum, almond, thorn. Of evergreens choose holly, box, aucuba, bay privet. The best cumbers are ivy, Virginia creeper, wistaria, forsythia suspensa, jasminum nudiflorum. common jasmine, Crataegus pyracantha, roses. Irises usually do well if you can give them a sunny place, and their foliage looks nice at all times. For flowers try geraniums, heliotrope, calceolaria, verbena, London Pride, wallflowers, nasturtiums, sweet-peas. As a screen in summer or to hang down over vases, sow tropaeolum canariense.
Carnations, too, are easily grown in bowls if they are given good drainage. I mean those rather large, open pottery dishes with a lining of green glaze. Put a few short sticks, taken from your pea boughs, to support the flowers in the centre, and allow the others to hang over the edge. If the Italian oil-jars are liked, they can be procured through me, and I will gladly send particulars to any reader who writes to the Principal of the Glynde School for Lady Gardeners, Sussex.
It is so pleasant, when living possibly in the surroundings of a somewhat cold or gloomy atmosphere, with sombre smuts descending, or yellow winter fogs lurking near, to surround oneself with a few memories of foreign lands, to recall, perhaps, clear summer evenings spent upon a similar little piazza, maybe at Siena or some other Italian town, to pave the little floor in places with coloured Dutch tiles, and think of Haarlem where they come from.
It is this note of personal interest that lends charm to gardens large or small, roof garden or earth garden, water garden or sun-parched slope. Some day, when other expenses are less and the roof garden has been started, it will be even possible to arrange perhaps a tiny fountain in the midst. The sound of running water, be it ever so small, the little tinkling noise of it falling is so cool and refreshing, and takes one South at once to Spain or Italy. But in this case it will be safe only if the landlord is agreeable to an increase in his water rate !
A simple summer house for a roof garden.
Pests of the rust and spot variety can rarely be treated with any great effect. Spraying with a weak solution of sulphate of ammonia and copper may be tried, or dusting the plants with lime and sulphur in damp weather, when spraying is unsafe.