Roof Garden Tour (Back Wall, June 2010)

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

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As I begin to get the gardens sorted, I figured it was time to start showing what I’ve been up to all of these months. I’ve been growing on the roof since March; however, in a small space I don’t have a hidden area to put the in progress stuff or the plants that are still sitting in their plastic pots. Things have been simply too chaotic to get out a camera and document.

The back wall is looking nice right now so I thought I would begin with that. As I mentioned yesterday, this is the shadiest part of the roof. It’s where I put the plants that require partial shade or are in the process of being hardened off. I like the old brick, it provides a nice backdrop for the greenery. Of course, this brick also absorbs heat during the day and releases it at night. This can be a positive in the early spring when the night temperatures sometimes drop very low. In the summer it means that while the spot is shadier, it can get too warm for plants that are sensitive heat. I learned my lesson about this the hard way about a decade ago when I bought a coleus specifically because it matched the brick. The poor plant couldn’t take the heat and kept wilting.

The other negative are the starlings that nest directly above that shelving unit. While I like their cheerful songs (and this year they have learned to mimic cat meowing), they often drop items from the nest onto the plants, including their poo. It’s not the best place to keep culinary herbs.

Be sure to open the image full size to get a better view of what’s there. Starting from the top left are a number of succulents, agave, and auricula. I’ve acquired three more since that last post. Next to the agave in the tin can is a small pot of curly chives (Allium spirale) I bought at Richters Herbs back in February. It took a while but I’ve finally determined that this plant can’t take full sun like regular chives (Allium schoenoprasum). It’s been much happier since I moved it to the wall.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

Next to that (behind) is ‘Mulberry’ viola and the plant in front is Eucomis aka pineapple lily. Moving on, we have a variegated scented geranium ‘Charity’ (Pelargonium) against the wall, ‘Variegated Peppermint’ in front of that, and a diminutive little rusty/chocolate coloured geranium whose name I can’t recall in the foreground growing in an enamel bowl. I punched holes into the bottom with a nail.

Next to the scented geranium (along the wall) is a myrtle (Myrtus communis) topiary. The trick to keeping it happy is to keep the soil moist. In front of that is another ‘Mulberry’ viola with a little ‘Citrus’ thyme (Thymus x citriodorus) in the foreground. Returning to the back wall, I’ve got a tender little lavender that I have learned through trial and error does not like it out in the hot sun. It’s been much happier against the wall but it’s needs are confusing and seem to go against the grain of so many lavenders I have grown. I bought it on impulse at a corner store about a month ago on a dreary, wet day when I must have needed some cheer. And in front of that plant is ‘Rau Ram’ aka Vietnamese coriander.

As you can see, I’ve got a few plants sitting on lower shelves. Those plants are in transition and need even more protection right now. On the left is ‘Corsican’ mint. I am watching it like a hawk right now because I failed to keep one alive last year over at my community garden. I think my failing there was in soil drainage so I’m keeping this one in a pot. Next to it is Calibrachoa ‘Double Lemon’, a flowering plant so close to petunia that I never thought I would grow one, let alone buy it with my own money. It turns out I could not resist the soft yellow of this double form flower. Who knew? I will post a close up photo of this later in the season. Over to the right are two new baby agaves that I got from Barry. I’m sure they can go out in a sunnier spot now, I just haven’t had a chance to repot. He actually grew these plants from seed!

Phew. Okay, that finishes the shelving unit. Phew. Now do you see why I am so overwhelmed? This list represents one small corner of one garden. So many plants! I both love it and freak myself out about it.

Moving on. My new Japanese Maple is in the beige pot just to the right of the shelving until. It is under-planted with little ‘Gem Antique Shades’ violas, one of my favourite varieties. There is a tiny Oxalis squamata located just in front of it and two oxalis plants to the right, ‘Burgundy Gold’ and ‘Zinfandel’. The plant with yellow flowers in the green pot is a spotted hawkweed (Hieracium). Next to that is a variegated ‘Pink Lemonade’ lemon tree. It is very happy outdoors and producing new little lemons. In front of that in a red pot is ANOTHER oxalis siliquosa ‘Sunset Velvet’, and at the end white sage (Salvia alpiana) that is flanked with little yellow-flowered oxalis that came up as volunteers. White sage is not hardy here — I been overwintering this one indoors for a few years now.

Finally, sitting on the window ledge is a terracotta box filled with pansies and violas. I believe they are also ‘Gem Antique Shades,’ but I specifically chose to plant only the lighter colours of the bunch. That’s why you can see much darker reds in the flowers growing underneath the Japanese Maple.

See also: Roof Tour 2009

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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17 thoughts on “Roof Garden Tour (Back Wall, June 2010)

  1. I have a bit of brick wall garden under my own hands, so your post gives me a lot of ideas what might work in part shade & next to a warm wall.


  2. I really enjoyed the tour, especially the stories behind some of your plants. Thanks for another dose of inspiration, encouragement & tips. My stats are less than .250 (successes/attempts) on my balcony which has similar conditions to your brick wall area. But I’ll keep trying.

    I love your Calibrachoa ‘Double Lemon’. I’m trying hard to be a practical, food-oriented gardener but I occasionally succumb to pretty & colourful. And on a grey, West Coast day, nothing beats yellow.

  3. Elaine: I also try to stick to primarily food, but there are other kinds of nourishment… I was surprised to find myself so in love with that plant but am glad I got it. I went back and got another for a friend too! And you know what… it’s stunning when you get up close. The lemony yellow is so soft…. and I am a sucker for double flowers.

  4. I’m inspired by your descriptions and lovely photos to run back to the store to pick up some more plants. Most of the seeds in my vegetable garden have sprouted but it is so cold at night they seem stuck.

  5. I’m back to your wall this morning :-). I’m heading out to a plant society sale but before I go, I though I’d make a wish list.

    Wise words about the different – all important – kinds of nourishment the garden gives us. I agree.

    So this weekend, next to the pot of bush beans I will sow, I’ll also plant a pot of colour – hopefully a double yellow Calibrachoa if I can find it.

  6. Ciao Gayla-

    I completely commiserate with the lack of photography going on. Normally by now, I’ve posted more than just grow-op photos in the show n tell section, but not this crazy season. The weather’s been all over the place and I’ve still got 6 flats of plants to get into the garden..6!! That’s never happened before and I didn’t scale up hugely this year, honest!

    I picked up some Dalmation White Sage at Richters when we went recently and that one is supposed to be hardy to our zone so you may want to check that out. The staff told me it’s also a milder sage, so I may find that I use it more than the stronger Garden Sage.

    I’m another fan of that Mulberry Viola. Did you grow it from seed? If so, from what source? If a plant, still, what source? :) I’ve not had super success with growing violas from seed, but that one’s worth getting back on the horse.

  7. Inspire by your photo, I’m thinking of repositioning all my plants. At this moment, I move the plants around ever hour from 9 am til 2 pm. It’s a lot of work, and I tend to break the plants too. Once, I poke myself in the eye from doing that…

    One thing though. From what I’ve read, tomatoes need at least 6 hrs full sun to bear fruits. If I don’t move my plants around, they only get about 5 hrs partial sun.

    Since I report them in April, my strawberries still haven’t bloomed. I wonder is it because they don’t get enough sun…

  8. Glad to see that I’m not the only one who likes to have a mix of plants in pots hanging around. Some people (alright, concerned friends) have suggested to me that I’d be better served by getting rid of clutter. And they’re right! But it’s good to see how lots of interesting plants can be roughly ‘standardized’ in clay pots and made to look good overall.

    An interesting comment on the brick wall reflecting heat at night — this explains what I’ve seen on one of my walls, and until you wrote about it, it had not occurred to me what the vital environmental difference was.

  9. Great photos – your roof garden looks like a beautiful space. I was really interested in how you take into consideration the way the bricks absorb heat. It’s easy to forget elements like that, but they all contribute to the growing environment. Anyway, I love this roof garden. Glad to hear you’re enjoying it.

  10. HI I love my hens and chicks I have them on my deck at my condo,so easy to grow I love all the different species. I get many compliments from my friends,I have them in 3 strawberry pots.thanks for all your good advice.GENEVIEVE

  11. I just wanna say that you have inspired me so mush this year! I just LOVE all your photos and keep doing what your doing! you rock!

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