Why I'm always surprised by roof terraces

One of the benefits of working as a garden designer is getting invited into peoples homes, and after many years of designing I've been to some amazing houses. Many of these have been apartments located high up at the top of buildings with terraces that are hidden from the view of passers by on the street. After driving all over the city for many years I still find myself surprised when I get approached by a new client with a roof terrace on a road that I've driven down hundreds of times before, not knowing that somewhere above my head this is a secret space with a unique view only the owners get to see.
Such an occasion happened a couple of years ago when a very nice lawyer contacted me. She lived in an upside-down house with bedrooms on the ground floor and a large open plan living area on the top floor, bordered by an L-shaped roof terrace with views over a cemetery (not as creepy as it sounds!). The house was laid out over 3 floors, which made the roof terrace high enough to be level with the surrounding tree-tops giving the living area the feel of being in a treehouse. 
Although small in size, it was a really nice project to work on and relied heavily on good site co-ordination and attention to detail, of which I am pleased to say we achieved seamlessly, leaving the client very happy. 
Roof terraces can be tricky, access is rarely simple and most have limitations on how much weight can be added, but the results can be spectacular and once installed they can become a valuable outdoor space in a very different way to a normal garden.  As it's not possible to dig down through the roof to create planting areas the options are either to build raised beds or install planters of some description. I have designed raised beds on roof terraces, installed metal planters, and, in the case of the roof terrace mentioned earlier, built a cedar framework around galvanised toughs to house plants.
I have found one of the main benefits of a roof terrace is that they are cleaner than a normal garden. This, I would suggest, is due to a number of reasons, all linked to their locality. 
 
a) Many terraces are above tree height and therefore do not suffer as much from being covered in falling leaves as a ground level garden.
 
b) Animals like cats and foxes are less likely to access a roof terrace than a standard garden and therefore less likely to dig in the planting beds causing soil to be scattered around.
 
c) Wind. Roof terraces are more exposed to higher winds than the average garden and many have gaps below their surrounding balustrades making it easy for any stray leaves etc. to be blown away.
 
This is not to say that roof terraces do not need looking after, like all gardens and outdoor areas, it is wise to maintain your terrace and periodically give it a good clean with a hose or powerwasher to avoid the build up of dirt and grime, particularly on paved and decked surfaces.
In a crowded city where property is expensive and every square foot is important, making the best of any unusual outdoor space, whether it be a large terrace or small balcony, will always be a good thing and give you a vantage point to see the world around you from a different perspective to that of the crowds passing by down below. 
As the photo below demonstrates, even a tiny balcony can be brought to life with the simple addition of a couple of powder-coated planters and some hardwood decking. So, if you too have an outdoor space , large or small, then get out there and start making the most of it!

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