The Outsider: Lush Rooftop in Park Slope

WELCOME TO THE OUTSIDER, Brownstoner’s weekly look at the ways Brooklynites design and utilize their outdoor living spaces. Written and produced by Cara Greenberg, you’ll find it here Sundays at 8AM.

 

FOR A CLIENT who wanted a Mediterranean feel on her apartment building’s rooftop, Glenn Smith of Glenn Smith Design, Inc., built a deck and shade structure reached by an elevated ‘bridge’ over an 8-foot-wide pond. Then he surrounded them with an eclectic assortment of grasses, succulents, and conifers.

The building is new construction, so weight bearing was not a significant issue, says Smith, who works mainly in Brooklyn and on the east end of Long Island. The surface of the 400-square-foot garden is covered with pea gravel, and there’s a walk made of round red concrete paving stones 12″ in diameter — the kind “you would find in a suburban backyard,” Smith says. “It’s supposed to be fun, casual, and comfortable.”

The budget? Approximately $25,000, including construction, plants, and Smith’s design fee.

Details and photos of the roof’s 2-year transformation after the jump.

Photos: Glenn Smith

Above, shortly after installation. The wedge-shaped shade structure, made of plantation mahogany with a top of cedar lattice, is used for dining and relaxing. 

 

The bridge traverses a store-bought pool made of heavy plastic, which houses a variety of bog plants and reeds. 

 

A generous section of wood decking was left open to the sky. 

 

Evergreens in planter boxes include Hinoki cypress and junipers. Smith also planted a weeping cherry in shrub form and a Japanese maple, as well as lavender, sedums, and grasses. The supporting columns of the shade structure were left bare. Vines on rooftops are difficult, Smith says. “They tend not to like containers very much.”

 

A mere two years later, above, things have gone from bare to lush. 

 

The bulkhead on the left houses the staircase which allows access to the roof from the owners’ triplex apartment below. 

 

A bog plant in flower in the pond, above, which is also home to about a dozen goldfish. 

 

Missed any previous installments of The Outsider? Have no fear, click here for the entire archive.

16 Comment

  • snappyglitter

    Very nice! But I must admit that, keeping my allergies in mind, I like the ‘bare’ before look better than the ‘lush’ two years later. I also prefer the newness of the wood in the bare look. Is there any way to keep the wood looking like that or is the time weathering/darkening inevitable?

  • snappyglitter

    Very nice! But I must admit that, keeping my allergies in mind, I like the ‘bare’ before look better than the ‘lush’ two years later. I also prefer the newness of the wood in the bare look. Is there any way to keep the wood looking like that or is the time weathering/darkening inevitable?

  • How do they over-winter the bog plants?

  • How do they over-winter the bog plants?

  • Love seeing the beginnings versus the lush. Imagine after a few more years! Nice post, Cara!

  • Love seeing the beginnings versus the lush. Imagine after a few more years! Nice post, Cara!

  • How do you keep the pond from turning into a mosquito breeding ground?

  • cara greenberg

    All good questions, folks, to which I don’t have the answers. I’ve asked the designer to jump in with them, but in the event he does not, perhaps someone else knows? Whether mahogany darkens in time (I know cedar does) and whether there’s any way to keep it from doing so; how to overwinter bog plants; and how to keep the pond from breeding mosquitoes…anyone?

  • callalily

    Still water breeds Mosquitos, but this is moving because of the stream coming out of the spigot. I’ve had pretty good luck pouring vinegar into a persistent lake on our neighbor’s mudroom roof. It seems to have cut down on the Mosquitos.

  • Glenn transformed our East End patio area into a stunning & inviting space. Nice to see this piece today!

  • The wood can be sealed and retains its color but the stain must be reapplied every year.

  • Leave the bog plants in the water and most will survive the winter

  • The water in the pond circulates and the goldfish eat the mosquito larvae. You can also add a biological larvae killer called Dunk, available at some hardware stores such as Agway and garden centers

  • Thanks for the answer on the bog plants. I have a quasi-bog upstate (in a big container) which I created out of dirt with a healthy heaping of peat. Last winter I had good luck “over-wintering” the plants in the vegetable garden, but I was really curious about over-wintering papyrus. I figured I could keep it in water over the winter but is there some way to treat it like I do the bulbs (elephant ears etc), say in sawdust?

  • When you look at the first picture, you see a green wall to the right of the little bridge. All those plants (incl. the bog) grow in the pond and their roots have formed a floating island. During the winter, the plants all freeze and die; in spring it actually looks like nothing will ever grow back again … or so we thought after the first winter. Now, we actually have to cut off most of the root island to prevent the plants from taking over the entire pond and then it takes only a couple of mild weeks in April/May for everything to grow back as thick and lush as the year before. That might be due to the fish, who fertilize the pond heavily. By the way, they survive the winter on the roof with a pond heater, hardly eating or moving for a couple of months. As soon as it gets a little warmer they wake up and start asking for food again.

    Last but not a least a little Glenn Smith commercial: if you are planning a garden project, don’t look further. We could not be happier with the end result plus, designing this with Glenn was a pleasure – we highly recommend his work.

  • …weight bearing was not an issue – because it was new construction?

    that is not logic i would rest several tons of rocks, soil, water and trees on. is your posit that all new construction is able to handle this amount of extra (possibly waterlogged) weight? many new buildings are flawed, as are many old ones. the fella building the garden is just a gardener, an artist – not a structural engineer….