While we’re waiting for the Planners’ prognostications we’ve been beavering away getting a few things sorted, including the green roof. I’ve been interested in green roofs (“groofs”) since a trip up to Sheffield in 2010 and it was a given that we’d include one in the design for our new house.
Groofs have come a long way in the last few years. They started off as being planted with sedum which, to be honest, wasn’t very exciting. A lot of green roofs are still sedum, which now comes in easy to use generic mats. It doesn’t exactly yank my chain as it’a only mildly attractive at best, often just looking out of place, and has a pretty limited value as to biodiversity. Even sedum roofs have several virtues though, some of which explain why we are so keen to have a green roof even in a rural environment. They’re generally good for insulation and good for controlling water run-off as they absorb a lot of rain. Handy in Somerset and even handier in an urban environment, where water run off is becoming a real issue. Green roofs are also – perhaps counter-intuitively – longer lived than traditional roofs, which goes some way to justifying cost.
We’re much keener on the new generation of green roofs championed by folk like Gary Grant. Gary and social media king Dusty Gedge run the Green Roof Consultancy, who are responsible for stunning creations like the one pictured at Barclays HQ in Canary Wharf. I was lucky to be introduced by Miles King at a ghastly DEFRA event and asked him to spec a non-sedum roof for us. Green Roof Consultancy believe we have plenty of native British wildflowers which work beautifully on a green roof, and which can be used to create the Holy Grail of landscape design as far as I’m concerned – a thing appealing aesthetically in itself and in terms of its biodiversity value. Creating a proper ecosystem is important on the site, despite our being very rural, and not just for philosophical reasons – biodiversity loss is a problem in the country too. We’ll be able to see the roof from our bedroom and also – if it doesn’t get value-engineered out (!) – through a large skylight in the kitchen. It will look stunning, and without wanting to sound pretentious seems to me to be a valuable step towards the merging of house and surrounding landscape we’re trying to achieve. And for anyone enjoying the western view from the adjoining Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Penselwood the distant Hookgate Cottage will disappear.
Gary has come up with a plant list which we’ll establish with seed and plug plants supplied by Habitat Aid, all with guaranteed UK provenance. These are mostly perennial drought tolerant wildflowers found naturally in the area, and include some of my favourites – and some of the best plants for invertebrates there are too. Among others we’ll have Knapweed and Viper’s Bugloss, Birdsfoot Trefoil and Wild Marjoran, Cowslip and Field Scabious. We’ll juice up the mix with some native annuals to give us some immediate colour in the first year like this roof in the Gower; as with an earthbound meadow, these will gradually be taken over by the perennial wildflowers over time. A green roof with its low fertility substrate as a growing medium is ideal for establishing native wildflowers, and will require minimal maintenance.
Gary has also specified some extra green roof features for invertebrates including sand for solitary bees, as well as detailed construction specifications for our local installers. Excellent result – we’re delighted.