A twenty-two week project to create Nottingham’s largest intensive ‘sky garden’ has been completed on the fourth floor of a 26-storey apartment building – showcasing the value of investment in green infrastructure for both local authorities and the residents of urban areas.
The design, by award-winning landscape design practice Hosta Consulting, was commissioned by Nottingham City Homes’ (NCH) as part of its Decent Neighbourhoods scheme which aims to improve the lives of residents by developing green-spaces with a community focus.
The scheme highlights the growing importance of green infrastructure within city centres, offering multifunctional benefits to residents in urban areas including improved air quality, community cohesion and the encouragement of positive experiences and behaviour.
The project creates Nottingham’s largest intensive green roof – a 316 sq m community garden, designed to provide a healthy, sociable environment for 400 residents of the Victoria Centre Flats, a high-rise apartment block in the centre of the city. None of the residents previously had access to any green space.
Helen Taylor, managing director at Hosta Consulting, said: “The brief was to create a relaxing oasis for the tenants of the Victoria Centre Flats; the result is a garden that is low maintenance and, due to its orientation, has two main areas. One is sunny with benches for the residents to enjoy the outdoors, while the other is shady with a relaxing woodland feel. Elements of the roof, including the pergola, were constructed by local apprentices.”
Logistically challenging, the only access to the garden was via two small lifts in the middle of the shopping centre situated beneath the flats, as well as the obvious environmental constraints of planting on a roof. The solution was a crane that was used to deliver materials, and a substrate, just 300 mm at its deepest, to minimise weight and provide drainage.
Helen added: “The residents at Victoria Centre Flats live in a high rise building and in a busy city centre location. It was important to create a beautiful garden which would need minimal upkeep. It was also vital to gain residents’ input into the design to ensure that we were creating something that they really wanted.
“This is a real community project, with many organisations getting involved. We also had a donation from tool company Fiskars which gave us tools that the residents can keep and use, and I’ve been able to give them tips on keeping the space looking great season after season.
“This is one of just a few intensive green roofs in the city, so this is an important project. We’re pleased to support Nottingham City Homes which has taken action and invested in something of tangible benefit to residents.”
Georgina Taylor, trade marketing manager at Fiskars, says: “We’re thrilled to be a part of this project. Fiskars is dedicated to making gardening trouble-free with our range of technologically smart tools, so we’re delighted we are able to donate some of our collection and help residents garden with ease. This is the perfect opportunity for the local community to come together and invest their time in the mentally healing activity of gardening, to truly realise 0% Stress, 100% Happiness.”
The landmark garden provides a striking green space which creates interest throughout the year with informal sunny and shady borders. Concrete curbs, angular design, and a mural by Nottingham-based artist Smallkid complement the surrounding reinforced concrete, blue brindle bricks, and aluminium windows.
Residents were actively encouraged to feed their ideas into the design with the result being the inclusion of roses, raised beds for vegetables, and fruit trees. Semper green perennial matting was used to provide instant planting by the metre while suppressing weeds and creating a carpet of pink geraniums in the summer.
Height has been created with low maintenance evergreen trees, seasonal amalankiers, climbing plants such as clematis and honeysuckle and a handmade pergola.
The community garden is enhanced by 12 benches, providing plenty of opportunity for residents to enjoy the space from every aspect. There are stepping stones between the planting, and cube seats within the middle of the borders, allowing visitors to really immerse themselves.
Hosta Consulting worked with various organisations including Nottingham City Homes, Nottingham City Council and second year FDFC horticulture students from the Brackenhurst campus of Nottingham Trent University, making the project a real team effort with many stakeholders.
Nick Murphy, Chief Executive of NCH, said: “We have helped to bring life back into this area and I know that residents will enjoy having this beautiful green space so close to their homes. The garden has been designed to create a place people can go to relax, meet with friends, and enjoy a sunny day. Working with partners we have all created a space that residents can enjoy and can be proud off.”
Ryan Hunt from Nottingham City Council said: “We were approached by Nottingham City Homes to construct the roof garden designed by Hosta. We have sufficient experience in hard landscaping and public spaces, but this was our first roof garden scheme and presented numerous logistical challenges we had not encountered before.
“It has been an involving and detailed scheme at times, but seeing the finished product, we think it’s a project we can all be proud of. It took a large team to make it all possible, including men at our depot yard, setting out engineers, procurement, admin and health and safety staff.”
Resident Dave Pitt said: “The new garden is great. We’re looking forward to having a green and lovely outdoor space, and in the summer it’ll be a great little urban sanctuary for us, here above the city. When the garden is in full bloom it is going to be a really beautiful place for residents.”
You can see a video of the opening event here
For more information about Hosta Consulting, please call 07791043779 or visit //www.hostaconsulting.co.uk for more details.