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Natural England works for people, places and nature to

conserve and enhance biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife


in rural, urban, coastal and marine areas. We conserve and
enhance the natural environment for its intrinsic value, the
wellbeing and enjoyment of people, and the economic
Living roofs
prosperity it brings.

www.naturalengland.org.uk

© Natural England 2007

ISBN 978-1-84754-016-4

Catalogue code NE30

Written by Dusty Gedge, with Nigel Dunnet, Gary Grant and Richard Jones

Designed by RR Donnelley

Front cover image: Additional supports allow this shed to bear the
weight of a semi-extensive roof. Nigel Dunnet www.naturalengland.org.uk
Living roofs

If you can see any roofs from your on all sorts of buildings, from factories,
house or office, the chances are that hospitals and schools to offices and
they are fairly lifeless and unappealing housing developments. But it’s not just
– perhaps made of bitumen or asphalt. large buildings that are suitable for this
But roofs don’t have to be dull and dead. treatment: there are many
With effort and imagination, we could opportunities to create living roofs on
change these sterile surfaces into green and around the house and garden – on
oases. These would not only provide a sheds, porches, outhouses, balconies,
haven for wildlife but also transform garages and small extensions. Even in
the view from upstairs windows! the inner city, the roofs on housing
estates, multiple garages, litterbin
sheds and balconies all have the
potential to be greened.

The plants suitable for living roofs are


not necessarily those found in a
traditional English garden, but they can
help create habitats that will attract
some very interesting and unusual
wildlife.
Even Portakabins can be given living roofs.
ZinCo GmbH

Some greenery will naturally grow on


most roofs. Many roofs are home to
some very rare moss and lichen
species, especially in areas of low
pollution. However, in this booklet the
term ‘living roof’ (or ‘green roof’) is used
to describe a roof that has been
intentionally covered in vegetation.
These are now very common in
countries such as Germany and A living roof on a Norwegian boathouse. A few pot plants can help to green-up a roof.
Switzerland, where they can be found Roger Key/Natural England Dusty Gedge/Livingroofs.org

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are now a legal requirement in living here needs to be tough, hardy The conditions are good for a range
Germany. and drought tolerant. These are of drought-tolerant species often
generally species that, in the wild, grow under pressure in the wild.
They protect a roof’s waterproofing
in coastal, cliff, mountain and dry
from the effects of ultra-violet light Very low maintenance.
meadow habitats.
and the weather, especially frost.
This means that the roof is less likely Extensive living roofs tend to have a Disadvantages:
to leak. relatively low weight and are thus the
The most lightweight and shallow
most suitable choice for structures
living roofs will support only a
Types of living roof such as sheds, garages and small
small range of vegetation.
extensions.
Living roofs can vary greatly in their
Simple living roofs may have
appearance and character. They can be
Advantages: limited visual appeal.
designed to support low-growing
mosses and sedums, wildflowers and Light weight: 80 – 120 kg/m2. Shallow, extensive living roofs can
A living roof in Canary Wharf. grasses and even shrubs and trees. be very susceptible to severe
Dusty Gedge/Livingroofs.org Shallow soils: depths between 20
Everything depends on the type of roof drought, leading to die back and
mm and 100 mm.
in question. There are three basic types: patchiness.
This leaflet provides some guidance on
extensive, semi-extensive (also known Can withstand harsh weather
how you can make a living roof.
as semi-intensive), and intensive. These conditions (especially lack of water).
However, it is only an outline and
terms relate to:
cannot take the place of expert advice Additional supports allow this shed to bear the weight of a semi-extensive roof. Nigel Dunnet
from relevant professionals such as the amount and kind of maintenance
structural engineers, roofing that each type may require;
contractors and suppliers.
the depth of soil (more usually
referred to as ‘growing medium’ or
The case for living roofs
‘substrate’) which may either be
Living roofs are not just good for natural or manufactured; and
wildlife: they make a positive
the type of plants the area will
contribution to the environment in a
support.
number of other ways.

They help to cool the room below in Extensive (shallow) living roofs
hot weather. Conversely, in winter a
These are the most lightweight and
living roof can provide insulation.
easily-maintained living roofs and are
Living roofs act as sponges, retaining therefore also the most common. They
water before allowing it to evaporate are made using shallow soils, which
into the atmosphere. In heavy often dry out. This factor, combined
rainfall, this can reduce the with wind and frost exposure, creates a
likelihood of local floods and this is very harsh environment for plants. To
one of the main reasons living roofs cope with these conditions, any plant

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Semi-extensive (deep) living roofs Intensive (very deep) living roofs Garages
Garages with tiled or corrugated roofing
Also known as ‘semi-intensive’, these Intensive living roofs are a third distinct
may not be able to have a full living roof.
roofs have deeper soils and can type, but not one considered here. These
The structure may need to be assessed.
support both a greater number and a roofs have very deep substrates,
However, encouraging moss on the roof
wider diversity of plants, making allowing the growth of lawns, shrubs
will provide habitats for invertebrates
them more decorative. However, their and even trees. They are therefore
and feeding areas for birds such as
depth makes them heavy and they impracticable in almost all domestic
blackbirds.
need a relatively strong structure to situations.
support them. Semi-extensive living Garages with flat asphalt roofs should be
roofs combine some of the low- Which roofs are suitable? able to support a lightweight living roof
maintenance and low-input benefits such as a sedum blanket or, if a concrete
Flat roofs lend themselves most readily
of extensive roofs – especially if deck has been used, a deeper substrate-
to being ‘greened’. It is also possible to
naturalistic plantings are used. Some based extensive living roof that can be
green other types such as pitched, barrel
types, though, are effectively small used to grow wildflowers.
and domed roofs. In these cases,
gardens in their own right and need
however, restraints are needed to ensure Sheds
to be tended in the same way,
that the growing medium does not slide As sheds are generally very lightweight
including regular weeding and
off. Roofs with very steep slopes are structures, even putting on a sedum
watering.
Before and after. A living roof can brighten up the clearly not suitable! blanket may be inadvisable without
dullest space. Georgina Cape
Advantages:

Can support a wider range of plants Disadvantages:


and other associated wildlife.
Need a strong structure to support
More decorative than extensive them.
roofs – have a longer flowering
Additional maintenance is required
season.
– the greater depth of substrate also
Require less water and other inputs, encourages unwanted plants to grow
such as fertilisers. there.

Living roof Soil or


type substrate depth Planting possibilities

Extensive 0–5 cm Simple sedum/moss communities.

5–10 cm Short wildflower meadows. Low-growing, drought-


tolerant perennials, grasses and alpines, small bulbs.

Semi- 10–20 cm Mixtures of low or medium perennials, grasses, bulbs


extensive and annuals from dry habitats. Wildflower meadows.
Hardy sub-shrubs. A living roof prior to planting and seeding. Dusty Gedge/Livingroofs.org

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How to do it
If you’re planning to put a living In some cases the cost of specialist
roof on your shed, there are some living roof products may exceed the
important points to bear in mind: original cost of the building itself.
However, it is possible to put together a
Collapsing sheds are expensive
small-scale living roof using materials
and dangerous! Please don’t try
available in most garden centres and
to create a living roof on your
hardware shops. It is possible to
shed if you have any doubts
encourage mosses and lichens to grow
about its ability to support one.
on a lightweight building without much
Only build a living roof on a work or expense. However, if a roof is
new or relatively well preserved to support flowering plants, it requires
shed that is on solid, level a series of layers.
foundations.
The basic elements of any living roof
If necessary, strengthen your system are these:
shed internally with timber
Waterproof layer. The base layer.
braces between the uprights.
Added to the existing surface, this
Deeper, heavier roofs might
will give greater security and peace
need additional exterior
of mind even if the roof is already
supports.
Sedum mat on the roof of an extension. Jeremy Linden soundly waterproof.
Although unlikely, be alert to
some structural strengthening. Building a living roof – the basics Root membrane. Waterproofing
the danger of the new roof
However, it is easy to encourage moss layers, such as asphalt and bitumen,
While the exact choice of the type of compressing the shed glazing
to grow on sheds. are very susceptible to damage from
living roof to be used will depend on and perhaps breaking it.
plant roots and any root penetration
It is often reasonably easy to provide the strength of the individual building may lead to leaks. A pond liner, butyl
Try to keep the amount of roof
added structural support to a concerned, it is always vital to ensure lining or 300 micron damp-proof
substrate to a minimum and
commercial shed, so allowing a heavier, the following: polythene should be laid over
reduce its weight by bulking it
wildflower-rich living roof to be
The existing waterproofing is sound out with expanded clay pellets.
installed.
and does not leak. It may be
After constructing your living
Extensions, outhouses and balconies advisable to renew the roofing layer
roof, thoroughly soak the
It should be possible to install living before any installation takes place.
substrate with water and look
roofs on small extensions, outhouses
The structure of the building to be for signs of instability.
and balconies. Again, whether a sedum
converted is sound and can take the
mat system or a heavier substrate- After making a living roof,
load.
based system is used will depend on monitor the condition of your
the structure below. The need to take expert advice on shed regularly, especially after
these two essential matters cannot be heavy rain or strong winds.
over-emphasised. Filter sheet. Dusty Gedge/livingroofs.org

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Plants and living roofs conspicuous yellow seta (stalk-like
structures) of wall screw-moss Tortula
Mosses and lichens
muralis. Where there is enough
The lightest living roofs – and the
moisture, carpet-forming mosses like
simplest to create – are those
rough-stalked feather-moss
supporting mosses and lichens. Mosses
Brachythecium rutabulum may be
are a group of small green plants that
found. That yellow crust you can see on
do not flower or fruit but produce
many tiled roofs is Xanthoria lichen.
spores. They require such small
Although it is possible to encourage or
amounts of nutrients that many species
cultivate lichens and mosses, patience
are able to live in inhospitable places,
is required because these are relatively
clinging to walls and stone and tiles
slow-growing organisms. Some lichens,
waiting for rain. The ‘moss forest’
Drainage layer. Dusty Gedge/Livingroofs.org A mini living roof! Dusty Gedge/Livingroofs.org for example, may grow less than a
provides cover for thousands of
millimetre a year! There is a centuries-
microscopic animals, such as water
the waterproof layer and, wherever substrate) retains enough moisture to old tradition of growing moss gardens
bears (Tardigrades), and a habitat for
possible, in one continuous sheet. support life. Commercial ones can be in Japan. Self-established moss carpets
other invertebrates which, in turn, are
Otherwise, the sheets should overlap bought which do not degrade but it food for birds. Moss on buildings is
by at least 20 cm. is possible to use cardboard or old often – and unfairly – associated with
blankets to achieve the same effect. neglect, but it can bring many of the
Filter sheet. This sheet allows water
to drain off the roof but stops the Drainage layer. Like the moisture benefits of a living roof, such as
escape of fine materials in the blanket, this helps to retain moisture shielding the roof from ultra-violet
substrate. while allowing excess water to drain light, absorbing water and cooling.
away. Commercial systems store Lichens are composite, symbiotic
Moisture blanket. For extensive
water and are made of plastic or organisms made up of fungi (which
living roofs, this blanket will ensure
geotextile materials. dominate) and algae or cyanobacteria.
that the growing medium (the soil or
Soils and substrates. The top layer. Food manufactured by the vegetative
The growing medium should be element of the organism through
lightweight and free-draining yet of a photosynthesis is enjoyed by the host
material that retains moisture. Many fungus. As a result, lichens are able to
people use aggregates mixed with survive extremes of temperature and
light sub-soils such as crushed drought and can colonise surfaces too
porous brick and limestone sterile for most other organisms
chippings. (including metal, glass and plastic).

Seeds and plants. Sow seeds on the Look closely and you will see that these
substrate, or put in plug plants (small anciently-evolved plants adorn even
plants in individual cells) and watch the most urban environment. Walls
Top: Wall screw-moss Tortula muralis.
them grow! often support the grey cushions of the Bottom: The moss Grimmia pulvinata forms
Well-drained substrate.
Dusty Gedge/Livingroofs.org moss Grimmia pulvinata or the attractive cushions. Ron Porley/Natural England

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succulents, they actively store water in species are not native, however, so for
their tissues and have a number of preference use biting stonecrop Sedum
ways of reducing their need for water acre, a relatively common native of
in dry weather. rock outcrops and old walls. All sedums
are evergreen and most low-growing
Under conditions of severe stress many
species flower for a relatively short
sedums change colour from green
period in midsummer. White stonecrop
through to red, purple and brown.
and biting stonecrop have some of the
Although they are very tough, you must
most spectacular flowering displays
remember that sedums growing on
and are very attractive to bees,
very thin substrates, or on simple
butterflies and other insects.
moisture mats, may die back and
become patchy during periods of There are three main ways to establish
extreme dryness. a sedum roof.

Commonly-used species on living roofs Seeding. Although this is the


include white stonecrop Sedum album, cheapest option it will take time for
S. hispanicum and S. reflexum. These the plants to fully cover the area.

Biting stonecrop Sedum acre thrives on well-drained ground and has spectacular flowers.
Roger Key/Natural England

can be encouraged on a layer of sandy Sedum roofs


soil 20 mm deep or less and, if kept Sedums are the most widely-used
damp, moss communities will establish plants for living roofs as they have
themselves here through airborne many advantages in terms of hardiness
spores. If you can find moss which has and drought tolerance. Being
been stripped from a building (by those
who do not appreciate it!) you can
replant these sods on your own roof.
Even if planted sods fail, they will
encourage the colonisation of other,
better-suited mosses. It’s worth noting
that various species of moss will
flourish on the sedum-type living roofs
discussed below. A number of
companies specialise in providing pre-
grown moss mats and other means of
speeding up moss growth.
Bumblebees enjoying sedum on a roof. Grasshopper on Sedum album. Native sedum species are preferred, however.
Nigel Dunnet Dusty Gedge/Livingroofs.org

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Wildflower roofs If the meadow is left uncut
throughout autumn and winter, the
The conditions on a living roof (free-
standing seed-heads will provide
draining substrates with low fertility)
food sources for seed-eating birds,
are ideal for the creation of highly
and the dried-out stems and stalks
diverse and species-rich grassland
will provide over-wintering shelter
plant communities. More often than
for a range of invertebrates.
not, these dry grassland ‘roof
meadows’ are more successful than Living roofs can support local or
those that people try to grow in their regional plant communities and
A living roof planted with wildflowers. gardens. vegetation types that might be
Dusty Gedge/Livingroofs.org endangered in the wild.
Rooftop meadows have a number of
Cuttings or plugs. Place plants advantages: Calcareous grassland living roofs
across the roof area. The use of limestone chippings and
A diversity of flowering plant
mixtures of crushed brick and concrete
Commercial pre-grown sedum species will result in a longer The distinctive yellow flowers of common bird’s-
will allow a calcareous meadow to
blankets. These can be rolled out on overall flowering season, thereby foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus.
develop. Such meadows are very Roger Key/Natural England
to the surface of the roof or the extending the period during which
species-rich and can still be found in
growing medium. A few companies the roof flora acts as a nectar
the wild on steep slopes and the Common rock-rose Helianthemum
now supply these mats ready- source for insects. Late-flowering
remnants of unploughed pasture. The nummularium
impregnated with wildflower seeds species are particularly useful in
soils on these habitats are thin, Salad burnet Sanguisorba minor
to increase the diversity of plant this respect.
typically between 50 mm and 100 mm – Small scabious Scabiosa columbaria
species.
the same sort of depth as that on an Thyme Thymus polytrichus
extensive living roof. In the wild, these
At greater depths (100–150 mm) these
Many species appreciate grasslands can support as many as 30
dry grassland as a habitat. plants are suitable:
to 40 species per square metre, so even
Mathew Frith
a small living roof will, potentially, be Field scabious Knautia arvensis
home to many different plants. Greater knapweed Centaurea scabiosa
Wild marjoram Origanum vulgare
Where living roof substrate depths are
Viper’s bugloss Echium vulgare
relatively shallow (50–100 mm) low-
growing and creeping species such as It is better not to seed a living roof with
the following may be planted. grasses as they may out-compete
wildflowers. Many wildflowers will
Bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus
colonise your roof naturally but it is
Cowslip Primula veris
worth adding seeds of wildflower
Harebell Campanula rotundifolia
annuals as they provide an early burst
Hawkweeds Hieracium spp
of colour and many are becoming very
Horseshoe vetch Hippocrepis comosa
scarce in the UK. Examples include
Kidney vetch Anthyllis vulneraria
scarlet pimpernel Anagallis arvensis,
Lady’s bedstraw Galium verum

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planting are best done in the autumn
and spring. Dry summer weather
should always be avoided.

Maintenance
Most people want a living roof that is
low on maintenance. As with all other
types of garden and landscape, the
amount of work needed will depend on
the intended outcome! If a perfect,
Cornflower Centaurea cyanus. manicured green space is what’s
Peter Wakely/Natural England required then the area will need a lot of
attention. However, extensive living
cornflower Centaurea cyanus, corn
roofs need relatively little maintenance.
marigold Chrysanthemum segetum,
Semi-extensive areas will need more
corncockle Agrostemma githago, wild
attention to keep them looking good
pansy Viola tricolor and scentless
and to maintain their diversity of
mayweed Tripleurospermum inodorum.
species. This living roof has been designed to incorporate many different habitats. ZinCo GmbH
Establishing rooftop wildflower
Sedum roofs development of a more mixed short vegetation that will not need
meadows
If a pristine green carpet of sedums is vegetation, as grasses and other plants cutting back each year. Where growth
Wildflower meadows can be
the goal, then this will mean a fair invade. If a sedum living roof is left is more productive or tall – as on a
established in a number of ways.
amount of weeding to control invading largely unmanaged it is likely to semi-extensive living roof – it will be
Seeding is the most cost-effective
plants. This may have to be done two or gradually develop into a more mixed necessary to cut back and remove
method. Mixing the seed with a
three times a year. However, a less community, with a greater proportion growth every year. This will prevent the
quantity of sand prior to sowing allows
intensive regime will result in the of grasses in the vegetation. However, died-back remains of the previous
a more even spreading of seed across
some maintenance – even if you only season’s growth, accumulating on the
the surface. If you are sowing on to a
intervene once a year – should be surface of the roof. Unlike conventional
sloping roof it can be beneficial to tack
done to remove invading woody plants meadows, which are normally cut in
an open hessian or jute mat over the
(such as birch tree seedlings) that have summer, it’s recommended that roof
sown mix to protect the soil from heavy
the potential to disrupt, or even meadows are cut back in late winter.
rain.
puncture, the waterproof lining of the Leaving the dried and dead vegetation
Wildflower plants can also be roof. in place not only provides over-winter
established using plugs or small pot shelter for invertebrates and food for
Wildflower roofs
grown plants. This is more costly, but seed-eating birds, but also a degree of
For extensive living roof types it should
gives you greater control over the protection to the plants beneath it
be possible to develop a wildflower
composition of the roof flora. A during severe weather. It can also look
meadow with little or no intervention.
combination of seeding and planting attractive.
Scarlet pimpernel Anagallis arvensis. Low fertility substrates will give rise to
can also be effective. Both seeding and
Paul Glendell/Natural England

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A key feature of living roofs is that the humilis. Wild mignonette Reseda lutea
growing medium is made up of and weld R. luteola are visited by tiny
substrates such as crushed brick with white-faced bees (Hylaeus species),
only a little soil mixed in. This means many of which are very rare. Other
that they are nutrient-poor, sparsely important nectar and pollen sources
vegetated, well-drained and both dry for bees, wasps, hoverflies and
and warm, with areas of bare ground. butterflies are ox-eye daisy
In turn, the invertebrates they support Leucanthemum vulgare, various
are those that are warmth-loving (or hawkbits (Leontodon species), and
heat tolerating) species. These tend to common cat’s-ear Hypochaeris
be those with a rather Mediterranean radicata.
distribution in Europe, and which in
Britain are therefore right at the very
northern and western edge of their
range.

Such species are normally associated


with habitats such as sandy heaths,
chalk downs, coastal cliffs, dunes and
brownfield sites (land that was
previously developed, then left to run
wild). As a result of changing land use,
Field scabious Knautia arvensis, although in this many of these formerly open habitats
case the field is on the top of a building!
Mathew Frith are now in danger of becoming
smothered by scrub and so losing their
Bugs and living roofs important floras and faunas. Many
nationally scarce insect species occur
Common, widespread and highly
on brownfield sites and some of these
mobile invertebrates will easily The insects found in dry, warm habitats often
are now turning up on living roofs in
colonise living roofs. Examples found include the rare and the unusual, for example
England. (from top) a squashbug Syromastus rhombeus, a
so far include many ladybird species as
weevil Ceutorhynchus geographicus and the
well as various shieldbugs, hoverflies, Try to imagine a living roof as a leafhopper Aphrodes bifasciatus.
bees and grasshoppers. But since these rockery, with boulders, gravel and Roger Key/Natural England
species occur anyway in our well- other rough, dry substrates
tended and nutrient-rich gardens, decoratively arranged with only a little burnet Sanguisorba minor, toadflax
living roofs offer them little extra. soil. Instead of the traditional alpine Linaria vulgaris and native grasses are
However, the owner of a good, dry and succulent garden plants, populate all associated with unusual insects
grassland roof can hope to attract some it with native species. Plants like which feed on them. Clovers –
of the more unusual and scarce insects kidney vetch Anthyllis vulneraria, Trifolium species – are valuable forage
that are linked with similar habitats in horseshoe vetch Hippocrepis comosa, plants for bumblebees, including the Wild mignonette Reseda lutea.
the wild. bird’s-foot-trefoils Lotus species, salad declining Bombus sylvarum and B. Roger Key/Natural England

18 19
A good living roof will also attract digger wasp Cerceris arenaria and the
ground-dwelling insects such as ornate-tailed digger wasp C. rybyensis.
predatory ground beetles and root- or
Small logs laid across the substrate will
seed-eating invertebrates. These
not only provide shelter for insects but
particularly favour loose, dry soil into
also make nesting sites for the many
which they can burrow among the
small bees and wasps that burrow into
plant roots, or areas under larger rocks
dead timber. Unlike logs resting in the
and stones. Such soil also suits a wide
moist humus of garden topsoil – which
range of soil-nesting solitary bees and
rot down through the actions of beetle
wasps. Unusual visitors you might see
larvae and worms – these roof logs
include the bombadier beetle Brachinus
become sun-baked and hard, providing
crepitans, the Adonis ladybird
a different but nevertheless important
Hippodamia variegata, mining bees and
habitat for insects.
sand wasps, such as the sand-tailed

The sand-tailed digger wasp Cerceris arenaria. Roger Key/Natural England

Butterflies
A living roof is a great place to
encourage those butterfly and moth
species not normally found in rich, lush
gardens. Being both low in nutrients
and well-drained, such roofs allow food
plants for a number of important
butterfly and moth species to flourish.
Horseshoe vetch, kidney vetch and
bird’s-foot-trefoil, for example – all with
beautiful yellow flowers – are
important food plants for butterflies
such as the dingy skipper and the
common blue. As with other
invertebrates, some of the species in
the list on page 22 like bare areas of
brick, shingle or gravel on which to sun
Sun-baked logs make a valuable habitat for many themselves.
A mining bee Andrena clerkella laden with pollen. Roger Key/Natural England species. Dusty Gedge/Livingroofs.org

20 21
Butterflies associated with dry habitats that may use living roofs Try to ensure that your roof has areas
of shingle, gravel and stones that will
Species Substrates Foodplants
remain relatively bare. Such areas
Brown argus Chalk to acid Rock-rose, dove’s-foot crane’s-bill, stork’s-bill will provide a sanctuary for species
species that like bare, dry ground. Small
Common blue Chalk to acid Mainly bird’s-foot-trefoil species and black
medick

Dingy skipper Chalk, neutral Horseshoe vetch and bird’s-foot-trefoil species

Grayling Heath, sand, chalk Grasses

Small copper Chalk to acid Common and sheep’s sorrel

Small heath Chalk to acid Fine grasses


The grayling butterfly Hipparchia semele prefers
Wall Chalk to acid Grasses grasses. Roger Key/Natural England

Birds
The common blue butterfly
Polyommatus icarus is attracted to Even a small living roof can provide a
bird’s-foot-trefoils. good feeding area for common bird
Roger Key/Natural England species such as blackbird, song thrush,
robin and wren. Dry grassland roofs, A Black redstart. Rare in Britain, these birds often
with plenty of good seed plants will use living roofs on the Continent.
B. Borrell Casals/FLPA.
attract seed-eating birds such as
goldfinch, linnet, greenfinch and
chaffinch. If the roof is in Birmingham
or London it may even attract a black
redstart, a bird rare in Britain but one
well known for using living roofs on the
Continent.

Designing living roofs for wildlife


The best design is one that provides a
range of microhabitats for wildlife.
Even a small roof may provide a
number of miniature habitats, ranging
from the bare and dry to the tall and
verdant, benefiting many plants and
Robins will be attracted by the invertebrate food
bugs. Do, therefore, think about the to be found on living roofs.
following, if the structure allows: Chris Gibson/Natural England

22 23
supplier. A cheaper alternative is to
collect your own seeds from a local
meadow, wasteland or dry grassland
site (assuming you have permission
from the owner!)

Enjoy it!
Designing and tending a living roof in
the garden should be fun. If, over time,
things do not develop quite as
expected then add a little more
substrate where possible or sow a few
more seeds, or both. Get up on to the
roof and have a look at the bugs and
beasts that you have attracted. Above
all, let other people know and help
spread the word!

Please remember to seek out and


follow all relevant safety advice when
accessing roofs and high places.

In the construction industry around


one-quarter of all deaths and serious
injuries are due to falls from ladders. If
using a ladder or other equipment,
please refer to and follow the
A green oasis. Dusty Gedge/Livingroofs.org
manufacturer’s safety instructions.
geometric areas covered in gravel, or or a pillar below, a mound or a ridge Both Natural England and
the addition of rock cairns, can also of deeper substrate could be applied Livingroofs.org are keen to hear from
give a ‘landscape’ feel to a living roof. above. This will allow taller people who have made a living roof in
On a deeper semi-extensive roof, vegetation to grow. or around their garden. Please contact:
consider having some shallow, bare gardenroofs@livingroofs.org.uk or
Placing small boulders and dry
areas to increase the range of steve.berry@naturalengland.org.uk
rotting logs on the roof can provide
habitats.
important microhabitats for bugs,
Even on shallow extensive living fungi and other species.
roofs there may be areas that can
Use a native seed mix or plug plants,
hold deeper substrates. If there is a
preferably from a recognised
supporting structure such as a wall

24 25
Contacts Further information
For further information on living roofs This is one of a range of wildlife
and biodiversity go to gardening booklets published by
www.livingroofs.org or Natural England. For more details,
www.greenroofs.com. There is a forum contact the Natural England Enquiry
at www.livingroofs.org where you can Service on 0845 600 3078 or e-mail
ask for advice on domestic living roofs enquiries@naturalengland.org.uk.
and exchange experiences.
Natural England also produces
Natural England
Gardening with wildlife in mind an
1 East Parade
illustrated wildlife reference. Originally
Sheffield, S1 2ET
on CD but now also available on-line,
Enquiry Service: 0845 600 3078
Gardening with wildlife in mind has
enquiries@naturalengland.org.uk
detailed information on 800 plants
www.naturalengland.org.uk
and animal species often found in our
Buglife gardens, and shows how they are
170A Park Road ecologically linked. See
Peterborough, PE1 2UF www.plantpress.com
Tel: 01733 201 210
www.buglife.org.uk Other titles
Nigel Dunnet & Noel Kingsbury
Royal Horticultural Society
Planting Green roofs and living walls.
80 Vincent Square
Timber Press 2004
London, SW1 P 2PE
Tel: 020 7834 4333 Green roofs: their existing status and
info@rhs.org.uk potential for conserving biodiversity in
urban areas. Natural England Research
The Wildlife Trusts
Report No. 498. 2003
The Kiln
Waterside
Jacklyn Johnson & John Newton.
Mather Road
Building green: a guide to using plants
Newark, NG24 1WT
on roofs, walls and pavements. 2004
Tel: 01636 677711
Available from www.london.gov.uk
www.wildlifetrusts.org

Plantlife
14 Rollestone Street
Salisbury
Wiltshire, SP1 1DX
Tel: 01722 342 730
www.plantlife.org.uk
26 27

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