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The History of Rooftop Gardens

Rooftop gardens have skyrocketed in popularity recently. Frankly, it’s not all that surprising. Just take a look the next time you’re out and about in the city. We live in a land dominated primarily by concrete and steel. There’s no question it can be challenging to find open areas of green space with plants and trees. That’s partly why communities are making more of an effort to build their own rooftop gardens. As humans, we need to connect with nature whenever possible. Keep reading as we take a journey back in time with rooftop gardens.

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The First Known Roof Gardens

Food52 mentions the ziggurats of ancient Mesopotamia as coming up with the idea of a rooftop garden. This is evident in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. These pyramid towers featured stairways that spiraled along their outer edges, with nearby trees to provide temporary relief from the hot sun. Unfortunately, no archaeological proof of these towers has been found. The only evidence of their existence lies in classical writings based on oral histories.

Let’s move on to The Renaissance, when the Italians took gardens to the next level. During this time, the best green spaces were symmetrical and ordered in design. Interestingly, the oldest preserved rooftop garden is located in Siena, Italy, where Pope Pius had a palace built for himself. Eventually, a formal garden was erected on the roof for him to hold audiences.

Modern Rooftop Gardens

Fast forward to the 19th century, when these spaces became gathering spots for the public. Take the Casino Theater in 1882, for example. History buffs may already know that this theater was the first to be completely electrified. However, visitors flocked to the venue for another reason: the roof garden theater. On hot summer nights, this quickly became the place to be. Theaters across Manhattan and throughout the U.S. took notice. Simply put, roof gardens allowed open-air theaters to remain in business during the summer. Guests were treated to one-of-a-kind lineups that included singers, magicians, dog acts, and dancers. Who knew that roof gardens could spark such incredible entertainment?

Rooftop Gardens in NYC

The roof garden craze followed suit. All you have to do is look at the gigantic rooftop garden at Madison Square Garden (which is still often referred to as “The Garden”). The space spanned the whole block between Madison and Fourth Avenue. Not only that, but it could accommodate up to 4,000 people. Madison Square Garden wasn’t the only prominent rooftop garden in New York City. The Paradise Roof Garden featured a village setting with a windmill, pond, waterfall, several cows, and a milkmaid. Lastly is the Hotel Astor, which boasted a whopping 20,000 feet of space including a 1,000-foot-long tree-lined promenade.

As time went on, it wasn’t just the wealthy who were interested in rooftop gardens. Local libraries quickly found the need to establish reading rooms on roofs. Metropolitan restaurants even went so far as to grow their own ingredients on the roof if space was available.

How Our Landscaper Can Help With Rooftop Gardens

Now that you’re interested in a rooftop garden, what’s the first step to take? Well, you could ask your landlord or property management company what’s allowed and what isn’t. Unfortunately, you may not get the clear-cut answer you’re looking for. Here at our luxury landscaping company, we recommend getting in touch with a rooftop garden designer to handle the entire process.

Amber Freda has been recognized across the region for her high end landscaping since 2004. As opposed to standard lawn care or maintenance companies who have no design expertise, Amber offers cohesive, fully integrated plans that include everything you want. Whether it’s furniture, plants, pergolas, benches, or something completely different, you can count on Amber to bring everything together in a way that feels like a natural extension of your home.

Let’s provide a little more insight into our rooftop garden design and custom landscaping as a whole. The process begins with an on-site consultation to understand your style and vision. Next comes the design phase. Feel free to ask us about incorporating landscape lighting, a custom bench, custom decking, a rooftop terrace, or something else. Once the plan is finalized, we move on to installation. Unlike other landscapers who hand off tasks to third parties, we install all of the plants and planters ourselves. Any custom features are installed by our general contractor. For your convenience, Amber also offers ongoing maintenance to keep plants healthy and thriving.

Amber Freda is New York City’s choice for urban landscaping and common space gardens. Let us help you enjoy the rooftop garden or healing garden of your dreams. Contact us now to schedule a consultation.   

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