So your flowerbeds are full, the greenhouse is overflowing, there’s no more room for pots on the patio and every vertical surface in the garden is covered in foliage. How do you find space for new plants and enjoy the thrill of a fresh challenge in the garden?
The answer? A green roof bin store. As well as screening your unsightly plastic monstrosities from view, a custom-made green-roof bin store provides the perfect place to grow attractive, scented and edible plants for instant kerb appeal and a lasting first impression. Here’s how I designed mine…
How to build a green roof bin store
Inspired by the RHS Greening the Grey Community Garden at Hampton Court Flower Show back in 2015, I fell in love with their fabulous bin store with a thyme and wild strawberry green roof.
Working with a local carpenter, I created my own version of a green roof store that would accommodate two bins and give me room to grow plants on the top and up the trellis sides. I also planned a selection of different sized holes in the side panel for solitary bees. Over the last three years these holes have been used regularly. I often see bees going in and out with their mud pellets blocking the holes.
Once the bin store was complete, I lined the top with heavy duty plastic sheeting and covered this with 20mm gravel to improve the drainage. I left a hole at the back through which the water could drain down a hose to the ground and screwed an upturned tea strainer over the hole to prevent blockages. I filled the rest of the top with a low-nutrient green roof substrate based on crushed recycled brick and green waste compost – and I was ready to plant it up.
Best plants for a green roof
The bin store is in full sun, so I chose plants that prefer sunny, well-drained conditions like alpines, succulents and herbs. The sunniest side is filled with lemon thyme (Thymus x citriodorus) and Thymus ‘Silver Queen’, salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor), French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa) and winter savoury (Satureja montana). All have thrived and they are self-seeding on the roof, so I know that the conditions are right for them. Thrift (Armeria maritima) has also done well and self-seeds all over, but perhaps the most successful planting has been the succulents. I positioned them at the front so their delicate foliage and tiny flowers are at eye-level when I pass to empty the bins or get in the car.
In the spring, Sedum ‘Cape Blanco’ and Sedum spathulifolium ‘Purpureum’ have small starry yellow flowers and Saxifraga ‘Buttercream’ adds its soft milky flowers to the mix. During the summer months, Sempervivum arachnoideum sends up pink starry blossom spikelets and I grow annual climbers up the sides of the bin store – this year the trellis has been covered in the apricot shades of Thunbergia ‘African Sunset’ mixed with the deep purple bells of Rhodochiton atrosanguineum.
More than just a screen
The bin store has been a practical success, but it’s added more than just a screen to the garden. I’ve been able to include plants which struggle in the shadier conditions of the back garden and bring some miniature succulent treasures into the limelight.
Although sedum matting is a great way to cover a green roof, if you’re hankering after extra growing room I’d encourage you to be ambitious and experiment with a range of species – perhaps herbs, alpines and different succulents, or even an elevated wildflower meadow – the sky really is the limit!
If you’ve been inspired by Nic’s green roof and want to try planting up one of your own, visit our hub page for info and advice on growing alpine and rockery plants.
Nic Wilson is a writer, garden designer and Garden Media Guilds Awards nominee (Beth Chatto Environmental Award, 2019). She enjoys growing flowers and unusual fruit, vegetables and herbs, and loves to encourage nature into the garden. She blogs at www.dogwooddays.net, and Guardian Country Diarist based in North Hertfordshire.
She works for BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine and her writing has featured in anthologies, journals and magazines including The English Garden, The Garden (RHS Magazine), BBC Wildlife Magazine and the John Clare Society Journal.