Gardens in the Sky.
A luxury high rise residential community presents a complex test for landscape architectural skills.
The multiple levels of high rise garden experiencesoffer residents a park like atmospherewith a green roof concept with intensive ornamental roof gardensthat brings the landscape closer to the living environment, in contrast to the urban hardscape norm. Walled private gardens are an innovative design solution for the high rise housing industry. Itcan transformed an urban roof garden into a tropical park paradise for all residents to enjoy. Green facades of highrise buildings can also becreated to soften the stark buildings and create a healthier environment.Plants selected for this environment must be hardy and withstand sometimes extremes of climate as well as having a predicatble growth habit as well as known growth dimentions, be of low maintainence and have a root system that in neither invasiveand can lend itself to a restricted environment. Cycads are ideal for this purpose, there are many forms of cycads including low growing border plants right up to Large growing majestic features.. this can be integrated with Building-integrated vegetation as well as building-integrated habitat. Forming green corridors or Green Networks, roof greening is a promising method of addressing this problem creating larger areas of Greenspace important to recreation and beauty of the city. These rooftops may be used for the protection of rare and endangered birds that have made the city highrise their home, Conservation Islands of Rare and Endangered plants may also be incorporated into the rooftop garden landscape.
See this excellent roof top garden architectural file... http://www.english-nature.org.uk/pubs/publication/PDF/498.pdf
Caring for Cycads in Balcony and Rooftop Container Gardens and Highrise Apartments
Many people that live in these situations have moved from housing with gardens or have been born and raised in this type of housing and desire to have Live Plants to grow on their Roof tops or Balconies, these Plants would need to be very hardy and need to take quite a bit of neglect and hardship as the Growing Conditions in these situations can be quite severe.
Cycads are a very hardy plant to compliment your home container garden collection.
The Cycads need to be hardy to Pot Culture and also be able to spend many years in the pot and not outgrow it in this time, these Cycads must also be able to withstand from full summer sun to winter frosts, climatic conditions will change with the aspect of the Home (North, South, East or West facing), these Cycads may need to be Xerophytic (Drought hardy) so they may withstand periods of absence due to summer holidays etc. or also may need to be wintered Indoors
Cycads add a touch of the Natural World thus creating your own green haven also providing serenity to the home, improve air quality by remove pollutants and releasing oxygen, while also uplifting the spirit, there also will be the added privilege of owning Living Fossil Plants. Cycads are interesting and decorative, are evergreen, have long or short, narrow and broad decorative leaflets and leaves, grow colourful interesting cones, are able to be used as screens, medium to large features inside or outside, or as a small feature plant on the tabletop or shelving. Cycads can also be a growing investment as Cycads are in high demand around the world, a good profit can be realised from the sale of Cycads grown on in Pot Culture.
These plants can be a Link to the Natural world for children and the elderly who otherwise would not have the ability to travel far to be able to experience nature. Tending these potted Cycads can be very relaxing and therapeutic after a hard days work, the joy of seeing a new flush of leaves or the emergence of a cone is very stimulating, many a collector started of in this manner. If this helps to raise awareness of the natural world in Children and Adults alike this will help to make our world a better place to live in
There are many species of Cycad that will fit into their own unique Nitch in your living space, most of which are suitable for Pot Culture these can have leaves from 30cm long to leaves of 2m+.
Requirements for Successfully Growing Cycads in Container Culture
All Plants have Certain Basic Requirements for healthy Growth.
Soil less Media: These can be made up of Organic Materials such as Composted Pine Bark, Peat, Composted Sawdust, Coconut Fibre, Charcoal, Composted Wood Chips and Garden Compost
This should be a Premium well draining Potting Medium from an accredited manufacturer, this media will be of the correct pH and will have Nutrients added. I prefer a Pine-bark Based Media, this will be covered in another section of the website, please click on the link for further info.
They can also be made from Inert Materials such as Sand, Gravel, Vermiculite, Pumice Volcanic Gravels, Perlite, Crushed Bricks and expanded Clay, any of these can be mixed with an Organic Media to increase or decrease the Water Holding Capacity of the Mix.
Soil Based Potting Mixes: Soil based mediums rich in Organic Matter are great for plant growth however there is a downside to this as the water holding capacity is so high as to create water logging this may then retain water on the surface of the potted plant due to bad drainage, this can lead to loss of vigour and rotting of the root system and ultimately in the Loss of your plant.
This is more of a problem in parts of the world that receive regular higher rainfalls as the exposed pots would be regularly topped up by rain.
The World Health Authority warns of the prevalence of Mosquito Born Diseases, water retained in plant pots is a breeding ground for these potential killers.
Potting Up or Re-potting:
This may be necessary every one to two years, more often for some faster growing species, this should be carried out at the start of your growing season.
Water in well, don’t fertilise for several weeks until the plant has re-established in pot.
Be careful not to damage the root system while re-potting
When potting up Cycads it is important to not over-pot the plant, this is not beneficial to the plant and can lead to the media becoming water-logged and sour, plants prefer to be grown in a slightly confined area where the roots can use all of the pot space for their development.
Some species of Cycads can grow to very large size in a confined area of root space and be completely healthy and flourish in growth, if loss of vigour re-potting will be in order.
Generally the ratio of plant size to pot size can be an indicator of requiring potting up.
Generally the next size larger pot will be enough, at times just renewing the media or part of the media is all that is required for a smaller growing species.
I recommend a layer of broken Terracotta, Stones, Brick or Ceramics or other similar inert material be placed in the bottom of the pot prior to adding the potting media, this is to prevent the potting media from blocking the drain holes, this can also be topped with a small piece of shade-cloth, stocking or similar cloth as this will help to prevent the finer materials from flushing out of the drain holes.
It is not necessary nor advisable to pot the plant Cycads directly into the Terracotta/Ceramic display pots or tubs as these can get very heavy, you would be better served to leave Cycad in plastic pot, it is then only necessary to remove the lighter plastic pot and place new plant into same position in the display Pot when rotating/spelling plants, this stops the physical exertion of moving them and also will eliminate damage to your valuable containers or tubs.
Leaving Cycads in plastic pots is also beneficial in that the pot will not absorb and retain the salts that tend to build up in Clay and Terracotta Pots.
The worlds oldest living potted plant is a Cycad, it is an Encephalartos sp from South Africa, This plant is hundreds of years old and is in the collection at Huntington Botanical Gardens in London, this thriving Cycad has 2 meters or more of trunk and is in a pot that seems too small for the size of the plant. Cycads have been used as Indoor Container plants since the early part of the 20th century.
Cycads in Containers are now being used as Feature Plants in Palaces, Hotels, Resorts Public buildings, Entertainment areas etc. around the world.
Cycads do not need to be kept wet, they actually dislike wet feet, this can cause rot to develop, this can lead to the death of your Cycad, I would not recommend to have the pot sitting in the water of a bowl, I recommend that saucer or bowl be filled to the top with gravel or small stones to hold the pot above the waterline, the roots may still venture into this layer without causing problems, this integration of stones into the saucer or bowl will also help to stop mosquitos from breeding in the water.
More plants die from an excess of water than from under-watering, this is the reason for having a well draining media so that excess water flows through the potting media and does not accumulate around the roots and cause rotting.
Some species of Cycad actually do better by being kept lightly moist, with the proper media the water retention rate after watering should be sufficient to keep the Cycads happy for at least a week, Potting Mediums being so variable in ingredients, the WHC (Water Holding Capacity) may vary considerably, these may require the addition of more compost or integrating some water holding crystals into the medium, this retained water is then released as the media dries out thus extending the period between watering.
Fertilising of potted plants can be beneficial to, or can destroy your Cycad, over-fertilisation can burn the roots of your plant by poisoning the media through the build up of salts thus severely affecting the pH balance of your media, this build-up can be seen as white salt deposits on the outside of Terracotta Pots or around the top of Plastic Pots just above the media, this can also be seen around the drain holes or on the surface of the potting media, this will eventually result in the plant losing vigour, the destruction of the root system and ultimately the death of your beloved potted Cycads.
This situation can be delayed or avoided by following the Directions on the Fertiliser Container and not over fertilising.
By flushing the potting media at least twice yearly by immersing pots into your bathtub or Kitchen sink to help dissolve and remove built-up salts, only immerse to the top of the pot as some of your potting media may float out of the pots. let the pot soak for half an hour or so and then let out water and drain the pot before returning pot back to saucer.
This action may also expel ants and other bugs that may have made their home in the pot, this will be covered by Pests and Diseases and their recommended treatments as the website progresses.
I like to recommend Liquid Organic Fertilisers, Seaweed, Deodorised Fish Emulsion, Blood and Bone etc as they are not as critical as chemical fertilisers.
Application of Osmocote Slow Release Fertiliser with Trace Elements and Iron in the growing season is highly beneficial.
Be aware of the faster release rate due to hot humid climates as the release rate can double halving the life of the fertilise, it may be necessary to half the application rate to avoid over fertilizing though this will not become a problem in plants exposed to regular rainfall.
The Osmocote slow release fertilizer 3-6-9-12 +month slow release fertiliser can be very beneficial, I also recommend to have at least 3 different brand fertiliser so as to have a nutrient overlap to ensure that there is a balanced nutrient supply to grow your Cycad, you may think that you are feeding your plant well, there may be one element or micro-nutrient missing this will be enough to set your plant back and lose health and vigour.
The pH of your Potting Medium:
Healthy Plant Growth is governed by the pH levels of the Growing Medium that you use because the release of Nutrients only occurs at the right pH levels.
The pH is the measure of the acidity or Alkalinity of your Growing Medium weather it is Soil-less or has soil content.
PH levels can be measured by using either a Litmus Paper test kit or a PH Meter, these can be purchased from a good Garden Centre, the Ideal pH Levels are between 6 to 7.5.
Indoor/Outdoor Positioning of Cycads:
Cycads can be kept indoors for most of the year for some species though I recommend to rotate these inside to outdoors or into a well lit area with morning or afternoon sunlight, artificial light is no substitute for sunlight, if Cycads are not/have not been hardened into direct sunlight they will burn as will all plants, Rotate Cycads Indoors/Outdoors every 1 to 2 weeks maximum, when the Cycads are showing signs of flushing new leaves I recommend to put the Cycads out into bright light to let the newly emergent leaves harden off, you will notice that the Cycads will face their rosette of leaves towards the source of the brightest sun-light so be aware when replacing the Cycads onto the balcony or rooftop that this will be facing in the right direction, pots can also be rotated daily during hardening off of the leaf flush to even out the crown of leaves.
I would also recommend that Outdoor Cycads can be left in their outdoor placement until the weekend and then move inside when you are home to enjoy your Cycads indoors and again moving them outside for the working week to flourish in the fresh air.
If your Home is Air-conditioned the above will apply, some species of cycads will withstand these conditions but will still benefit from being rotated at least every week or so with Cycads from outside.
There are species of Cycads particularly broad leafed Zamia, Lepidozamia and Ceratozamia that will not do well outdoors as the leaves would be damaged due to high winds or extreme Sunlight and UV Rays, these should be kept in an area that is sheltered from these elements or if inside the home placed in the area of high indirect light, they should also be rotated to balance the leaf growth when new leaves appear, some of these species can have leaves to 2 meters+ long.
There are many other issues to contend with when growing Cycads in Temperate Climates, I will attempt to answer any questions or will gather info from growers in these cold climates to assist in keeping these Cycads healthy and growing. There are many people in Europe, North America, South Africa, Australia belonging to the Cycad Societies around the world that have been successfully growing Cycads Indoors in Freezing sub-zero climates for many years and have succeeded to grow Cycad specimens many years old.
Choice of cycad for your apartment, balcony or roof-top: See info in plant descriptions within website or get in touch with Joe either through email link below or call me on the phone numbers.
More Information will be entered in the future.
For more Comprehensive Information on this subject and anything to do with Growing Cycads Purchase one of the following books, The Cycads by Loran Whitelock and Cycads of the World by David Jones.
Classifications of Green Roofs :-
The three types are:
- Simple Intensive;
Intensive Green Roofs are generally referred to as Roof Top Gardens, they are the equivalent of ground level parks or gardens, Cycads are Ideal for this Environment.
Simple Intensive Green Roofs are vegetated with lawns or other ground cover plants with some Cycadfeature plants incorporated into the design.
Extensive Green Roofs require minimal maintainence and are minimally ornot Irrigated, vegetation normally consists of grasses, succulents andherbs, Cycads are ideal for this environment in the right climatic regions.
A brief history of green roofs
Green roofs and roof gardens are not new – their history began in ancient times. Although the exact details of their location and appearance are not recorded, it is believed that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which were built sometime between the eighth and sixth centuries BC in Mesopotamia, were raised terraces, irrigated and planted with groves of trees.
Benefits of Green Roofs:
They may be summarised as follows:
- attenuation of stormwater run-off
- run-off attenuation reduces sewer overflows
- option of cleaning and recycling grey water
- absorption of air pollutants and dust
- reduction in the 'urban heat island' effect
- increased humidity
- absorption of noise
- absorption of electromagnetic radiation
- helping to absorb greenhouse gases (particularly CO2) and giving off oxygen
- use of recycled materials
Ecology & Biodiversity
- provision of new wildlife habitat
- replacement of habitat lost through development
- provision of quiet refuges
- providing links or stepping stones in greenspace networks
- often only available green space in inner urban core
- more options for designers
- hides grey and uniform roofing materials
- screens equipment
- attractive views of vegetation
- extension of park system
- provides gardens - more people space
- psychological benefits of contact with nature
- improved air quality – helps to reduce lung disease
- improved water quality
- Protecting the roof from ultra violet radiation
- Protecting the roof from mechanical damage
- reducing diurnal/seasonal temperature changes in roof
- may improve thermal insulation
- Extended Roof Life
- attract buyers/tenants
- may reduce water/sewer charges
- reduce heating and air conditioning cost
- use of recycled materials from site reduces cost
- Green Roofs can provide outdoor classrooms in inner city areas
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