There’s something magical about being “Up On The Roof,” as the song says. Think of Bernardo and Anita weighing the relative merits of “America” in the movie “West Side Story” or Mary Poppins, Bert, Jane and Michael discovering “a doorway to a place of enchantment” on the roof of the Banks home, 17 Cherry Tree Lane, in “Mary Poppins.”
When the roof is studded with plants, rocks, seating, statuary and lighting — well, the scene is set for even more delights. (Or frights. Recently, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan opened Cornelia Parker’s “Transitional Object (PsychoBarn)” in its Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden. This commission — through Oct. 31, weather permitting — is a touch of American Gothic, combining the wholesomeness of the red barn with the sinister solitude of the Victorian mansions in Edward Hopper’s paintings and the Bates home in Alfred Hitchock’s “Psycho,” which was also inspired by Hopper and the houses of his Nyack childhood.)
The new “Living Roofs” (teNeues Publishing Group, 224 pages, 210 color photographs, 44 illustrations, $55) offers thrills but no chills as Finnish-based freelance landscape designer Ashley Penn — a chartered member of the Landscape Institute in the United Kingdom, where he worked for many years as a landscape architect — explores 35 private urban gardens from New York to London to Munich to Singapore to Sydney.
Call it The High Line effect. As Penn writes in his introduction, “A Roof With A View,” “…with the advent of projects like The High Line in New York City demonstrating that it is possible to turn once neglected areas in cities into popular green oases by growing plants high above the ground, architects, landscape architects, garden designers and even enthusiastic gardeners are creating bold roof gardens.”
This book is designed to help them do just that. Each entry contains not only plenty of photographs but an overhead diagram, the year the garden was built, the name of the landscape architect or firm, the square footage, the climate zone and temperatures of the locale — and, this is most interesting — the names of the plants. For instance, a charming roof terrace in Holland Park, London, which overlooks a street of elegant, cream-colored townhouses, is filled with creeping thyme, fleabane daisy, gaura, German pink, Korean feather reed grass, Macedonian scabious and Mexican feather grass — all of which complement a modern gray wood and stone space accented with purple pillows and small votives. (This garden was photographed by Clive Nichols, whose work in another teNeues book, “Paradise Found,” appears on page 32.)
But even if you don’t know fleabane from feather grass, “Living Roofs” will allow you to be one with William Wordsworth and “glory in the flower.”
For more, visit teneues.com.