Can I grow flowers on an apartment roof?

can I grow flowers on an apartment roof

TL:DR Yes you absolutely can. Read on to see how Sharayna, a student on my Seed to Vase course, was able to grow flowers on her apartment roof!

Sharayna Desouza lives in Brentford, West London. Hailing from Mumbai, she and her partner live in an apartment block in a built-up area – but this is no ordinary apartment block – it’s an apartment block with a difference. You see, the roof of the apartment block houses a raised bed allotment for residents, where they can grow fruit, veg and, of course, flowers – a fabulous idea to help us regreen our cities, help the planet out and help people live more sustainably.

Sharayna and her partner took a lease of one of these spaces back in 2019 and proceeded to grow the staples; spuds, tomatoes, and a few extra treats such as aubergines – it was here her current journey started.

“I have always grown vegetables, and I have to say, I am pretty good at it,” she told me when we caught up, having just harvested an aubergine – in November! Clearly, she’s very good at all this!

Having discovered our courses in an allotment Facebook group, Sharayna entered one of my competitions, winning herself a space on the Seed to Vase course, which is where the flower- growing bug bit. And even though she has limited space, she’s had some success – and is already planning and planting for next spring!

“I have my raised bed and I have taken charge of some tiny communal flower beds that border the roof allotment,” she told me. “But I need more space!”

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“This year I’ve tried growing some things in pots. I tried poppies, but I didn’t have a lot of success, however, I am proud to say that I have managed to grow two Dahlias from seed in pots – they’re beautiful.”

“Oh – and I managed to get my Christmas cactus to flower, which is very exciting!”

Sharayna’s energy is infectious – she so full of joy and excitement, but with a job as a compliance officer for a hedge fund in the city, her days can be incredibly exhausting – and pandemic aside, the last few years of her life have been incredibly stressful.

“At the start of 2019, I was made redundant from my job. My partner and I had just moved into this apartment and it was an incredibly worrying time – especially as I was in the UK on a visa that was sponsored by my workplace.”

“During those darker days when I was looking for a new job, I would head to the roof, to my raised bed allotment every day and spend two or three hours weeding it and preparing it ready for planting.”

“Even in the pouring rain and the cold of winter it made me feel great like I had a sense of purpose and something to get up for every day – it did so much for my mental health.”

“Now, I am just completely addicted – I love growing and gardening. If you ever have a job vacancy come up – let me know!”

Like so many gardeners, Sharayna now heads straight to her outdoor space after work to check in on her plant babies, have a chat with them, and make sure they’re watered and thriving.

“I work for a hedge fund in the West End – heading straight to the roof after work helps the stresses of the day just melt away,” she continues. “Those fifteen minutes are an absolute lifesaver.”

I totally get this! When I started the farm, I was still working in my corporate job. Every day I’d go home and potter in the garden, which I found so wonderful for de-stressing – planting seeds and bulbs while listening to music just made everything else seem so unimportant.

I could feel the strains of the day evaporate away and was able to get my mind to a place where I’d be able to think ‘I’ve had enough of today – let’s move on’.

I’ve said it more than once and I’ll say it again – nature really is the best medicine. The sense of achievement from growing and transforming brings great joy and the fresh air and the great British weather are just so good for the soul.

Sharayna agreed, “Every day I’d see something new happen, and when the flowers were blooming, I was like ‘oh my God! I have actually grown those!’ I felt so proud!”

“You know, recently, I have been thinking that maybe I am in the wrong profession.”

“Over the last year, I have had a few anxiety attacks and thought I couldn’t do my job anymore,” she continued. “Gar‐ dening helped me manage that, but there have been times I have just wanted to quit my job and become a gardener.”

“So, if you have a vacancy, I’ll quit my job tomorrow and come work for you!”

I love this spirit – and in fact, one of my horticulturists, Emma, followed a similar path to that that Sharayna is aspiring to, quitting a high-flying job, studying with the RHS, and then taking the leap. I do believe that becoming a farmer, a gardener or a florist is a vocation – you must be called to it – and maybe this is her calling.

So, what’s next for Sharayna’s journey?

“Next year, I want to grow more flowers – I am short on space, but I have taken possession of a big recycling tub. I’ve put it next to my raised bed, so I am going to plant that up with flowers for next year .”

“I’ve also been given a rose plant recently, so I am excited to plant that up and see it in bloom next summer .”

“But overall – I just want to keep having fun with it.”

And that’s the most important thing having fun with it. Buying a £2.99 packet of seeds and throwing them in the ground and seeing what happens is nothing – it’s just fun and getting enjoy‐ ment from growing must be the most important thing.

“You know, this year has been a lot of fun,” Sharayna finished. “I have enjoyed it, even though I feel like I am so bad at it, but everyone was so helpful, which has been amazing.”

“And now, if you asked me what gives me the most joy and makes me happiest, I would straightaway say it’s growing and gardening.”

Sharayna’s story about how to grow flowers on an apartment roof featured in my book, Seed to Vase, a Collection of stories.

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