Green Walls and Roofs

100 hour course -Learn to create green walls and roofs. For planners, landscapers, gardeners, developers, planners, architects

Course CodeBHT256
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Learn to develop roof and vertical gardens for residential, commercial and public landscapes.

There are lots of different reasons for creating a vertical garden or roof garden, and the way you develop the garden may be affected by the reason you create it.

Common reasons might be:

  • Lack of space for a more extensive garden
  • Improve aesthetics of an ugly place (wall or roof)
  • Improve physical environment (eg. Reduce glare, modify temperature, filter air pollutants, reduce water run off and mitigate flood problems)
  • Urban farming –growing crops in an urban area

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Scope and Nature of Roof and Vertical Gardens
    • Introduction to vertical gardens and roof gardens in horticulture today
    • Reasons for Green Walls and Roof Gardens
    • Accessibility and Safety
    • What Is A Roof Garden?
    • Terminology
    • What Is A Vertical Garden?
    • Pruning Prevents Problems
    • Decorative Plant Supports
    • Temporary Props
    • Types of Installations for Roof Gardens
    • Types of Vertical Gardens
    • Proprietory Products
    • Plant Selection
    • Retrofitting a Building
  2. Construction of Functional and Appropriate Vertical and Roof Gardens
    • Engineering considerations involved with the building of vertical and roof gardens
    • Selecting appropriate materials and planning the way in which the non-living components of the garden are created
    • Building a Green Roof
    • Building a Green Wall
    • Dealing with Weight
    • Construction Materials
    • Durability of Materials
    • Dealing with Water
    • Plants Which Cause Damage
    • Components of a Green Roof
    • Roof Membranes
    • Protection Material Components
  3. Climbing Plants and Structures for Climbing
    • Learn how to select appropriate climbing plants for creating vertical or roof gardens
    • Determine strategies to cultivate climbing plants in a variety of different situations
    • Climbing adaptations found in plants
    • Possible Climbers for Vertical Green Walls and Some Types of Green Roofs
    • What Structural Requirements Do Climbers Require?
    • Plants on Fences
    • Using Trellis in Roof Gardens and on Greenwalls
  4. Plants Suited to Roof and Vertical Gardens
    • Selecting appropriate plants which are tolerant of the adverse growing conditions and have natural adaptations to growing under conditions that are encountered in these gardens
    • Possible Plants Suitable for Roof Gardens and Some Types of Vertical Walls
    • Epiphytes
    • Succulents
    • Plants
    • Hardy Groundcovers
  5. Adaptations for Other Plants in Roof and Vertical Gardens
    • Select and plan the cultivation of plants that lack natural adaptations to growing on roofs or vertical gardens
    • Espaliers
    • Growing Standards
    • Dwarfing Rootstocks
    • NFT Systems
    • Trees and Shrubs
    • Low-Growing Australian Native Shrubs
    • Other Low-Growing Shrubs
    • Vegetables and Fruits
    • Herbs
    • Annuals
    • Bulbs
  6. Container Growing
    • Container Growing Techniques
    • Containers
    • Raised Beds for Flat Roofs
    • Window Boxes
    • Epiphyte Plaques
    • Baskets
    • The Growing Media
    • Choosing Plants
    • Longevity of Container Plants
  7. Maintenance – watering, pest control
    • Out of Site/Out of Mind
    • Humidity
    • Light And Shade
    • Mulch
    • Pot Surfaces
    • Water Savers
    • Irrigation Requirements
    • Maintaining Appropriate Water Levels
  8. Landscaping – Roof Gardens
    • The different types of roof gardens
    • Characteristics advantageous in roof garden plants
    • Tips for Functional Roof Gardens
    • How to Minimize Damage to Your Plants When You Move them
    • Thoughts on Balcony Gardens
    • Irrigation
  9. Landscaping – Vertical Gardens
    • Types of Green Walls
    • Types of Walls
    • Design Considerations
    • Aesthetics
    • Functionality

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Discuss the nature and scope of vertical gardens and roof gardens in horticulture today.
  • Explain engineering considerations involved with the building of vertical and roof gardens, both on small and large scale projects.
  • Select appropriate materials and plan the way in which the non living components of the garden is created, in order to achieve an appropriate and sustainable installation.
  • Select appropriate climbing plants for creating vertical or roof gardens, and determine appropriate strategies to cultivate those plants, in a variety if different situations.
  • Select appropriate plants for use in vertical or roof gardens, which are tolerant of the adverse growing conditions, having natural adaptations to growing under conditions that are encountered in these gardens.
  • Select and plan the cultivation of plants that lack natural adaptations to growing on roofs or vertical gardens; but which are none the less required to grow in these adverse conditions;
  • Explain a range of container growing techniques, in a range of different roof and vertical gardens, that may be used with a selection of different types of plants.
  • Identify and evaluate problems with vertical and roof gardens, and compare options for solving those problems
  • Plan the development of roof gardens for both small and large scale applications.
  • Plan the development of vertical gardens for both small and large scale applications.


Gardens can Help the Environment

As more and more people live in cities, and high rise living in particular has become commonplace, the impetus to grow gardens in confined and difficult places has increased.

International studies and reports have however also shown that buildings offer the largest single opportunity for reducing greenhouse gases’ and the use of green walls and roofs can be a significant contributor to that end.

Solutions to this challenge of modern living have spawned a wide variety of ideas for roof and vertical gardens.

Covering the walls or roofs of building is a significant horticultural challenge, but also an opportunity that brings with it many benefits beyond what may at first seem obvious.

Using the vertical space effectively can give much more growing room for a wide range of plants, opportunities to grow food crops, opportunities to screen, hide an existing wall or a view behind.

Creating this type of garden poses aesthetic, horticultural structural challenges

How to Build a Green Wall or Roof Garden -which is Structurally Sound

Construction materials need to be strong – particularly on large scale installations. A very high wall needs to support the cumulative weight of everything that is above it. Whilst a 1 or 2 metre tall green wall may be acceptable if made from wood or relatively lightweight materials; a 10 or 15 metre tall wall will need to be far more solid and will require good engineering practice. Most commercial scale modular systems have frameworks made from high tensile steel.

Roofs for roof gardens need to be strong and well-structured so they can support the weight of the garden. There will be the weight of the plants (which will vary considerably with species, numbers, and sizes), the weight of additional paving or hard landscaping materials, the weight of any decorative supporting structures such as pergolas, and most importantly the weight of the growing medium and surfacing materials supplied to grow the plants in. Not only is their initial weight important (they should be as lightweight as possible but still functional to supply water, nutrients, and support for the plants), but the amount of water the growing medium will hold when wet and especially after extensive heavy rain and/or snow is a major consideration for the safety of the roof structure.

On a standard roof on a building, without a roof garden there is usually a waterproofing material on the roof and adequate provision to take away excess runoff in periods of heavy rain. With the plants and their growing medium added to a roof and the other components of the design, the load-bearing components of the roof must not be compromised or there will be safety issues. Excess load can possibly damage not only the roof, but the walls and internal structures of the building through leakages, breakdown of construction components, and cracking of plaster and paintwork. Roofs are designed to distribute the load from the roof evenly onto the load-bearing walls. Changes in this distribution can cause walls to bow outwards and potentially cause them to collapse.

The materials that are used in the construction and support of green roofs and walls must resist deterioration such as rot or corrosion.  They need to be able to take the extra pressure of heavy rain which will wet and add weight to the growing medium. They will need to be able to withstand long periods of moisture contact or be protected adequately against long periods of moisture contact which can break down and rot components.

There will often be high fluctuations in temperatures throughout the year from exposure to strong sunshine over summer and strong winds (often stronger than at the ground level), which can add to the vertical and horizontal loads on roofs and walls which are supporting growing plants.  Vertical walls are often built with stainless steel, metal rods, and meshes that are not compromised by water. Waterproofing membranes are often incorporated into structures to house plants in.

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Diana Cole

B.A. (Hons), Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector), P.D.C. In addition to the qualifications listed above, Diana holds City & Guild
John Mason

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.
Jacinda Cole

B.Sc., Cert.Garden Design. Landscape Designer, Operations Manager, Consultant, Garden Writer. He was operations manager for a highly reputable British Landscape firm (The Chelsea Gardener) before starting up his own landscaping firm. He spent three year
Adriana Fraser

Over 30 years working in horticulture, as a gardener, propagator, landscape designer , teacher and consultant. Adriana has spent much of her life living on large properties, developing and maintaining her own gardens, and living a semi self sufficient li
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