ABC Radio Interview: Australia’s Largest Rooftop Garden

Joanne Dodgson from ABC North Coast spoke to Ben Fuller in 2011 about the construction of Serene Living’s apartment complex and, more importantly, about our rooftop garden, the largest of its kind in Australia.

Listen to the audio or read the full transcript below;

Joanne Dodgson: Now this sounds like a great idea; it’s been touted as the biggest rooftop garden in Australia, so just how big is it?

Ben Fuller: It’s around 1300m2 or a bit over a quarter of an acre in the old terms.

Joanne: Fantastic, and what are you going to put up there?

 Rooftop GardenBen: there’s going to be all sorts of things but there’s going to be over 2000 individual plants altogether. There’ll be vegie and herb gardens, mature trees like frangipanis and palms, hibiscus and all that sort of stuff.

Joanne: Will this give the residents a chance to do a bit of gardening? Because a lot of people don’t really want to leave their garden behind when they move into a smaller place and downsize after the kids leave.

Ben: That’s one of the things we’ve found to be the most popular, which is people moving into an apartment don’t have the option to continue gardening. A lot of our residents are moving from your standard quarter acre block of land and they don’t want to give up their garden but now they’ve got the opportunity to continue on gardening and exercise their green thumb.

Do your own gardeningJoanne: Indeed, I bet that will be a hit with loads of people. Are there particular species of plants that will thrive in a rooftop garden, or can you grow practically anything?

Ben: You’ve got to be careful as far as weight, water use and various things like that. Our landscape gardener, Sam, carefully selected a wide range of plants, but some of the ones I said before like the frangipanis, the palms and the hibiscus, pretty much all your vegies and herbs, olive trees, tomatoes, lettuce, rosemary, chives, basil, all that type of stuff.

Joanne: So you can’t grow anything that’s too deep rooted obviously. Presumably anything that grows tall like palms, which don’t have deep roots, because they’d be a risk in a windstorm one would have though.

Ben: Yeah, some of your small sort of nice palms like fox tails and stuff like that are perfect for it, but you wouldn’t want to choose anything that’s too tall because it could be a danger to people below in a big storm.

Joanne: I’m imagining a lot of time and research would have had to go into this project.

Rooftop entertainingBen: We’ve been working on it now for around 4 years, The reason we went with the rooftop garden concept is we used to live in Melbourne and we had a small, tiny little rooftop garden there. It just transformed the way we lived in Melbourne and we wanted to sort of recreate the same thing up here. So 4 years of research that’s gone into it, plus 5 years living in a place with a rooftop garden before that.

Joanne: They’re really taking off aren’t they? I imagine yours is going to be the biggest for the time being but I don’t imagine it’ll be too long before someone knocks it off, with the number of them blossoming.

Ben: I hope we are knocked off pretty quickly because it’s a really great idea and I think it offers so much to residents. It creates a whole other sphere of living experience.

Joanne: Will the residents be the sole people responsible for caring for it or will you employ gardeners as well as the body corporate.

Ben: There are gardeners employed as well, but it’s something we’re going to play be ear. Residents might set up a gardening club and if they end up having 20 or 30 people we won’t have to do anything, but if the residents just want to sit back and enjoy it and let us do the work they have that option as well.

Joanne: Well it’s a great idea and we wish you well with it. Thank you for chatting with us about it today Ben.

Ben: No problems at all, thanks for your time.

Joanne: Ben Fuller is the director of Serene Retirement Living. It’s an apartment complex for over 55s with what’s going to be Australia’s largest rooftop garden.

The long list of benefits at Serene Retirement Living only start with the rooftop garden. To find out all we have to offer you can see the floor plans, visit the features page or contact us to organise a tour of the building.

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