Gardening On My Rooftop….6 Months Later

– Posted in: Garden Design

I originally wrote about Starting Over in the context of creating a new rooftop garden this past spring in Tel Aviv. At that time, I had a few containers, views of others rooftops, some pretty hefty rain storms, and a desire to design a private haven.

Photos on March 10, 2011 017

Photos on March 10, 2011 012

Back then, I promised that I would keep you posted on the garden’s progress.

Now I understand why most folks with terraces in Israel have a limited amount of containers; and practically all have irrigation systems. When I mentioned my watering dilemma, Pam of Digging, who is  a seasoned Texas gardener (and magnificent photographer and landscape designer), suggested that I use succulents and a drip irrigation system. Well, no one has ever said that common sense is one of my strongest character traits. I watered those frigging containers  every morning before the sun was in ‘full shine”over my rooftop for most of the day. Pam, you were 100% correct. Never again will I hand water! Drip irrigation is next on my list of things to do.

Rooftop Garden on 80611 001

To give you some perspective, here are a few facts about the space. I have 2 sliding doors leading from my living room (called a salon in this neck of the woods) onto an approximately 30’ x 15’ area; not bad for a rooftop in a densely populated city. My front view looks straight onto my neighbors’ terraces across the street; which means no privacy…yet.

The photo below is the left hand side of the space. From that vantage point, there are no buildings abutting mine. Rather, I have what I have learned to think of as a lovely view (OK….so I’m not facing the Mediterranean Sea). It offers me a sense of space, distance, height, greenery, and the rooftops of older Tel Aviv buildings.

Rooftop Garden on 80611 006








P1050009 P1050005

In the spirit of full disclosure, below is a photo of the table up against a bare wall.  That area has served as my storage and work area. When Susan Morrison and Rebecca Sweet, the authors of Garden Up: Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces,  get their eyes on this wall, I’m sure they’ll have plenty of suggestions on how to transform it into an eye catching space.

I’ve  been a big fan of  the work of California landscape designer Nancy Goslee Power for a long time. Thanks to Noel Kingsbury’s new book, Garden Designers At Home, I was able to ‘visit’ Nancy’s personal garden. She has artfully created a charming respite in a small space. What grabbed me most was her use of color on her walls;  ochre, a soft green, and royal blue.  Painted stucco walls; a great idea that will work well in my garden.

That’s it for now. I just signed a long term lease on the apt. this past week….so it will free me up to move forward in implementing more ideas. If you want to help me in designing the rooftop, start imagining.  In a future post, ‘You Design It’, you’ll be able to do just that. ….


Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at

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Fran Sorin
15 Comments… add one

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Lisa at Greenbow September 12, 2011, 6:26 am

I see some succulents creeping in to your plot. It will be fun to watch how this evolves. Definitely need some color up there.

Lisa…I am experimenting with succulents that weren’t hardy back east. You’re right on about the color. Can’t wait for the cooler weather to make its entrance…and rain, hopefully by late October. Fran

Pam/Digging September 12, 2011, 10:49 am

As a fellow hot-climate gardener, I know what a drag it is to try to keep pots watered all summer. That’s why I switched to succulents (agaves plus smaller, softer succulents) or drought-tolerant grasses in all my pots. I’m glad a drip system will work for you in your space, Fran. Hopefully that’ll free you up to have time to enjoy your garden rather than stand over it with a hose. And hey, thanks for the very kind words about me too.

Pam….I will add more succulents to the garden this fall in order to make my life easier. I was told with the drip irrigation system that I’ll need to remove a lot of the containers so it won’t look messy…which is fine. It will force me to do something else…Always so much to learn. Fran

Town Mouse September 12, 2011, 11:12 am

Oh, just wait. Come winter you’ll so enjoy the green space you’re created. (I do agree about the hand watering though. My problem is always that I do want to go on vacation every once in a while, and it’s hard to find someone to water for me.

Town Mouse…
Hmmm…never thought about enjoying it in the winter. Now that’s something to look forward to. Fran

Wendy September 13, 2011, 1:47 am

I had no idea you lived in Tel Aviv. You could probably write a blog about that as well 🙂

Your garden looks beautiful. Is that first picture a before shot with the blue walls or a view from your garden. I wasn’t sure.

Hi Wendy,
Great to see you here. Yep, I spend most of the year in Tel Aviv now and am loving it.

The first picture is a view that I have from my rooftop.

I’ve thought about writing a blog about being an American in Tel Aviv. It just doesn’t hit my hot button.

Al going to try to spend more time over at A List Blogging. Looking forward to reading more of your posts. You are one talented lady. Fran

elaine rickett September 13, 2011, 5:58 am

You are doing a sterling job, it looks pretty good already, but I know what a drag it can be keeping containers watered. Looking forward to more pics as it progresses.

Thanks for your support. I’m enjoying the process mixed in with some bouts of frustration. A drip irrigation system with drip fertilizer will make my life a lot easier. I’m plan on giving updates each season. Fran

Melissa September 13, 2011, 8:26 am

Wonderful! Your selection is colorful and the entire rooftop garden looks like a joy to be in. I look forward to the progress.

Thanks Melissa…am glad you enjoyed it. I’ll keep you up to date each season. I can’t wait for the cooler weather…and hopefully by November some rain. My gardening friends on the East Coast would love to trade places with me. Fran

ann September 13, 2011, 9:10 am

Wonderful ideas and pictures are great. It is not required that you give full disclosure here. Lots of great books mentioned, too.

I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Noel’s book as well as the links to Pam and Rebecca and Susan’s blogs are worth checking out. Fran

Cathy September 13, 2011, 10:28 am

Fran, what a truly magnificent space you’ve created! I love, love LOVE the tile “floor”. I hate our synthetic wooden floor boards and a couple of weeks ago, I finally covered them with a pair of clearance aisle indoor-outdoor carpets designed for decks and patios.

As for your plan to install a drip system, I definitely agree that that is a necessity for most people who have an extensive container garden in bright sunshine. We are going to have to fashion something similar for our deck as well.

We’ve done the hand-watering thing for two seasons too many now. It is beyond a chore. The only way we’ve found to get someone to do it when we are away is to hire someone to house, dog and garden sit. Fortunately, we’ve been very lucky in that the gal we found has done a great job of caring for our gardens and our dogs while we’re away, but it doesn’t come cheap.

After reading Pam’s blog and Debra Baldwin’s posts on succulents earlier this summer, Steve and I made a plan to build a series of hypertufa planters in the spring that will span the length of the far side of our swimming pool (across from the herb garden). They will be the new home of a succulent garden. That area has been inhospitable to containers but after reading Pam’s and Debra’s suggestions and ideas , we were inspired to give it another try.

I’m anxious to see more of what you have planned although short of suggesting a water feature of some sort, I think what you have come up with so far is quite fabulous and I would be hard pressed to come up with anything to improve on what you’ve done so far!

Fran, you’d asked about our container garden in an earlier post. Don’t recall if I remembered to send you a link when I finally got around to posting about it, but here is what it looked like a couple of weeks ago, before Hurricane Irene.

In preparation for the hurricane, we took down the canopy and curtains. It’s too late in the season to put them up again, but we really miss them!

I took a jump over to your blog and WOW…talk about a great looking living space. Your use of color and placement of containers throughout the space is excellent. And a fig tree? One of my favorites.

As far as my stone rooftop floors, I can’t take credit for it. I am renting this apartment. This was the owner’s choice….I just lucked out.

Coming from the East Coast, I used succulents sparingly. Once David Salman over at High Country Gardens started carrying cold hardy agaves, what can I say? They are just beautiful plants.

I must get a drip irrigation system. From what I understand, I will need to limit the plant material in order that it’s not conspicuous…which will change the look of the garden. I am enjoying the succulents tremendously but am not ready to do without some perennials and annuals.

Container gardening is a challenge..
If I owned the apartment, I would spend the money to create an intensive green roof with beds and walkways. At this point, it’s not happening. And I am lucky to have this space. So, I’ll continue to experiment and proceed to make changes…it’s all part of the learning curve and to maintain a beginner’s mind. Life is good! Fran

Nicole Gjeldum September 13, 2011, 1:17 pm


Thanks so much Nicole. Fran

Susan Morrison September 13, 2011, 1:20 pm

Oh my goodness, your rooftop garden is palatial! Bigger than some of the traditional gardens I’ve designed. You’ve created a luscious, cozy space – and wonderful that you’re including so many of the plants that I love here in California. No advice for the bare wall, because I know as soon as all your containers are complete to your satisfaction, your designer soul won’t be able to resist turning it into a canvas for even more gardening projects.

You are one supportive friend. I have a long way to go. Get ready for my next post because I really do want you and Rebecca design that wall. BTW, I have another large rooftop in the back that I want to turn into an urban veggie garden. Israeli carpenters have yet to understand what raised beds are but I think I finally found a contractor who can get the job done…at a fair price. Life sure is interesting in this part of the world. Fran

Cathy September 13, 2011, 1:58 pm

Fran, when we first planted our roses and perennials, we used soaker hoses but had issue after issue with them, much of which was related to the fact that there were too many holes in places I wish they weren’t

What I plan to use is a much narrower gauge hose than the standard garden or soaker hose (like what I now use to water the deck, actually) and put my own holes in it. Then I can space them appropriately and run the hose from pot to pot without getting water everywhere.

Drilling holes in a hose is kind of like coloring on the walls – you got in trouble for doing it as a kid, but as a grown-up, it opens up a world of possibilities LOL. That’s going to be a spring project…. and I’m sure I’ll post about it.

Yes, a fig tree. That and the Meyer lemon come in for the winter. DH loves figs. 😉 As for the succulents, I will likely set some pots into the hypertufa planters so will not limit myself to just the hardiest ones, although the hardy sedums and hens and chicks will have top billing in a couple of the planters. Fortunately, we have plenty of windows and space to winter things over indoors!

Do you ever stop? You are one creative and industrious chick. Wanna come over here and install a drip irrigation system for me?? Fran

Rebecca Sweet September 13, 2011, 4:27 pm

Ooooh! Susan and I want to see the bare wall! What you’ve got going on so far is beautiful so I can’t wait to see what you create as you move forward. I love looking at your plant choices, too – beautiful amaranthus and cannas!

Next post you will see the bare wall. And what I didn’t mention to Susan or in the post is what vertical elements should be used to block out my neighbors across the street. I tried a bamboo fence but the winds up here are fierce during the winter. AM thinking some large grasses or bamboo. Will show you exactly what I mean with the dimensions in my next post. It’s great to have 2 experts on vertical gardens who might be able to help me get this place in shape! Fran

Tess The Bold Life September 13, 2011, 5:34 pm

I have passion for your topic! The joys of gardening….ahh!

Tess…it is one of the great pleasures in life…Fran

Andrea September 13, 2011, 8:11 pm

I never knew too you were in Tel Aviv, or just moved? Israelis invented the drip irrigation and they are so successful with that! It is maybe too difficult to maintain a garden in containers in those conditions, but you are doing well. In a little while you will have a shrubby forest there.

Hi Andrea,
Thanks for your encouraging words. In my last garden, I was so water conscious that I got rid of most of my containers to minimize the amount of water I used. My perennial beds rarely needed a watering. So, yes, gardening in this climate in containers on a rooftop is a challenge…but a good one. It’s forcing me out of my comfort zone! Fran

susan harris September 16, 2011, 8:20 pm

Wow! You make me want to visit.

You’re welcome anytime! Fran

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