Story of the Roof Garden

Credits: people behind the project


Food Issues


Forest Gardens

Visits: Schools and Groups

Press Clippings

Photo Albums:
Peter Savage Garden Photography




Garden Tour Movie
(Media File 10mb) Suitable For Broaband

Garden Tour Movie
for dial up users (1.6 mb)

External Link:

Living Roofs

Plant Cultures

Whitely Schools garden project blog

Lots more roof garden resources

The Willow Bank
Living willow sculptures

Sustainable garden design

Risc's edible roof garden

see the garden from the Google Satellite map

Look up in the heart of Reading town centre and you might just see a mini wind turbine peeking over the top of a roof looking back at you.

Behind central Reading's only renewable energy installation lies the RISC edible roof garden; a forest garden complete with over 120 species of edible and medicinal trees, shrubs, vines and plants from around the globe. Fed by stored rainwater gathered from the roof, pumped by energy generated by solar cells and wind collectors on the chimneys; this urban oasis is fed by paper and food waste compost from the RISC offices and is one of the nicest places in Reading for a picnic!

Creating an illusion of a rural idyll, these pictures ( right) were in fact taken 3 floors up and 1 minute's walk from where Reading's inner ring road passes one of Europe's biggest new shopping malls.

'Growing our futures' the project behind the remarkable roof garden project at RISC is a statement about the potentials of working with nature, in a creative partnership, to create quality living spaces, providing food and resources for people whilst supporting biodiversity in our own backyard.

Roof gardens are increasingly becoming a focus for reducing the negative environmental impact of cities.

  • promoting biodiversity; valuable inner city habitat and feeding stations especially for insects and birds.
  • producing food and other useful plants
  • reducing urban heat islands which distort local ecologies.
  • storing tonnes of water and helping reducing flooding
  • encouraging organic waste recycling via composting
  • increasing thermal and noise insulation of buildings
  • creating valuable usable space for people

Press Clippings

Garden Podcast, with Dave Richards

See a summer 2005 article on the garden from the weekend Telegraph

1.5mb Royal Horticulture Society: Produced this article on the roof garden in the June 2005 edition of the Garden magazine. .

Reading Evening Post
Published this piece in May 2004

Permaculture magazine published this article about the roof garden, shortly after it first opened in 2002.

Visits: See visits and open days sections for more information, we are in the YELLOW BOOK again, as part of the Royal Horticultural Society's National Garden Scheme.

tiger iris - an edible bulb from mexico
Tiger Iris, an attractive flower with an edible corm from Mexico

More about the garden

The Roof Garden was planted in Spring 2002 and designed with the intention that it would slowly mature into a mixed open woodland of useful plants representing many if the major plant types from around the world - aglobal legacy on which we all depend. Furthermore the idea is that by modelling on natural systems we will gain insight into some of the defining characteristics of sustainability in nature, and adapt those insights for use in our own built environment.

Natural systems, such as forests are made from a complex ecology or inter-relationships between many different species. This complexity is what makes nature abundant, robust and most importantly sustainable. No one gardens a forest, it draws nutrients from the soil, recycles everything and is solar powered - all by itself and leaves no waste! If we could learn to make make our own human designed systems work in the same way, then we perhaps we can come up with much more sustainabel ways of living.

Some people call this approach to design permaculture, or environmental design, call it what you want, its an idea who's time has come. Importantly this approach to development, applied in a broader way presents the opportunity to learn from nature and to use that insight to help tackle some of the many environmental problems in Reading, the UK and around the world.

Permaculture magazine published this article about the roof garden, shortly after it first opened.

The RISC roof garden is home to over 140 species of useful plants from around the world, uses composted waste and is made from many recylced and local materials. It is powered by solar, wind and rainwater and is a unique space in Reading to explore issues of sustainable development & biodiversity; raising issues about our relationship with the environment.

echinacea on the risc roof garden
roof garden view

August 2006

Sector39 win Aspire contract! This a schools gardens initiative in Whitley Reading. Dave and Steve, the people behind the garden development here at RISC have formed a partnership designing and building gardens for schools, businesses and homes, in response to the interest in the RISC rooftop forest garden.
See a recent article laying out the case for roof gardens.

See the Aspire project Blog

Find out more
about having your own forest garden

Garden Tour Movie
A 3 minute tour of the garden in summer
download and play on your media player

Broaband (10 mb)

Dial up (1.6 mb)
film & edit by
roof garden video
woven basket Inspired by the Roof Garden and
made entirely from materials from it, this beautiful nest was woven by garden volunteer Angi using lilly and iris leaves, in a basket made from kiwi vine
(click on image to enlarge)
green wood carpenter

Rustic furniture from local hazel coppice wood made for the greenhouse by a local craftsman on the RISC roof

snowy garden

January snow, 2004. Even at this time of year there is plenty to see and do in the garden. First shoots and buds and getting ready for a new spring.

shiitake mushroom growing

Seeding logs with shiitake mushrook spawn, March 2004. It will take a whole year before we can expect to see any mushrooms, but when they come they will be delicious and nutritious!


Planning and planting. Working with plants & gardens is a great way to work with people and make new friends as well as to introduce people to the wonder of nature.

ugni mollinae

The fruits of the Chilean Myrtle, delicions!


Many plants have important medicinal uses; 80% of the world's people still rely on what we might call 'alternative' medicine. Tradition, folklore and modern science combine in the garden!

Plan of the garden

Yellow and brown = Hard path & Woodchip path

Dark green = Raised beds, herbs and annuals

Light green = forest garden, fruiting trees, shrubs and climbers.

Lighter brown = Wooden deck

Greenhouse, top right

Blue square = water tanks and

solar/ wind energy system, pumping dripline irrigation system

garden plan

On Gardening, Vegetables and health
An RHS piece on the huge health benefits of gardens; Gardeners tend to eat more and a greater variety of veg, gardening is also known to reduce stress. Latest research revealing just how important eating a varied diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables. Veg contains all the things we need to bolster our natural defences against ageing and reduce our risk of contracting diseases
like and cancer and cardio vascular problems and despite the huge push of the 5 a day program people are still not eating enough of the right stuff.


These pages were written as part of the old RISC site and are being hosted here on S39 as a reference for folk with a sepcific interest in forest gardens. Visit for latest info on that project