Out with the Ugly: Bin with the New

Cars, concrete, lines of brightly coloured bins – not easy to integrate into a friendly front garden. My front garden, like many others around the country, has to accommodate these elements, but I’m determined they will not dominate it. I’ve already cut down the 20 year old Swedish Whitebeam (Sorbus intermedia) which was growing too close to the house and darkening our inside space. Then there was the removal of the patchy front lawn – not sure all my neighbours understood that one! Now I have a little planted space with evergreen structure and bright spring, summer and autumn flowers (more on that later) and a narrow gravel path with stepping stones interplanted with creeping herbs. Beautiful, but not enough to completely deflect attention from the imposing purple and brown bins still lining the drive.

front lawn old

From this…


To this…

Mini Green Roof Beginnings

At Hampton Court last year I saw the beautiful blue binstore in the Community Garden and fell in love. I took lots of photos and spent ages asking questions about the construction and planting of the green roof. Unfortunately my budget wouldn’t stretch to an aluminium binstore, so with the help of a local carpenter, I planned a wooden structure with a green roof to hide my bins from the side view. Now it’s in place and the next task is to decide on the growing medium and plant it up.


Loved this binstore

Crushed brick conundrum

At the moment the base of the green roof is lined with a plastic waterproof membrane and there is a drainage hose covered with a screwed down tea strainer. The base is filled with a shallow layer of 10/20mm gravel whilst I debate what growing medium to use. I’m planning a 30%/70% – inorganic aggregate/green waste compost mix and trying to decide between recycled crushed brick and expanded clay pebbles. The former is more sustainable and I can get it locally – but only in 20 tonne lorry loads. Currently I require about 90 litres, so I’d have enough left over to green roof the rest of my street! I’m pretty sure crushing the bricks myself isn’t a viable option as the particles really need to be 2-5mm and that’d be a lot of lump hammer wielding. Alternatively I can hire a crusher for upwards of £300 a day (!) So I’m coming to the conclusion that the local sustainable option isn’t viable unless I can find another 40 people locally who also want crushed brick for their own green roofs.


Tea, anyone?

Having fun with plants

So with the rudimentary drainage system sorted and the growing medium (nearly) sorted I should soon be able to start the most interesting part of the experiment – the planting. The front garden is south-west facing and should be ideal for herbs. I’m intending to move a group of white alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca ‘White Soul’) which I grew from seed from under the apple tree in the front garden to the roof, where they’ll get more sun. Then I’ll add herbs like Lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus), the trailing Indian mint (Satureia douglasii) and some Sempervivums. I’m planning on growing some Black-Eyed Susan from seed to climb up the external trellis and to complement the planting in the narrow strip between mine and next door’s garden which is due to commence in a few weeks (more on that later too). Who knows what the bin store will look like when it’s finished and what plants will ultimately take up residence on the roof as I experiment merrily. All I know is I’ll have a lot of fun and learn a lot along the way. See the next stage of the process in my next bin blog post and read about the creatures that call it home


New bin storage with green roof nearly ready to be planted


And a side border to fill with goodies…

If you have planted up a green roof I’d be interested to hear what worked and anything which didn’t work. Please leave me a comment – this is my first blog post and I’ll no doubt have lots of learning to do…

Dogwooddays does not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

20 thoughts on “Out with the Ugly: Bin with the New

  1. Mud cakes and wine says:

    Great post and full of great ideas. Love the bin thoughts and has made me think about mine and how we should all be thinking about our front gardens. Looking forward to hearing more

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Diane M says:

    keep me connected to your blog Nicola, I enjoyed reading it, particularly as you are transforming something that millions of us have in the UK – I don’t promise I’ll be out there with a trowel – I always thought Black-Eyed Susan was an 18th century comedy…


    • dogwooddays says:

      Thanks Charlie – I have looked extensively into mixing my own but can’t find anyway to source small amounts of recycled crushed brick, don’t want to crush 100 litres of my own to 2-5mm size. So early today I found a company, similar to the one you have linked to, which sells small amounts of recycled brick aggregate/green waste mix intended for extensive green roof use. I’ll let you know how it works in a blog post in a couple of weeks or so. Thanks very much for passing on the link. 🙂


  3. Julie says:

    I’ve recently constructed a woodstore with a green roof, and was interested in your crushed brick theory, but wasn’t sure why you needed this, when you have gravel for drainage? And maybe Horticultural grit or sand mixed with your organic matter to keep it sharp, for a small project may be worth trying. You are not insulating the roof as you would be with a dwelling and have a drainage hole for excess run off. I had thought crushed brick was used as both a soil binder and for some plants (alpines) that needed less organic matter. I am experimenting with Thrifts and Phacelia on a 4″ deep bed, primarily for pollinators. Looking forward to your updates and will be interested to see how your Rudbeckias thrive as they make great seed heads for foraging winter birds.


    • dogwooddays says:

      Hi Julie – thanks for your comment. I think Thrift is a great idea for a green roof – in fact I’ve just bought some to go in mine! I think recycled crushed brick is often used for a number of reasons. One is its recycled nature and also that it is lightweight and inorganic. Although I’m not exclusively planting sedums, I have planted some and most of the other plants I’m intending to grow will hopefully be ok with a substrate which is fairly low in nutrients. I guess I’ll find out! Good luck with your green roof – let me know how it goes. 🙂


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