escape to the rooftop garden on top of the old Conservative club in St James

Office space in central London comes at a premium, so it would be easy to assume developers’ primary goal would be to build as many floors of offices as possible.

But in 2022, at 78 St James’s Street — the former Conservative club in central London — Canadian real estate investor BGO saw the opportunity to take a greener route to attract a premium for its office space: create a rooftop garden.

BGO’s brief was a “roof terrace and pavilion to provide all office workers in the building with a lush, green escape from their busy work schedules”.

The rooftop garden is also used to host events where guests can enjoy “panoramic views of Westminster’s parklands”.

The roof garden on top of 78 St James’s Street (Paul Upward)The roof garden on top of 78 St James’s Street (Paul Upward)

The roof garden on top of 78 St James’s Street (Paul Upward)

“The client was looking for a garden that would have year-round interest, colour and also provide garnishes for events,” says John Wyles, chief executive of Bowles & Wyer, the landscape firm that worked with BGO on a space that would combine history with greenery.

“The pattern on the sides of the planters is an inverted replica of the vermiculated rustication found on the front of the original Conservative club,” Wyles says. “The panels are laser-cut and backlit, and link the old building façade with its 21st-century refurbishment.”

The planting contains a mix of herbs and grasses (Paul Upward)The planting contains a mix of herbs and grasses (Paul Upward)

The planting contains a mix of herbs and grasses (Paul Upward)

The planting contains a mix of herbs such as rosemary, parsley and lavender, as well as grasses such as Stipa tenuissima, the Mexican feather grass. The planters also contain the earlier flowering wallflower, Erysimum “Bowles Mauve”, a variety of salvia and Verbena bonariensis.

Along the side of the terrace, a north-facing green wall planted with ajuga, brunnera and ferns hides the building’s plant room.

The garden was planted with biodiversity in mind (Paul Upward)The garden was planted with biodiversity in mind (Paul Upward)

The garden was planted with biodiversity in mind (Paul Upward)

And smaller strips of green have been added with biodiversity in mind where the building steps in as it increases in height.

When it comes to maintenance, Wyles draws on more than 25 years of experience caring for roof gardens.

“The environment is typically harsh, dry and exposed. Plants will get battered by the wind. But there is also an expectation for them to look good all year round,” he says.

“As a result, we use a watering system to get the plants through the summer.”

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