Gardener's Log Book
For 2016 we have published a revised version of the walled garden leaflet. This includes a little geographical data and updates the current planting – the various pre- designated zones and, by omission, where trees have been removed. As the trees heighten we felt it important to conserve a more open and sunny northern half to balance the shadier south half.
The wet/dry boardwalk area challenges the imagination to become attractive, but the Irises and loosestrife are well established, and Hostas, Rodgersia and marshmarigold are improving the effect. In the wildflower meadow, broadcasting of “Grow Wild” seeds in 2015 resulted in a virtual monoculture of Tripleurospermum inodorum (“scentless Mayweed”) and an attempt is being made to introduce Papaver and Nigella this year. Fingers crossed! Roses have been planted in the north-east corner and some other ornamentals. In the shady south east, a fernery is being developed, so more effort will be made to reduce the nettles and raspberry there. At winter’s end, with the assistance of the Ranger and his team, the garden was relatively clean and tidy. The spring surge and the current rain are reasserting the usual ‘wild and wooly’ look. The number of volunteers has reduced again and certain areas run the risk of neglect. Anyone wishing to spare a little time helping would be very welcome.
Great news for the garden team, we have again won the prestigious Community Green Flag Award 2014. The garden continues to attract a good number of visitors and groups. Continuing work to improve and maintain the garden is always in our plans.
Currently we are looking at a detailed schedule, spread over two or more seasons, to progressively address the need to maintain adequate light and open vistas across the garden and control excessive growth, while keeping the character and attractiveness of the garden as it is now.
It is with great sadness the committee note the passing of Catherine Wray, she was a valuable worker in the walled garden for many years.
At the beginning of June, the Walled Garden is abundant with colour, water and growth everywhere, especially the grass and the rabbits. New plantings of variegated luma, orange lilies, ferny-leafed sorbaria, pink lavatera and leptospermum seem to be taking well and old favourites like the weigela blossom and the euphorbia are having a very good year.
The milder winter and warm spring have contributed to what promises to be an excellent year. Not everything in the garden is rosy, however. The recent torrential, thundery rain has again washed out the sloping paths, including those recently re-laid by the Council, despite the attractive new stone cross-drains. The rain may have been exceptional, but these days we rather doubt it! Repairs by the Council to the final section of wall on the north east side have been very successful and much appreciated.
The bog garden is the wettest it has been for years and the new pebbles are, meantime, below the intended water level. The yellow flag iris is appearing with a large hosta, and the blue flag irises are glorious everywhere in the garden. The addition of “non-slip” paint should reduce maintenance work on the decking. Although often blissfully quiet, the garden continues to welcome healthy numbers of visitors, some of whom come to work. We were pleased to host a group of 24 Primary 6 pupils and their teacher and helpers from Stenhouse Primary School which made for a lively but worthwhile morning.
February in the Walled Garden is – well – February…. but there are some highlights of colour, the Hamamelis mollis at the top (east) side is in full orange/yellow bloom, and the first daffodil fully out was spotted on the 8th.
February is a time for other work, and the team have been busy on general maintenance. We lost only one garden tree, a pine, in the winter storms, while one large tree fell (without damage) on the west wall from outside. Access to the decking area is temporarily restricted until the slippery surface has been cleaned- a work in progress. Acquiring some heavy concrete slabs, through Freecycle, transporting and laying them in preparation for a new metal storage unit is nearly done. The new unit has been fully funded by the Western Edinburgh Neighbourhood Partnership.
Plans are afoot for some new planting of dogwoods with mahonia as an informal shrub hedge on the west side to give year-round interest, and a re-think of planting in some of the bog garden is in hand. Spring bulbs are well on their way now – snowdrops are in flower, daffodils and narcissus are coming up strongly, and new tulips are lurking with intent,just below the surface.
Yes, the green shoots are again visible in the Walled Garden after their winter hibernation. Following a hard winter the gardening team have been busy tidying and generally carrying out garden maintenance. Just before the snow arrived a plan had been formed of the work most needing attention so when the white blanket departed, tree pruning and other items could be tackled. Therefore once the spring growth takes off it should look more managed. As with all gardens there is always something to do, so come along to help and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere in the sunshine whilst feeling good about helping.
As September shades into October, the Walled Garden is a mix of positives and negatives. The approaching end of the growing season means that winter will be following all too soon. But in the meantime, there is still much to enjoy: while watching and listening to the aspen trees quivering and rustling, interspersed with the sounds of mums and toddlers, planes overhead and the number 26 bus.....
The dense planting of heathers and ericas puts on a show of purple, white, dusky pink- all against green and gold foliage. Further up the slope, orange crocosmia and white marguerites stand out, while close by are the yellow rudbeckia and deep purple buddleia bushes.
The silver birch in the central seat has changed colour and started dropping its leaves uncommonly early, but we hope it will revive next season. The fight against rose bay willowherb continues unabated, while buttercups are massing for another invasion. Deep blue sage puts on a fine late summer show, while the best of the yellow flag iris has now passed in a (rather dry) bog garden, still packed with the tall pink flowers of lythrum ‘firecandles’.
Rowan berries are in abundance, fuschias glow red and the rose hips swell in crimson on the old fashioned rose hedge.
Mr Badger has a bad leg, which is in need of a good tree surgeon!!!
The meadow has had its once-a-year cut and our Corstorphine sycamore’s leaves are showing their autumn colours. The biennial teasels’ spiky seed heads stand out in the shrubbery. The new alpines look set to flourish next year, together with some more spring bulb planting.
A Green Pennant for 2010 has been awarded to Corstorphine Hill Walled Garden. The Green Pennant Award is a national award that recognises high quality green spaces that are managed by voluntary and community groups. The Award is part of the Green Flag Award scheme.
Beautiful Scotland has given us an assesment of Thriving in the It’s Your Neighbourhood catagory of community gardens. That is only just below their topresult of Excellent and they urge us to “continue the good work to improve the site”.
Pretty soon after starting to help out the team of volunteers who tend the Walled Garden, I found myself agreeing to write about it for the Newsletter. But these aren’t really my very first impressions: those go back more than the ten years or so since the Garden was officially opened, and an earlier call for volunteers from the man whose vision started it all off – the late Iain MacDonald. That involved heaving logs and branches around to roughly mark out the line of accessible pathways through a woodland garden of natural species, typical of the Hill. The old garden was then more of a jungle than a garden, but the idea certainly took root and – with the hard work of the Friends over more than a decade- has produced today’s oasis in the city.
The Walled Garden is rather more than your average garden. It is a garden with quite a formal shape, when looked at from above, but with an informal style. The core theme of native trees, shrubs and plants has been built around with the addition of garden and exotic plantings. Open areas with attractive benches are complemented by several other varied habitats – including heathers, a bog garden, a wild flower meadow and an apple and cherry orchard - all to a human scale and sheltered by the old stone walls all around.
The garden has developed its own character - a pleasant mix of the natural but not too wild, and the tended but not too manicured - that visitors appreciate and enjoy. So do the birds that build nests in the walls, while keeping a wary eye open for the buzzards - wheeling and mewing high above when not being mobbed by the local crows…
No real garden is ever finished, and this one continues to evolve from year to year. At the time of writing, early May, the Garden is producing a burst of bulbs and blossom: growth that is all the more striking after being held back by the unusually hard winter. Like many other gardens there have been a few winter casualties to be weeded out. But most of the garden has survived unscathed and ready for another season. The apple trees will soon be in bloom and the many summer-flowering shrubs are again beginning to flourish in the traditional Scottish garden areas, frequented by butterflies and bumble bees. Some new alpine planting is in progress and the rose hedge will soon be out. And the rare Corstorphine sycamore continues to thrive.
Amid the fanfare of the Open Day '10th Anniversary' celebration, the Walled Garden unveiled its Green Pennant, which is a national award that recognises high quality green spaces managed by voluntary and community groups. This is the first to be awarded to a garden in Scotland.
The garden is looking quite mature now. Apart from the usual maintenance, the main initiative this year has been to improve the selection of plants in wildflower meadow, the wild flower section and the marsh areas. A section is also being developed as a herb garden with a variety of different plants.
Now that growth is well under way the garden is looking quite mature. The plan is essentially to continue to develop areas already started and to consolidate with some relocation of plants as we learn where the plants best suit their conditions. As always the regular team are delighted to have help, no matter for how short a time, to keep the garden looking smart. It provides a great sense of satisfaction. The Corstorphine Sycamores are looking splendid at the moment.
In the summer the garden was judged for the Keep Edinburgh Growing and we were awarded the Gold certificate for the community category jointly with Gorgie City Farm.
In the Beautiful Scotland in Bloom competition we were also awarded Gold certificate. Credit must be given to the small dedicated team who maintain the garden a few hours a week. Where would we be without volunteers?
On Clermiston Road improvements to the footway and gate at entrance on the drive to the Tower are most welcome. It also helps to describe to visitors where this wonderful garden is.
During the summer some plants put on a good show especially the roses and buddleia. Some trees are growing which in time will give a woodland effect. The garden was judged for the Keep Edinburgh Growing competition and we are waiting for the result. One of our occasional visitors was moved by the atmosphere he experienced in the garden to put his thoughts into verse.
The Woodland Garden
By Robert Watson MA BD
On Corstorphine Hill in Edinburgh fair,
Stands an old walled garden, tended with care.
Its pathways, flowers, plants and shrubs, all lovingly designed,
A more homely layout it would be hard to find.
Lavender, rosemary and mint
Bunched together, to the sensory buds give more than a hint.
The oak tree saplings lie bedded as one,
All with a promise of great things to come.
Quercus rubra , Scottish-bred,
With Ilex Aquifolium , its holly cousin, from far Zante shed.
The carved wooden seat does Freddy Fox and Berty Badger proud,
But real ones to enter the garden are not allowed.
Yet a flash of white tail and flap of ear
Betrayed, alas a bunny was near.
There stand the irises, proud queens in blue,
Their long, wide tunics and enchanting wings of gorgeous hue.
Persona of the rainbow and messenger of the Gods,
In her hands the Herald’s staff and pitcher holds.
The wet woodland is adorned with crimson-flowered campion,
But to many its tattered petals are champion
Brightening the dull grasses,
Just like the young men are by the lassies.
This spring has been exceptionally dry and very little planting has been done. With rain falling in the last few days it is amazing how the garden recovers and it looks great with the trees coming into leaf, and plants such as bluebells and Ragged Robin in flower. More sensory plants have been put in the bed opposite the animal seat. A low wall on the edge of the meadow was built by BTCV. This wall will eventually be planted up with small alpines. BTCV have also added ropes to the bridge at the wetland to add a final touch to the project. On the “gardens open day” organized The Cockburn Association visitors were very impressed by the walled garden.
The Friends took on the project of restoring the Corstorphine Walled Garden, which had originally been the walled garden of Hillwood House. The theme is a pleasant peaceful garden with the accent on native planting to reflect much of what can be found growing naturally on the Hill. With a bias to enlightening especially the young, it has been carried out entirely by voluntary help. It is pleasing that the efforts have been recognised by being awarded gold in the community garden category of the Keep Edinburgh Growing Competition 2006.
This summer has been exceptionally dry and very little planting has been done because of the hard clay soil. Despite that the established plants that like dry conditions have put on a great show. The garden has been kept tidy by our volunteers who come on Tuesday and Thursday as well as the Saturday girls. The judges for the Edinburgh Gardens Competition were very impressed. The judging for “Scotland in Bloom” will take place later on. We hope that they will be equally impressed.
Earlier on in the year we built some new woodchip pathways and some drains. The screen around the utility area is finished and climbers will be put against it. Of the plants in the wetland Ragged Robin, Loosestrife and Marsh Woundwort are flowering. The grass meadow next to the wetland is now growing and should provide another seating area. A good place to stop, look at the wetland and ponder.
Andy Ross (Community Project Officer, BTCV Scotland) reviews progress on the Walled Garden 'Wetland Project'.
The bulk of the work on this project was completed in November 2005, at which stage the rectangular boardwalk was completed, as was the arched bridge. The liner was fitted within this enclosed area and many tons of soil were barrowed into this area. Access paths were built to allow the public to reach the area, and a native hedge was planted so that in time the area will become separated to a degree from the rest of the walled garden. From this point, it was necessary to allow the soil within the boardwalk to become saturated with rainwater, and to wait for spring, which was the ideal time to plant the wetland plugs.
In April 2006, the wildflower plugs were planted and in July and August of this year, the handrails to the bridge were completed and specimen trees (birch and willow) added at each corner of the bridge. The plants that were put in at the site included: Ragged Robin, Water Avens, Meadowsweet, Marsh Woundwort, Purple Loosestrife, Devil's-bit Scabious, Bugle, Fritillary, Yellow Iris and Yellow Loosestrife.
The 'wetland' now needs time for the plants to become established, and it is expected that the plants will begin to look mature in a couple of years.
A walk on the wetside: work on the wetland at the garden has almost finished! The boardwalk has been completed, the liner inserted and the many tons of soil moved back into the wetland area. In addition, the bridge has been erected and the site has been landscaped with the addition of a native species hedge and rotting logs. The rails for the bridge are being built by a local group and will be added soon. The wetland area has been planted out with a variety of plug plants which should become established over the summer.
The summer has been very dry and since there is no water supply in the garden, some plants have thrived and others lost. Since the garden is a microcosm of the hill subject to the same climatic conditions, this just reflects the wild nature of the garden. Seeds of the Poppies and Corn Marigolds which were shed last year have not germinated, but may come up next year as they can remain dormant in the soil for years. Despite the dryness the garden has been looking good with a lot of colour and the grass cut; this has encouraged more visitors this summer. Some plants are being replaced in the sensory part. In the coming months the wet woodland will be planted up with other type of plants such as iris and primulae. To encourage wildlife such as small birds and insects, hedges and small walls may be put in on the high part of the garden to create a corridor from north to south. The garden entered the “Neighbourhood Awards” a noncompetitive scheme run by The Royal Horticultural Society, Britain in Bloom project. The judges were very impressed. The garden also entered the “Keep Edinburgh Growing Garden Competition”. Last year we were third in the Community Garden category and thought unlikely to be in the prizes for two years, however, we came Second! At the awards ceremony Alan White did the honours of accepting the prize from the judges and the Lady Provost, which consisted of an 8 litre bag of bird seed, a bird feeder and a book on Wildlife Gardening. An appropriate selection, as well as that all important Second prize certificate.
At the Corstorphine Walled Garden, BTCV Scotland (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) are creating a wetland which will extend the biodiversity value of the site by offering damp and marshy habitat which will support plant and insect species not currently represented. When completed, the area will consist of a 70m stretch of boardwalk and bridge, surrounding and crossing the marshy area. As the site is not particularly wet or water-logged at present, this will be achieved by laying out a liner which will prevent rain-water from draining away. It is hoped that this part of the garden will add interest to an already beautifuk and successful restoration project.
As the hours of daylight lengthen, daffodils and other plants have emerged from the well-watered soggy soil of the garden on the western slopes of Corstorphine Hill. We await with interest to see the effects of our efforts in cultivation and additional planting in the autumn as we progress into the spring of another year. Since the first planting in September 2001, progressively more areas have been developed, with a view to providing examples of differing but predominantly native species. The path network has become consolidated and improvement to the drainage at critical points results in sections of path no longer being washed away after torrential rain. The completion of the wall and storage shed has greatly enhanced the atmosphere of the garden, resulting in it becoming the outdoor clubroom of the Friends.
During 2005, we intend to develop the wet woodland area, providing the environment for marsh type plants; increase the amount of native plants in the most recently cultivated area; and provide sculptural interest. Certain of the plants already encourage butterflies to visit the garden and the introduction of four bird feeders is beginning to increase the number of species of birds spotted: as well as blue, great and coal tits, there are wrens, robins, chaffinches, blackbirds, magpies, carrion crows and wood pigeons. Kestrals can be seen flying overhead.
The Beechgrove garden team revisited the Walled Garden on 29 June 2004 to see the progress since their initial help in getting the garden started in September 2001. A good deal has been accomplished since their first visit. The wall has been completed as well as a stone clad tool shed. The planting which they initiated has matured very much as they had envisaged and it is possible to see how successive planting including trees and wild flowers has developed. Hopefully a glimpse of the progress will be shown on the programme due to be broadcast on Thursday 8th July.
The garden has been entered in the "Edinburgh in Bloom Gardening Competition", in the community garden category. The judges will be visiting us during July the results will be known in the autumn and we hope that our wide range of native wild flowers and the type of plants to attract butterflies and other insects will impress the judges.
"Or close up the wall", said Eddie
It is with as much determination as Henry V rallying his troops that our Chairman has summoned resources for repairs to the walls of the garden. The breaches in the west wall have been closed. The east wall has mostly been restored. There remains a further section together with the shed which has yet to be completed. Even now, though, the results are dramatic, giving the garden a more complete and sheltered feel. It is noteworthy that all the restored sections of wall have been built to a high standard, highlighting the fact that the old skills do still exist. Throughout the summer, the stalwarts have kept on top of the weeds and trimmed the grass. Martin has carried out a personal campaign with a particularly mole-like determination, grubbing up even the tiniest bits of Japanese knotweed root which might otherwise have evaded detection. Additional areas have been cultivated, pushing out gradually from the centre. The planting has mainly been of native wild flowers but it will be next year before the effects will be apparent. The overall effect is taking shape gradually. There are plenty of ideas as to how more areas of the garden can be developed to make it pleasant, interesting and educational. It is your garden so do come along and give us your ideas, suggestions and, if you have the time, a bit of physical help in the way of practical gardening - welcome anytime but particularly at the regular work times of Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons.
Original Plans: Walled Garden/Beechgrove Project:
It is proposed to convert the existing walled area adjoining Hillwood House which at present is overgrown with various weeds and trees in poor condition, to a wooded area containing species of trees, woodland plants and fungi, which can be found in and around Corstorphine Hill.
Access would be provided to the area via an entrance in the North wall from the access road to the Tower. A drawing has been prepared showing the proposed layout of a path. In the future both the entrance and the path would be constructed to a standard that would make the area accessible for disabled people.
It is also proposed to site information boards along this path which would provide information on the various aspects of Corstorphine Hill, e.g. archaeology, geology, history, Botany Group etc. as well as information on the trees and plants. The drawing shows suggested trees and a possible planting layout. The choice of trees is broadly based on trees presently growing on the hill with a few additions and the layout is intended to provide a mixture of deciduous and evergreens throughout the area. By identifying and labelling each species we would hope to provide an educational facility for the use of local schools, colleges and the community in general as well as visitors.
Tree and plant species to be confirmed by Woodland Manager.
Gradient and surface of path to be suitable for wheelchair access. Maximum gradient 1 in 12, flat rest area at 16m max.
Tree planting: min. distance to wall 2m, min. distance to path 1m.