In Part 2 of this Edinburgh instalment of ‘HPH visits…‘ we are going to be heading slightly North of the city for a walk around Stockbridge. Stockbridge is the area I always choose to stay when I visit this part of Scotland + I stumbled upon it completely by coincidence around 5 years ago after making a last minute Airbnb booking! It has a reputation for attracting the creative types + feels like a cool, bohemian neighbourhood that is surprisingly close to the buzz of Princes Street + the city centre (it’s walking distance to the Edinburgh Waverley train station too). I enjoy the familiarity of this part of the city after a few visits + have toyed with the idea of moving here on more than one occasion! Later on, we’ll also head to nearby Dean Village, which a lovely lady in a coffee bar told me about. I always like to hear recommendations from people that live in the locality when visiting new places + this did not disappoint! The photos in this post were taken over my last three visits + were all pre-lockdown (in case you wondered).
In the first instalment of the post at the RBGE, I explained that I really needed to put together a ‘part two’ to account for the photos taken around the streets of Stockbridge because they always offer a good dose of small-space gardening inspiration, in a part of the country that can be quite, well… chilly. The residents of Stockbridge showcase a collective appreciation for how plants can liven up a space — whether it be a modest doorstep or window box planting, to a sunken courtyard garden, of which there are many. This post leads into this weekend’s blogpost which will be all about planting inspiration for small-space gardening + my initial planting sketches for my next space, so look out for that hitting your inbox on Sunday morning.
If this is the first in the series you have stumbled across, there’s a tab on the HPH homepage I invite you to peruse. These posts are intended as a way for us to virtually visit botanical gardens + green spaces together as I’ve not shared any of these trips before. There’s research to suggest that even by simply looking at photographs of green spaces, we can slow down our heart rates + feel more relaxed, so I hope you enjoy this post!
Walking around the wobbly, cobbled streets in the vicinity of the main stretch of Stockbridge High Street is a verdurous treat indeed — it’s actually pretty hard to find any great stretches that are entirely without-plants. A common theme emerges with rows of houses that are set back from the pavement (as the one above), nestled into their surroundings with an oasis of green that looks untamed + just the right amount of wild in this setting. My taste leans towards naturalistic planting schemes over anything manicured, so this is right up my street.
Side note: I couldn’t find the photo I tried to snap of this but I was amazed to see that right in the heart of Stockbridge nestled behind la jungle of greenery, was a car turntable + parked on it was a Mini Cooper! I thought this was such a genius idea for parking in a tight spot as it stops you having to reverse out onto a busy thoroughfare. As a Mini Cooper owner too, I thought that would be such an interesting practical feature to incorporate into a driveway design if it suited the site in question!
Even in a narrow mews road where space is at a premium, many of the exteriors are softened by creeping + climbing leafy greens. Despite these small homes not having much outside space, the impact of adding some planting cannot be underestimated.
I am particularly inspired by the two photos taken along this street — especially how the planting frames the beautiful old window on the right (below). The restricted colour scheme of shades of green, with some inky-black added in around the windowsill level creates an effortless depth in a restricted plot + this particular type of grass is one that I have enjoyed growing for the last couple of years on my balcony. I’m certain I’ll incorporate it into my next place too, it’s a Ophiopogon planiscapus / black mondo grass incase you haven’t seen it before.
Below on the left is another plant that I love, commonly know as a smoke tree/ smoke bush — it’s a little Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ + these just look completely incredible when matured. There was a lovely specimen for sale at RBGE but I couldn’t quite manage to carry it on the train!
If I have railings to work with in the future, I’ll certainly be planting some billowy hydrangea behind them like this below! This is a vision I’ve had since looking after my grandparents garden + seeing just how much volume a matured plant such as this can add to a space. I particularly like the lace-cap variety too.
This cheerful cluster of planters either side of this wide path above adds an informal feel to the grand black door + railings surrounding this property. The play between something looking like it’s grown over the years such as this feels very natural + it’s how my balcony garden developed too. I like that the height of the planting is solely at ground level + doesn’t extend beyond the height of the railings — it retains a sense of intimacy because you only really notice the display when in close proximity.
In this small courtyard garden, the planting of tree ferns raises a question of scale + shows how striking one signature pot plant can look — as is the case here with this Dicksonia antarctica. It’s often the case that fewer, larger pots can create a more coherent look + less cluttered if square footage is lacking. Blue-toned hostas + a few more shade loving ferns make for a simple yet considered scheme here. It seems that the planting has been very sympathetic to it’s location below ground level because from the street, the plants selected look good from above + create a ‘flatlay’ look that gives the passer-by something to enjoy.
Similarly, below left is a lady-fern (Athyrium filix-femina) which has the most beautiful growth habit + really stands out against the concrete. It’s low profile in this location also prevents blocking any light into these windows, which is an important consideration with any planting scheme:
Also, you’ll probably know by know how much I enjoy spotting houseplants on windowsills in everyday life…
Even in more exposed locations, the red pelargoniums dotted along windowsills + lining the classic steps of the style of property so typical of this area, add a burst of colour that pops out against the grey stonework. The interplay between interior + exterior can be noticed further by the floral design stitched onto the window netting here — the other side of the glass to the window box Pellies. Below left also shows how striking a splash of red can be on it’s own with the simple Tea Rose growing up that looks right at home between a garage + the front door…
These photos have a weird cast as they were taken at nightfall, but I wanted to show this lovely black door (I have a thing for them, clearly!) + a statuesque plant I peeked near the window of this second floor apartment:
Now it’s time for something a little different…
This planting design deserves some merit for its dedication to creating a completely surreal display against an otherwise traditional Edinburgh property! The place I stay is just around the corner from here + I always walk past to see how things have changed over time, but also to see if I can find out more about who lives here! On the very small chance that this is your home, please get in touch, I’d love to ask you more about it + credit you (of course!). It’s joyful eccentricity certainly brings a smile + is testament to what can survive on an exposed doorstep garden here in Edinburgh!
**February 2022 EDIT: Believe it or not, the person who created this marvellous display just read this blogpost! The internet can feel huge most of the time, but very small at times like this. I was thrilled to receive an email from Pauline Farrar – who designed this display of household objects planted with succulents a few years ago. It was great to hear from you Pauline, and I look forward to seeing how it looks next time I visit the area!
Not far from Stockbridge, Dean Village is a local gem of a place that is a popular place for bucolic walks that feel nothing like you are close to the hustle + bustle of the city. Walking alongside the Water of Leith, you are immediately taken in by a cocooning green setting + the sound of water to guide you along towards the village.
This is St Bernard’s Well on the left, an 18th Century structure that was believed to have healing properties:
Also in this area, sits the historic Dean cemetery, where Robert Matheson, the architect to the temperate palm house at RBGE is buried.
An Anthony Gormley sculpture in the Water of Leith:
As the residential parts appear again, so too does the planting… Hostas + Euphorbia are prevalent, alongside ferns, trailing ivy + pelargoniums. These are tried-and-tested hardy plants that can tolerate the inclement conditions here.
So as not to disrupt from the striking stone structure above, planting feels considered + natural — a window ledge planter + a small adornment around the corner of the house grounds the building without it looking overly fussy.
The views here feel like you’ve been transported to rural France!
I hope you enjoyed seeing something a little different today + that it offered a glimpse into this part of Scotland for those of you who live further afield. With the steady increase in homes that have little or no outside space to speak of, small-space gardening is on the rise. In some ways, the lack of square footage can allow you to create something quite impactful, because you can achieve a coherent look with a variety of planting, without breaking the bank! Growing a balcony garden for 5 years challenged me to embrace the restriction of space + I think Stockbridge residents can teach us a thing or two about this. Here’s the link to Part 1 if you missed it. Here are some links to share of save + thanks as always for supporting HPH,