Tuesday, 6 April 2010

In our own back yard ....

When writing about my recent trip to the garden centre, I said my gardening these days is confined to window boxes. This is not entirely true.

I've written about the Edinburgh tenements before. These streets of tenements have little in the way of gardens on show. The ground floor flats sometimes have small front gardens. On our road, the front gardens are about 10ft x 20ft, but on some streets there are no front gardens at all. The effect can be quite austere. But the tenements hide secret gardens. Behind them lie the 'back greens' or the drying greens. These are back gardens, shared between all the flats on a stairwell, and accessed via a common door. They were designed originally as places to hang out the washing. Some of the old cast iron washing line poles still exist. The back greens are little used nowadays, although there is an association in Edinburgh which aims to reinvigorate back greens as common garden spaces:

Because the streets of tenements back onto these gardens, they create large squares of green space between them. From the streets, Edinburgh can sometimes seems lacking in green space, but as this Google link shows, there are acres of garden, unobserved by passers-by. It's probably only because these spaces have no vehicular access that they haven't had flats or car parks built on them.  This is an aerial photo of one of ECBA's 'Community Back Greens' near to where we live. You can see how most of the greenery is hidden within the square created by the tenements.

This is our 'back green', as viewed from the back of the flat. I've used the 'photostitch' function on my new Canon Powershot camera to create a kind of panorama [very exciting - the software patches photos together to create a wide-angle perspective!].  There's a slight 'fisheye' distortion, but I hope it gives you a sense of just how much space there is between us and the flats opposite. The space is divided into small plots - one per 'stair'.

This gives you a clearer view of the backs of the tenements opposite. 19th century high-rise!

No one else on our stairwell seems to use the garden. Last year, our first in this flat, C did a bit of weeding of a neglected flower bed, and mowed what grass there is. This summer we have decided we should try and breathe some life back into it and more to the point, enjoy having a garden ourselves, even if it is shared in principle with 7 other households.  It doesn't get a lot of sun as it's North facing, but we should be able to grow something. More on that later - hopefully!


  1. Hello, nice to meet you. I think you should definitely start gardening the back green, no one else is doing so and a pity not to develop the space. My friend did exactly the same thing, made a huge difference, got others involved and everyone benefitted. Go for it.

  2. Good luck with the garden - perhaps if you make a start your neighbours will join in.

  3. Oh yes, definitely grow something there. It is a lovely secret space. How about some old roses?

  4. Thank you for your encouraging comments. And Jenny and ElizabethM, welcome to my blog! The back green is quite a magical, peaceful place. It definitely has an oasis quality, hidden away in the middle of the city. We did do some work out there last summer. Funnily enough, I have a David Austen rose in a pot, which has accompanied me on 3 house moves. Maybe it's time to give it a more permanent home. And me as well! Rx