Gardens and Orchards
Saughton Park is renowned for its gardens and green spaces. Find out a little more about what you can see when you visit and some information on the background of the varied gardens and orchards at the park!
The Physic Garden
The Physic Garden began life as a Community Garden cared for by the Friends of Saughton Park growing fruit and vegetables in two large raised beds. As part of the park restoration, we were asked to recreate that area as a physic garden and we jumped at the chance.
The landscape architects working on the master plan for the overall park designed 17 raised beds and we were given the opportunity to design both the approach and the planting scheme.
We are also responsible for resourcing and maintaining the plants. This has been a chance for us all to learn about the plants, what thrives and grows well together and by learning we can then change the plants if and when we need to. We've been lucky enough to have plants donated, some have been grown by the volunteers and those we bought we have tried to source from Scotland (where possible).
As the point of the physic garden is growing plants for medicinal use, we will be harvesting leaves, berries and any other useful parts of the plants. We hope to demonstrate their uses in health and healing by holding practical hands-on events as well as sharing information on the plants and their uses.
The central beds have been designed around parts of the body and plants chosen which are beneficial for that area, or ailments or diseases affecting it e.g. the heart bed contains foxgloves, one of its key components is digitalis; the oncology bed contains snowdrops whose active component is galanthamine used in anti-cancer treatments.
The Community Orchards
The idea for a community orchard within the park was conceived when some of the Friends of Saughton Park volunteers attended Apple Day events run by the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society at the Royal Botanic Garden here in Edinburgh. The community orchard group were also inspired by wanting to experience the joy of growing and eating our own fruit and sharing this experience with others within the community.
It has also become an opportunity for people to develop new skills. Starting out we had enthusiasm, but not a lot of knowledge or skill in fruit growing. After hearing about the Helping Britain Blossom Initiative driven by The Orchard Project we knew we could make it happen!
Of course, the orchards are not just for the people of the community but provides a space which offers a fruity bounty for the varied wild visitors and inhabitants of the park.
The first orchard was the trained orchard within the rose garden, on the east and west walls. We have various forms such as espalier, cordon and fan. Fruit includes apple, pear, plum, peach and quince with plans for apricot and currants. All this was designed by the group with design starting in September 2017 and the wiring of walls and planting in spring 2018. We had our first peach shortly afterwards in the summer of 2018!
The design process for the Wild Orchard started in autumn 2018. This orchard will incorporate ideas of permaculture and forest gardening. It includes fruit and nut trees with underplanting of other food plants to give us and nature an even more bountiful harvest while also providing a home for wildlife. The group has had invaluable support from the beginning from The Orchard Project with the provision of trees, tools, training and practical help.
Park Border "Orchard"
The border areas of Saughton Park will also be planted with Wild Harvest trees provided by The Woodland Trust. First delivery of 420 trees are being planted in the winter of 2018 along the area bordering the football pitches.
Rose and Winter Gardens
With the core gardens being established in the 17th & 18th century as part of the Saughtonhall mansion estate, Saughton Park’s Rose and Winter gardens have become a well-loved, not to mention renowned feature of the area and have a long and varied history.
Both the Rose Gardens and the Winter Garden are to be found within what is called the Walled Garden. The west, south and southern half of the east walls that still stand today are the oldest remnants of the outer garden walls. The gateway to the west of the gardens is the original entrance to the south gardens of the mansion and then to the main entrance of the mansion itself.
There seems to have been a Rose Garden here since the 1840’s and the current extent and shape of the Walled Garden dates from around the 1850s when Saughtonhall mansion was in use as a private lunatic asylum and the house and gardens were extended to accommodate the activities of the patients and medical staff.
One of the resident physicians at Saughtonhall asylum was a Dr Lowe who believed in the use of horticultural therapy as a means of restoring patients to health and the gardens were well stocked with flowers, fruit and vegetables. The patients along with their attendants were given free access to the grounds and encouraged to tend the plants and flowers.
The gardens were further revamped when the park hosted the 1908 Scottish National Exhibition with the addition of the original winter garden which included a tea rooms, plus a model garden city and baby incubator being installed within the garden walls.
After the much-visited exhibition closed, the area surrounding and including the walled garden was opened to the public as Saughton Park and Gardens in 1910. The area enclosed by the old garden walls now included a Rosary Garden, American Garden, Rock Garden and Sweet Pea Garden.
During World War II as part of the “Dig for Victory” campaign the gardens were turned into onion beds, and the house became accommodation for ‘Land Girls’ and in 1952 a sensory Garden of the Blind was laid out, in 1957 the Italian Garden was created, with sunken lawns, statuary and topiary.
In the 1960’s the Rose Garden was re-created with a display by the Royal National Rose Society; their first Scottish display garden and in 1984 the new Winter Garden was opened after a partnership between the City Council and the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society
In 2007 Historic Scotland listed the sundial within the Rose garden as Category C. The dials and finial are 17th century and the rest are the outcome of a 19th century reworking of the original. Look out for it's unique inscription!
You can also visit the Simpson’s Memory Box Appeal (SiMBA) Edinburgh & Lothian’s Tree of Tranquillity, planted in 2008.
The Winter Garden which has been revamped and now has displays featuring plants from the Americas, South Africa and the Himalayas and the Atlantic Islands.
The Rose Gardens have been redeveloped and planted with a variety of new roses and the sundial has been restored. The Walled Garden has been enhanced with a wide variety of new planting and you can see the Friends new Physic Garden and fruit orchard as well as The Caley’s Demonstration Garden and new office in The Courtyard.
The superbly restored bandstand now stands in the walled garden and the 1908 Royal Promenade is now one of the largest herbaceous borders in the City. The Bothy with its cosy wood burning stove is a new place for the community and volunteers to use and please come have a cuppa in the new café!