The Gardener


My name is Joanna, and I am a gardener, writer, photographer and blogger living in a traditional Edinburgh tenement flat with my husband. I write mainly about the development of our tenement gardens, which were in poor condition when we first moved here (see The Garden). I also write about cutting flowers from the garden, changing the way I garden (such as reducing my use of plastic), and my visits to other people’s gardens,

I aim to update Edinburgh Garden Diary about once a week, although it occasionally takes a backseat, such as during my RHS Level 2 exams in 2017-8. I am also very active on Instagram.

I love hearing from my readers and try to reply to every comment I receive, so please do get in touch in the comments box below any of my blog posts if you have something to say, or just want to say hello. If you prefer, you can also contact me by direct email to I am always happy to consider taking part in comissions, reviews, articles and guest blog posts.

How I came to gardening

We moved here from London in the summer of 2013. I wasn’t a gardener when I lived in London. In London, ordinary people in their twenties and thirties on an average salary can no longer expect to have a garden. We certainly didn’t have a garden where we lived, up on the second floor in a small block of flats. Not even the people on the ground floor had a garden. There was a nearby park, but it’s not the same thing; it’s not even a similar thing.

Without a garden in London, I didn’t know what I was missing, and becoming a gardener never entered my head at all. However, when we moved to Edinburgh, we rented a ground-floor tenement flat near the city centre that happened to have a small garden at the front and rear, the latter opening onto a typical communal ‘back green’ behind. I had no idea what to do with my new gardens, but hesitantly began to learn and experiment: some weeding here, pruning there, seed-sowing here. In doing so, I discovered that the one thing that could most improve the quality of any living quarters, the one thing I had wanted all along without knowing it, was a garden.

Then we started looking for a place to buy. My husband wanted to view some upstairs garden-less flats (they had better light, he said with some truth), but by this time buying a flat without a garden was unthinkable to me. After a hard search, we were finally fortunate to take possession of another ground-floor tenement flat in November 2014. It had a front garden and communal back green, both in poor condition, and I relished the task of bringing them into life.

It is remarkable how important these small portions of roofless earth are to humankind; how caring for a few feet of your own soil can exalt your soul to the highest realms of serenity and satisfaction. I don’t mean self-satisfaction, or caring what the neighbours think. It is to do with what you think of yourself, with self-respect, and with privacy, creativity, and our human need to dig our fingers in to the black soil and put down roots just as the plants do.



24 thoughts on “The Gardener

  1. Thank you for coming to visit me! I thought I’d return the favour! Interesting to see you live in Edinburgh, a city I know very well, having lived there for five years and visited often, for far longer than that. I look forward to seeing what happens in your gardens!

  2. coming from the London area myself I know exactly what you mean about the lack of garden space and it has become much worse over the years, local people where I live now do not appreciate how lucky they are to have lived all their lives surrounded by mother earth and not concrete, part of my reason for moving here was to have a garden, good luck with yours and enjoy every moment, Frances

    1. I know what you mean about the locals not understanding their luck. A few weeks ago I arrived at work raving about the coral sunrise hitting the nearby hills, and my colleagues just smiled indulgently as though I were talking about something quite ordinary, and one admitted that she just never noticed the view because it was ‘always there.’
      I love your ‘Island Threads’… looks as though you made an even more dramatic exodus than we did.

      1. hello Joanna, sorry not to have been back before but I have had a lot of problems with BT and no broadband from January to April, thankfully I finally switched suppliers and I am now getting back into blogging,
        that’s the trouble with people who have always lived in beautiful places, they do not see and just take everything for granted, I think though that we are perhaps luckier in that we do see and can enjoy,
        thank you for your nice comment about my blog and all your likes on my posts, as to my exodus, I was working as a nanny and a job came up on the isle of Skye, by then I was in my early 50s so when it finished I decided to stay, 🙂 Frances

  3. I am enjoying visiting blogs that take part in the end of the month meme as I am gathering ideas for my new garden! Though mine is at the other extreme of the country to yours! I also lived without a garden (though not plants as I had a lot of pots) for 10 years after moving into a flat and then a townhouse. With this move I was determined to get my garden, though it took us several years to do so. Now I am enjoying seeing what comes up each month and deciding on what changes I want to make. Such fun! I feel fitter and healthier than I have for years – must be all that bending and stretching to get at weeds and untamed climbers 😀 You have a lovely space and I shall look forward to seeing it developing.
    Jude xx

      1. Thank you! At the moment it is just a case of seeing what emerges each month, and weeding and hunting down the slugs and snails… 🙂

  4. I love your site, passionate writing and quality photographs! I hope you provide more info on the gardens in Edinburgh (esp the Royal Gardens!). I live in Western Michigan, USA Zone 6 and am mad about Hellebores and Southern Hemisphere plants. Keep up the great work and have a great gardening month in February.

    Scott (Restiogeek)

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Scott, and for your generous comments. I try to visit as many local gardens as time allows – which royal gardens are you interested in? I am not sure of any near here but will gladly make an effort to visit any that you recommend! Wishing you a happy February likewise, with plenty of gardening too! Jo

  5. Joanna,

    I’m just starting to read through your posts (enjoying them tremendously) so I apologize if you mentioned “Chocolate Cosmos” (C, atrosanguineus), have you tried this wonderfully scented Mexican species, simply a critical plant for us chocoholics!


  6. I’m enjoying your blog 🙂 You’re just a few miles away from me (Dundee) and we seem to share the same taste in gardens to visit and books to collect! I’m also doing RHS Level 2 – I hope you’re getting on well with your studies. There’s so much to learn but I’m really enjoying it.

    1. Thank you for visiting my blog, Julianne, and greetings! The RHS Level 2 was quite a challenge, wasn’t it – but it has improved my gardening beyond recognition and was well worth the hard work. Did you take any of the exams, or were you studying for pleasure?

      1. I took two of the exams last month and hope to do some more in the next round. I’m mostly studying for pleasure but am open to where any qualifications might take me! I weirdly enjoyed the exams too though – it was a satisfying challenge. I believe you’re progressing to further study – wishing you all the best with it!

  7. I like your blog! Beautiful photos and even more beautiful thoughts .. Thank you for the mood and inspiration!

  8. I am looking to start gardening more in our tenement back garden along with my neighbours. I think you might live in my street! Is there any way I could visit to get some tips and inspiration? Antonia

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