St Ninian's Comely Bank

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St Ninian's Garden

When the church was established in Comely Bank in 1920 the garden was considerably more extensive than it is today. The original church (located where the flats are now) was at the edge of the city’s built up area with The Flora Stevenson School, Fettes College, and The Royal Victoria Hospital for Consumption, based around Craigleith House, being virtually the only other buildings in an area of market gardens, fields and an old orchard. 

The garden in the 1900s: Initially a spacious church garden extended to the front and west side of the 1920 church. It included a wooden structure providing living accommodation for the priest, a grass tennis court and and ample lawns for games and garden parties. In 1952 the current church was built and the original building became a church hall. For a while an organic gardening group cultivated the land at the back of the church. 

The current garden: Separate front and back gardens were created in 2000 when a modern hall, kitchen and and foyer were built next to the church; this was funded by the sale of church land for the development of the flats. The solitary pear tree which overhangs the pavement on the boundary between the flats’ car park and Waitrose is a reminder of the former extent of the church garden. 

 Front garden: There is a split level, south facing garden in front of the church complex. Its lawns and mature herbaceous borders provide a pleasant green space which the public are welcome to use; there are plenty of benches for those who wish to relax and enjoy the sun, whilst children and their carers often come over after school. The plants, which provide colour throughout much of the year, include :mahonia, spring bulbs, hellebores, and a camellia in the early months followed by a yellow tree paeony, everlasting sweet peas, roses and lavender, then, in autumn, hydrangeas and nerines.

 The upper level of the front garden has a large lime tree which forms a very prominent landmark in Comely Bank. The lower level has a peace pole (an internationally recognised symbol of hopes for peace after the atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and a row of dwarf apple trees growing against a framework; this mini-orchard was planted in 2019 as part of an Eco-Congregation Scotland orchard project (see Eco Group page.) Several smaller trees screen the garden from the road – including a lilac, medlar and crab apple. A plan is on display in the garden. 

Back garden: At the rear of the church there is an enclosed private garden; this is mostly lawn, with herbaceous borders and a memorial area next to the church. This secluded space is enjoyed by church folk, by audiences during the intervals of Edinburgh Theatre Arts shows and by children’s parties. The garden is accessed directly from the hall making it ideal for party games in good weather (see the Hall page for party bookings.)   

 Wildflowers: Recent planting in the garden has concentrated on improving the biodiversity of the garden to help attract pollinating insects. Flowers including ox-eye daisies, foxglove, knapweed, and teasel have been planted in the south east corner of the garden and in a narrow strip between the hall and the Post Office depot. The mini-orchard has been underplanted with delicate, rare wildflowers sourced from a nursery (see laminated sheet in box at the front of the church)  

Gardening Sessions: help with weeding and hedge/shrub trimming is welcome. There is a WhatsApp gardening group to keep in touch and arrange gardening sessions when the weather is good (contact if interested)