Volunteer Gardening in the Cemetery

With the support of the City Council some dedicated volunteers from the neighbourhood worked throughout Spring and Summer of 2021 to tidy unwanted growth in parts of the cemetery. We initially homed in on the south-east corner and now continue to work there and in many other areas. 

Of particular importance has been the work to cut back and, where possible, remove self-seeded saplings and shrubs growing around and between headstones. These damage and destabilise the headstones, with the City of Edinburgh Council having to take precautionary measures by laying them flat before they potentially topple. The work has also included cutting back branches and ivy obscuring inscriptions, with some gravestones (i.e. memorials laid flat over a grave) having become completely obscured over the years. Unwanted growth along and within some of the walls has also been cleared to help maintain the stonework. Such work often has to be repeated.

South wall beforeSouth wall 

South wall before
South wall after

Volunteers have been guided by the City Council in greenery to be avoided such as where birds might be nesting, prized trees, and mosses growing on headstones and gravestones – examination of the mosses has been part of a university research project. We are grateful to the City Council for supplying us with gardening tools (some volunteers prefer to bring their own), providing us with storage space in the catacombs, and removing our large compostable rubbish. In 2023 the Council supplied us with three compost bins which we have placed discreetly around the cemetery.

As the work has progressed many walkers in the cemetery have remarked favourably on the results but there have been a few who have voiced criticism, citing climate change and wildlife conservation as reasons. The project is seen as a compromise between these issues and preserving the memorials and landscaping that make the cemetery what it is today – a calming environment in which to walk, jog, bathe in the energy of the trees, listen to birdsong and ponder on lives gone by.

Since the start of our work in 2021 we have planted many bulbs in chosen areas to add more colour and gladden hearts come Springtime. Some bulbs are donated by volunteers, but the majority have been supplied by the City Council. We have also begun to introduce selected flowering plants donated by volunteers.

What a little colour can do – we are aiming for much more of this with some new bulb planting

With the help of the Council and the advice and guidance of Graham Stone, Professor of Ecology at Edinburgh University we created our first wildflower bed near the East Gate in 2022. Two more were planted in 2023 on the terrace above the catacombs. 

East Gate wildflower bed

Volunteers work at times to suit themselves, alone, in pairs, or small groups. If you are able to help us in any way, do let us know by contacting us at cemetery@grangeassociation.com.