Pop-up garden ‘parklets’ aim to calm George Street

Parklets creator Craig Roman joins Jamie's Italian bar staff to serve drinks in a mini garden planted with cocktail ingredients. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
Parklets creator Craig Roman joins Jamie's Italian bar staff to serve drinks in a mini garden planted with cocktail ingredients. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
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THEY are a relaxing green oasis in the heart of the city, imported from California and perfect for lounging around in the summer sun – whenever it turns up.

George Street now boasts its own “parklets” – roadside pop-up gardens inspired by the retail avenue’s two specialities: high fashion and cocktail bars.

It will be great if we see shoppers stopping to sit and looking at the plants for ideas

Craig Roman

However, rather than being laid down in the dead of night by guerilla gardeners, Edinburgh’s parklets are the work of Dobbies Garden Centres.

The two parklets, which are set to remain until September, have been parked in George Street within traffic-free pedestrianised areas.

The fashion-inspired garden sits outside the Jo Malone perfume boutique, while the park stuffed with cocktail ingredients is located outside the Assembly Rooms, where staff from nearby Jamie’s Italian say it will prove to be a hit with summer shoppers.

Plants will be checked weekly, but will be allowed to thrive and grow wild as they would in a real rebel parklet. Curious passers-by are being encouraged to get hands-on with fragrant herbs and flowers like lemon geraniums, which leave a citrus scent on your hands.

The fashion parklet experiments with bold colour combinations, while the cocktail garden offers recipes for summery drinks like strawberry daiquiris, with the ingredients dripping from hanging baskets and flower boxes around you.

Dobbies head of displays Craig Roman said the aim was to get people thinking about their own gardens, as well as giving them an urban oasis as a retreat from retail hell.

He said: “It will be great if we see shoppers and people who work nearby stopping to sit in the parklet, and looking at the plants for ideas.

“People can think you need a huge garden to grow interesting plants – that’s not true at all. If you have a flower box in your window, you can grow herbs; if you have a large planter, you can grow an apple tree.”

Asked if he worried that passers-by might nab a low-hanging chilli or lemon, Mr Roman said: “Things like mint are meant to be picked – it grows back even thicker. If people want to try a bit, they’re welcome to.”

Andy King, managing director of Dobbies, said: “We believe we’ve created mini oases in a space that was used for traffic in what is a UK first.

“Dobbies celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, and creating the parklets seemed like a very fitting way to thank the people of Edinburgh for their support by bringing beautiful gardens into the heart of the city.”

City council transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “Recent changes to the layout of George Street have allowed shoppers, pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy a relaxed, more attractive environment, and these gardens will really add to the street’s atmosphere. Our trial is all about making the city centre a better place.”