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Meet Sarah Ramsay – Leith Hall, NTS

February 6th 2019

Sarah Ramsay, Head Gardener, Leith Hall, National Trust for Scotland

It is difficult to put my finger on a specific part of the garden at Leith Hall that I love the most – in the midst of the historic kitchen garden on a hot midsummer day (which does make me very happy); the structure and stunning colour of the serpentine herbaceous border, offset by the blue clouds of the Nepeta border; the history and charm of the 19th century moon-gate, or; the secret shady fernery.  In truth it is the garden’s very special spirit of place, its unique and distinctive nature which links it so inexorably to the past.


The garden was at its heyday at the start of the 20thcentury, created in the Arts and Crafts style by its owners, Charles and Henrietta Leith-Hay.  It was famed for its striking herbaceous borders, each planted in a different colour scheme to afford colour right through the season. The serpentine herbaceous border we have today was laid out during this period and, although the planting is a modern design, it re-creates the spirit of the original with its block planting of frosted Artemesia  Silver Queen, Geranium psilostemonspilling over the path and the cheerful yellows of Anthemis tinctoria.

In the 1920s Leith Hall was famous for its rock garden, a riot of colour from plants such as Aubretia,Alyssumand dwarf Phlox.  After some simplification in the 1980s, the rock garden has since been rebuilt to the original design and I now have the honour and responsibility of overseeing the restoration of the planting. We will have volunteer groups in the garden this summer helping us plant up the area with hundreds of alpines – again, re-creating the glorious spirit of the past.

I was a late arrival to horticulture as a career.  After studying RHS Level 2 through The Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, I was given a seasonal position at Leith Hall where I have worked ever since, becoming Head Gardener in 2018.   My job is as varied as it possibly can be.  I manage a fantastic garden team of one permanent and one seasonal gardener and a group of the most dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers.  We all take part in the maintenance of the garden, from propagating vegetable seeds to weeding and mulching borders, pruning and winter tidying.  But in addition to this work, we carry out a lot of educational work, helping to instil a love of gardening in people of all ages and engaging groups of local volunteers in the garden.  I love every aspect of my job and feel a great sense of responsibility to conserve the essence of this historic garden.