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Gardeners Advice

Great gardens of the world: Inverewe, Scotland

Great gardens of the world: Inverewe, Scotland

Posted By: The Botanist Category: Design, Plant Care

Oh to be in Scotland! I’m passionate about the rugged beauty of the west coast: the majestic splendour of its scenery and the dramatic weather when huge waves dash the cliffs, rainstorms sweep the moors and the mountains are covered with snow. In spite of the challenging climate and rocky location - closer to the Arctic Circle than St Petersburg - a wonderful garden, home to an impressive collection of sub-tropical trees, shrubs and plants, can be found on the shores of Loch Ewe. Since its inception in 1862, visitors to Inverewe Garden have marvelled at the diversity of species growing there, only to discover that the secret lies in a micro climate caused by the warm water from the far away Tropics which is carried into Loch Ewe by the Gulf Stream. Inverewe really is an extraordinary place and certainly repays a visit from anyone interested in trees, plants and beautiful mountain and coastal scenery which is what took me there in the first place.

Inverewe Garden was the creation of Osgood Mackenzie on an estate given to him by his mother when he was just 20 years old. With a clear vision of the garden he intended to create, Mackenzie realised that the native pine trees which populated the coastline of Loch Ewe would be the perfect shelter for the species he was determined to grow and so he began work by making clearings among the pines and forming large pockets of peat as planting beds between the rocks. Although this worked well for most of the shrubs and trees planted by Mackenzie, he encountered a problem when it came to planting Wellingtonias with their deep root system, describing in his memoire how men were employed to carry suitable soil to the site using a creel – a back breaking job. By the time he was 40, Mackenzie began to see the fruits of his labours as many of the shrubs reached maturity and the trees he had planted were well established by then. 156 years on and the Wellingtonias are just approaching their youthful prime!

Osgood Mackenzie was creating his garden at the zenith of the nineteenth century plant hunters who travelled the world in search of new and exotic species, partly for research purposes, but also to provide specimens for wealthy Victorians who wanted to create their own collection in order to impress and amaze their friends. The woodland gardens at Inverewe, nearly 50 acres in all, are now home to over 2,500 different species, mainly from North and South America, China, Australia and New Zealand. The garden is a place of drama and interest at any time of year. The various species of rhododendrons and azaleas flower from January until late in the year; the exotic species of plants in the walled garden and borders edging the pathways are at their best during the summer months; the grace and structure of the tree collection provides a majestic backdrop during the bleak months of winter. I first visited the Garden on a balmy day in early September and spent a couple of hours wandering along the woodland paths, interspersed with streams, lily ponds and waterfalls, eventually reaching a low cliff and pebbly cove with a wonderful vista across the sea. From the walled garden ‘secret’ doors allow visitors access to a grassy terrace running along the shoreline, washed by currents of warm water from across the Atlantic. Like other great gardens there is something of interest for all comers to Inverewe, be it the location or the stunning tree and plant collection itself. Look out for the willow ‘sculptures’ on the terraces. The Lodge, rebuilt in the 1930s many years after a fire during Mackenzie’s lifetime, is now used as the venue for special exhibitions and lectures.

Osgood Mackenzie’s legacy is well cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, gifted to the Trust by his daughter Mairi Sawyer 50 years ago.

For further information: https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/inverewe


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