RIGHT UP THERE – INVEREWE

– Posted in: Garden Adventures, Garden Visits, Miscellaneous

Looking south over the walled garden over loch Ewe.

This is one of those really famous gardens, but in such a remote location that you don’t just drop in. Fifty miles from the nearest supermarket, inform my hosts, as if this is now the definition of distance from civilization or maybe survival. Inverewe on the north-west coast of Scotland is famous as a ‘sub-tropical’ garden, which is nonsense, but it is an illustration that with a bit of shelter, the climate here is amazingly west-coast mild, rarely that cold, and never hot – ideal for New Zealand flora and good for a lot of Himalayan foothill stuff. The contrast with the surrounding barren treeless scenery is extraordinary and gives the place its magic.

Rhododendron falcneri - a Himalayan foothill species. The flower clusters are almost spherical. Very over the top.

I’m visiting Duncan Donald, who used to be Curator here, and his wife Kate, a former Daffodil Registrar. We’re basically talking daffodil history but at Inverewe rhododendrons inevitably take over. Flora is with us too, the Donald’s daughter, who is doing an MSc in Plant Science with a project on Maddenii rhododendron taxonomy, so she’s dashing around from bush to bush. Maddenii section are the only really fragrant rhodos, so its a rather sybaritic subject for a project.

Rhododendron formosanum-var.-inaequale.

One of the joys here are the mosses. Needless to say a very wet climate.

Pines and the location of the garden provide the basic shelter, and once the wind is kept off, it becomes possible to grow a huge range of plants. Rainfall is in the region of around 2m a year, and it is always humid, so moss and lichen growth is just amazingly lush, and one of the reasons why the garden feels so wild. The level of management is another, although they have had problems with phytophthera here so there has been a lot of clearing. Many Cornish gardens, by contrast, feel over-manicured by comparison.

There is some fantastic ground flora here. This is Trillium rivale.

The rarely-seen parasite (sounds like a furtive hedge-fund manager) Lathraea clandestina on willow roots

New Zealand plants love it here, and are often very wind proof.

Rhododendron 'Colonel Rogers'. Yes that's right, COLONEL Rogers. A military chap. One wonders what sort of a fellow he was to have this named after him. I think my mother used to have a bathing cap a bit like this.

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Noel Kingsbury

Noel Kingsbury

Noel Kingsbury is a gardener and writer based in the west of England. Author of over 20 books, including four collaborations with Dutch designer Piet Oudolf, he is passionate about wild-style planting and bringing nature into the garden.

Noel Kingsbury

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Karen Chapman April 28, 2012, 8:02 am

Love the bathing cap!

Chookie Inthebackyard April 29, 2012, 3:08 am

I think my mother had the same kind of bathing cap! Must have been a world-wide phenomenon.

Oh, the empty hills! And white cottages! I’d love to visit.

Cathy May 1, 2012, 6:52 am

I still have one of those bathing caps. Oy vey, I’m turning into my grandmother. She watched soap operas; I read them (well, one in particular, anyway). And she wore a bathing cap like mine too!

On a side note, all of our rhodies are fragrant. Maybe I just chose wisely? The “Colonel” looks a lot like the lavender ones we have here. I so do love the moss! We have some growing around the rocks along the edge of our pond. I wish I could learn to weed it without pulling up the moss, which is a wonderful buffer between the rocks and the patio.

Add this to my list of places where I would like to truly vacation… you know, get away from everything, including TV, telephone, shopping, and the kids and dogs. Just me, my husband, my camera, and my Kindle.

Noel Kingsbury May 1, 2012, 7:07 am

The bathing caps seem to have struck a chord!
Inverewe and surroundings really do offer a way to get away from it all, but in the summer, you’d need to talk heavy-duty insect repellant, a veil and gloves – the midges are truly ferocious (as are the Presbyterians).