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.
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.
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.
Check out my own blog at: http://noels-garden.blogspot.com/