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Does the Highland garden have the answer to Brexit?


By Jeanne Beattie


Travel broadens the mind.

For the gardener it opens up a new wishlist of plants and design ideas.

A holiday visit to a French potager prompted me to see veg in a new light and now lettuces and radishes are planted in among my roses.

A trip to an Italian villa inspired my planned water feature, hidden away in a grotto in the corner among moss, ferns and ivy.

The world is at home in our gardens with inspiration gathered from our travel experiences.
The world is at home in our gardens with inspiration gathered from our travel experiences.

I've tried to recreate the clouds of geraniums spilling from the balconies of traditional wooden chalets in Southern Bavaria – with varying success. A dreich Scottish summer finished off that particular liaison.

I'm not alone. I've noticed elements of Japanese gardens, from acers to stone lanterns, in a variety of Highland gardens.

I've sat under tree ferns in a 'tropical rainforest' in Attadale Gardens in Wester Ross. I've seen a Spanish courtyard with terracotta pots of herbs, mini Buddhist temples and prairie grasslands all recreated by local gardeners.

I've walked through a park in Germany inspired by the English landscape gardens of Capability Brown which in turn were likely to have been inspired by the bosco of the Italian Renaissance.

Gardeners are multi-cultural magpies. We gather and freely share ideas from all over the place, nurture them, then let them grow into something new.

Our containers become cultural melting pots. An agapanthus from South Africa sits among alpines from the highest mountains in Europe.

In fact our gardens are full of plants from around the world – immigrants which have settled here and are now considered native.

Most cultivars of Britain's official favourite plant, the rose, originated in Asia.

The Douglas firs planted in forestry plantations across the Highlands are native to western North America. Introduced into cultivation in 1827 by Scottish botanist David Douglas, they've since naturalised across Europe.

Tulips were originally cultivated in Turkey and were imported into Western Europe in the 16th century.
Tulips were originally cultivated in Turkey and were imported into Western Europe in the 16th century.

Tulips springing up in our borders came from Turkey, were imported by Holland in the early 16th century and from there spread across Western Europe.

Even the old-fashioned favourite, basket-filling begonia is believed to originate from Brazil.

The list goes on. Imagine how boring our gardens would be if we were restricted to only using indigenous plants.

Freedom of movement has led to astonishing diversity which only enhances our lives.

Within the bounds of our plot, there's constant compromise to find workable solutions for the challenges of a site to suit soil type, aspect and shade.

We all share a common goal: to grow, to feed, to nurture, to create something special.

Gardeners have learned to work with species that cross climates and continents. We embrace differences. We welcome all ideas.

Yet every garden retains its own unique identity.

And the plants in our borders know no borders.

Jeanne’s to-do list

Spring clean: It’s time to tidy away winter. Remove dead stalks and leaves from borders and pots. Give roses and clematis (the later-flowering varieties which flower on this year’s growth) a light prune, back to new shoots. Give the lawn it’s first cut and trim lawn edges. Clean out and organise the shed.

Prepare perennials: Gently tug dead stalks on taller perennials (anemones, lupins, grasses). If they don’t come off easily, snip off at the base, carefully so as not to destroy new growth. Don’t leave spiky clumps. Once covered by leaves, you’ll forget about those spikes until next time you reach into the plant! Weed, then add top dressing – first a sprinkle of chicken pellets, or other organic fertiliser, followed by a layer of compost around all plants .

A garden to visit – to see rare plants from around the world

Inverewe Garden, Poolewe, Wester Ross, open daily 9.30am-5pm

Rhododendrons at Inverewe. Photo: Alan Hendry
Rhododendrons at Inverewe. Photo: Alan Hendry

Created on barren land in the 19th century by Osgood Mackenzie, and later his daughter Mairi Sawyer, Inverewe is a plant paradise. Rare and exotic species from around the world thrive on this northern shoreline, thanks to the effect of the Gulf Stream. Different landscape habitats provide ideal conditions for a variety of plants, from alpines, ferns and cottage garden perennials to prehistoric, rare Wollemi pines and giant Californian Redwoods.

Inverewe has a national heritage collection of more than 400 varieties of rhododendron, with species from China, Nepal and India, and the garden will host the Scottish Rhododendron Festival on April 1.

The garden is open all year round. Inverewe House and the Bothy café open on April 1, from 11am-4pm. Osgood’s Café opens from May 1.

Admission: £12.50 adult, £11.50 concession and free to NTS members. www.nts.org.uk

Other gardens to visit:

By arrangement from April 1, Glenkyllachy, Tomatin.

By arrangement from April 1, Aultgowrie Mill, Urray, by Muir of Ord.

By arrangement from April 1, House of Aigas and Field Centre, by Beauly.

By arrangement from April 1, The Lookout, Kilmuir, North Kessock.

By arrangement until March 31, 10 Pilmuir Road West, Forres.

Open daily, Logie House, Dunphail, by Forres.

For more details visit: www.scotlandsgardens.org



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