A tropical garden in northern Scotland

Really. Inverewe Gardens has a plant collection from around the world.

Inverewe Garden near Poolewe, Scotland is about 40 acres of mostly woodland gardens in north western Scotland. Between two lochs. Where it’s windy. And cool. Year round.

As a matter of fact, summer in this remote part of the world averages a high of 62º during the peak summer months of July and August. What I believe their secret to their worldwide collection of plants is that it rarely freezes there. The average low temperatures of the year, December through March, is 38º. Here in Buffalo, we’d kill to only get down to 38º in for those months!  They can thank the Gulf Stream for the moderate weather.

Gunnera. I believe it’s the first time I ever saw on in person. It’s ginormous.

The 2,100-acre garden in Poolewe, Wester Ross, was created in 1862 by Osgood Mackenzie. In 1952, Osgood’s daughter, Mairi Sawyer turned the gardens over to the National Trust for Scotland.

It has a world-class rhododendron collection along with an annual Erythronium Festival. If we ever had the chance to go back for a visit, it would surely be during the rhododendron’s blooming, which they report starts in January, and goes throughout much of the year (but not in in October when we were there).

And California Redwoods. It has towering redwoods. There’s a beautiful (and large) walled garden with many vegetables grown.

The meandering woodland paths are divided into the countries from which the plants came – China, Nepal, India, America, and great plants like Himalayan Poppies and Tasmanian eucalyptus, as well as the world’s most rarefied tree – a formal-believed-to-be prehistoric tree only discovered in 1994 – the Wollemi Pine from Australia.


The pots were filled with seeds you could take home. I LOVE this place!
Free seeds!

The Mackenzie/Sawyer home is there and is now an interpretation center about the family and the gardens. One of the best features were the free seeds to be taken home from the plants in the garden. In Buffalo they’re all annuals, so I’ll plant them in the spring. I took Corn Cockle, Cornflower, Filed Poppies, Teasel, Red Campion, Foxglove, and Corn Marigold.


I’d love to say that I’d be back there someday, but it is a trip! Out of Inverness, it was about one-and-a-half hours by car – through some very small towns and at times, desolate highland landscapes. The sort of place you’d want to go with a full tank of gas!

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And I loved this donor recognition tree at the entrance to the gardens. In the nearly constant wind right on the loch, it made quite the racket.

Jim Charlier is an advertising designer/photographer/crafter with a serious gardening problem. He's co-written a garden design book featuring the funky, quirky and fun gardens by the gardeners of Buffalo titled "Buffalo-Style Gardens: Create a Quirky, One-of-a-Kind Private Garden with Eye-Catching Designs" (; he writes a long-standing garden blog (; led the largest garden tour in America, Garden Walk Buffalo; has written for, or provided photography for dozens of magazines and books; has made presentations and participated in panel discussions on garden design and garden tourism nationally and internationally.

4 comments on “A tropical garden in northern Scotland

  1. Jane Humphreys

    I’m inspired! I want to go. How ever do you find these places Jim?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Intensive hours of deep research, searching historical garden texts, studying detailed maps and accounts of garden travelers, and utilizing scores of assistants and associates worldwide. But this time by Googling “Scottish gardens”.


  2. Beautiful, but never reaching the 80’s? No thanks.


    • Yeah, I need me some temps in the 80s to let me know I’m alive. I could do without the weeks on end of below freezing temps where I am though.


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