QBARS - v13n4 Inverewe 1958

Inverewe 1958
by J. M. Cowan, Edinburgh, Scotland

About six years ago, when Inverewe garden was offered by the late Mrs. Sawyer to the Trust, some doubt was expressed as to the wisdom of accepting a gift which was likely to be enjoyed by few people, because Wester Ross is remote and the number of visitors in a year had, till then, never exceeded 800. Yet there need have been no dubiety, for in the hands of the Trust the number immediately rose to 3,000 in 1953, and by continued progression to 34,046 in the present year. Indeed, Inverewe has now been described as "one of the major tourist attractions in Scotland," and in a recently published guide to Easter and Wester Ross, travelers are warned that "no journey to the north would be complete were a visit omitted from the itinerary."

Last year it was observed in these notes that, as the place becomes more widely known, more and more visitors are coming in the months of May and June when the gardens are at their best, and this was again borne out by the figures for the present year; indeed the numbers for June 1958 exceeded those for August of the previous year. It is interesting to compare the monthly statistics which are given below:

Monthly Admission 1957 1958
January-March 5 56
April 615 735
May 1,788 3,300
June 4,814 7,821
July 6,741 8,559
August 7,140 8,903
September 3,415 4,194
October 441 478
25,004 34,046

One point which is at once obvious is that the raising of the cost of admission from 2/- to 2/6d had no adverse effect, for, as may be seen, the total for 1958 is more than 9,000 above that of the previous year.

Day to day figures cannot be given but they show that the number of visitors to be expected on any particular day is quite unpredictable. Whether it be wet or fair is no criterion. It cannot, for example, be explained why August 14th should have been the most popular of all days; the weather was not exceptionally fine, yet on this date 526 visitors were admitted, about 200 more than on any one day at any other time. Or again, though in very wet and stormy weather we should naturally expect fewer visitors than usual, on September 11th, one of the wettest and wildest days of the whole season, no less than 111 visitors duly paid for admission.

Furthermore, it is worthy of remark, that in spite of the great increase in numbers the garden was never unpleasantly crowded. Although immediately after lunch groups often lingered on the lawn in front of the house, because with the herbaceous border in the background on the one hand, and with the sea and the distant hills of Ardlair on the other, this is a very favorite vantage point from which to take photographs, they were soon dispersed throughout the policies. The 25,000th visitor was a lady from France who was delighted to receive a copy of "100 Years in the Highlands" as a memento of her visit.

As to visitors from overseas, 1132 signed the book (an increase of 93) and, as shown by the map which they flag to indicate their places of origin, they had come, as in previous years, from as far apart as Finland and Iceland in the north to the Falkland Islands in the south, and from San Francisco in the west to Tokyo in the east. In the overseas visitors book 62 countries are represented with the United States of America (218) and Australia (194) again leading, followed by Canada (102) and New Zealand (85). Noteworthy too, was the fact that among those from overseas as well as those from at home, many were anxious to remark that they had returned to pay a second or third visit to the garden and to comment upon the never failing beauty and wonderful setting of the garden, which in their absence, seemed to have become even more lovely than before.

Included in the total figure are members of the Trust who are admitted free; and taking the National Trust and National Trust for Scotland together they numbered 2,710 which is nearly 1,000 more than in the previous year. The number of new members enrolled was 209 Annual, 106 Family, 2 Life and 1 Corporate, a total (counting Family Members as 2) of 470.

It was pleasing to observe that many more associations, such as Women's Guilds, branches of the W.R.I. and of the N.F.U., the staffs of industrial firms, from Inverness and further a field, had chosen Inverewe as the objective of their annual outing, and after lunch in the restaurant they spent an hour or two happily in the garden.

The Weather

Elsewhere throughout most of the British Isles 1958 will be remembered as the wettest summer for many years, with severe flooding in many places. Inverewe, on the contrary, had a rainfall well below the average; in June moreover the garden suffered a severe drought. For the year the total rain fall was 51.70 inches against an average of about 60 inches per annum. The highest temperature, 85°F, was recorded on 2nd July, the lowest 21°F, on 6th February; however, there was seldom more than 5°-6° of frost. The occasional gales which occurred in summer as in winter were not unduly severe and no trees were blown down. Records of temperature and rainfall are kept and the monthly rainfall figures are as follows:

January 6.24 July 2.41
February 5.35 August 4.19
March 3.36 September 3.22
April 4.08 October 7.01
May 6.28 November 2.98
June 1.51 December 5.07

The Garden

Although there was an unusual dearth of colour until the early days of April, from then onwards at any time until the middle of November visitors were able to enjoy a magnificent and almost continuous display. A cold spell retarded early flowering rhododendron species, but 1958 will be remembered as an exceptionally good rhododendron year. Some of the later hybrids and many azaleas were still in bloom towards the end of July. In parts of the garden where watering is impracticable the luscious growth of primula and meconopsis was somewhat restricted by drought in May and June, but the massed plantings were colorful, impressive and much admired. The rock garden, which had been largely replanted was full of interest and colour especially in May and June, and the herbaceous border, at its best in July and August and more varied than before, was the focal point of interest for gardeners and photographers alike, when most rhododendrons were over. Many shrubs flowered profusely throughout the season and throughout the garden. Magnolia sieboldii might perhaps be regarded as the outstanding plant of the year, although choice is difficult. Magnolia campbellii , which flowered so freely the previous spring did not have a single flower this year. In July, August and September lilies, particularly Lilium gigantenm , and L. auratum and some of the de Graff hybrids (especially 'Destiny' and 'Enchantment') were a noteworthy feature. In late August the large Eucryphia glutinosa was smothered with bloom behind a mass of Hydrangeas of intense blue, which were still colorful in December. Heaths and heathers bloomed throughout the season. The year 1958 will be remembered also as an exceptional one for autumn colour-the yellow of birch and poplar, the rich russet red of azaleas and of rowans (the common rowan as well as Chinese and Japanese species) and the large red and yellow leaves of the peltate saxifrage were the delight of visitors who came late in the season. Sorbus vilmorinii and Rosa moyesii were heavily laden with fruit. It has been said that there is always something of interest at Inverewe. A census taken in the last week of December provided evidence that plants of more than fifty different species were then in flower; they had at least some bloom upon them at that time.