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PICTURES: Celebrated Wester Ross attraction Inverewe Garden invites visitors to meet non-native 'invaders' and discover the fascinating response of National Trust for Scotland experts


By Hector MacKenzie

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Gareth Parkinson: "Some plants like it here so much that they start to spread which can cause a problem for our native species and habitats."
Gareth Parkinson: "Some plants like it here so much that they start to spread which can cause a problem for our native species and habitats."

THE National Trust for Scotland's most northerly heritage garden is inviting people to come and meet the invasive non-native species (INNS).

Inverewe Garden will highlight the work it is doing to limit the spread of invasives during Great Britain INNS Week, which runs from Tuesday to Sunday.

It's an annual national event which aims to raise awareness of the impact such species can have on the environment. Japanese knotweed, rhododendron ponticum, Asian skunk cabbage and crocosmia are all examples of invasive non-native species.

The rhododendron ponticum looks pretty but can be a real problem.
The rhododendron ponticum looks pretty but can be a real problem.

While they look attractive, the plants are prone to be over-competitive and proliferate, to the detriment of native species and wildlife.

Gareth Parkinson, INNS Ranger at the Trust's Wester Ross property, said: "Inverewe is full of amazing plants from all over the world, many from places with a very similar climate and conditions. However, some plants like it here so much that they start to spread which can cause a problem for our native species and habitats."

During GB INNS Week, Inverewe is holding a series of events including demonstrations and guided walks, to show the simple things that everyone can do to prevent the spread of these non-native invasive plants.

On Tuesday, Gareth will invite visitors to meet the INNS, around the Inverewe House area, and hear what the Trust is doing to monitor and control them. One innovative method being used by the gardening team is converting invasive species waste into fertiliser by burning it in a special kiln, an Exeter Retort, to make biochar.

The retort will be on display, along with interactive activities for all ages.

The burn process under way.
The burn process under way.

On Wednesday, people will be able to see the kiln in action when it is loaded ready for a big "burn" on Thursday to make the ground-improving biochar. Gareth will lead guided walks on Friday – these one-hour walks are being held at 10.30am, 1pm and 3pm.

Visitors are asked to register their interest on the Trust’s website nts.org.uk/inverewe and go to ‘events’. Also, on Saturday visitors can see first-hand and learn about a wide range of invasive plants including Tasmannia, Pernettya, Gaultheria and Griselinia.

Going for the burn!
Going for the burn!

The Inverewe gardening team are turning the threat from invasive species, such as rhododendron ponticum, into a valuable and environmentally friendly opportunity. Inverewe is using a specialised form of charcoal making called Biochar and spreading this onto the garden to help restore the soil life and health of the areas of the woodland that have been cleared of invasive non-native species.

A single gram of Biochar can cover an area up to several football pitches. This biochar plant booster is exclusively on offer at the Inverewe Visitor Centre.

It is seen as a wonderful way of turning an environmental problem into a solution which could benefit gardens everywhere.

The end product is regarded as hugely beneficial and is on sale at Inverewe.
The end product is regarded as hugely beneficial and is on sale at Inverewe.

The National Trust for Scotland has been tackling the spread of the invasive plant species rhododendron ponticum at a number of its places across Scotland including in the North West, as part of Project Wipeout. Funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the project aims to eradicate invasive plants, including Japanese Knotweed, American Skunk Cabbage and Rhododendron ponticum, at a number of its sites across Scotland, giving native flora the chance to thrive.

For more information about Inverewe Garden and to register your interest in the Friday walks, go to

www.nts.org.uk/inverewe and click on ‘events’


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