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1 Aug 2017

Meet James Hannaford from award-winning Inverewe

A man stands beside a railing at the edge of a path, above a terraced garden which drops to a loch. Mountains can be seen in the distance. He wears a blue shirt tucked into brown trousers, and rests his left hand in his pocket as he smiles towards the camera.
James Hannaford
James has been at Inverewe for the last 15 years. He started work as an apprentice in his native Aberdeenshire, spending four years with the MacRobert Trust.

After a short spell in commercial landscaping, James joined the National Trust for Scotland at Castle Fraser and then moved to Inverewe in 2002. As First Gardener, he now leads a team of up to 7 gardeners at the height of the season.

In his role at Inverewe he has been involved in many aspects of the garden’s development – including landscaping, drainage, upgrading paths, replanting, large-scale removal of old plants, and renovating ponds – and he has worked to maintain and develop the 150-year-old walled garden.

James says: ‘There is no part of this 54-acre garden that I have not worked on over the years! Because of our mild, mainly frost-free climate, we grow exotic plants from around the world, including rare Wollemi pines, Himalayan blue poppies, daisy bushes from New Zealand, Tasmanian eucalyptus, and rhododendrons from China, Nepal and India. I have learned so much over the years and am now able to pass this knowledge on to our apprentices.’

He continues: ‘I love the variety of work and the challenges that it brings. There is a wide range of people with whom I interact during the week including other staff, contractors and, of course, the all-important visitors to this Trust garden. This is a role that I thoroughly enjoy; I gain a lot of job satisfaction from it as I can “make it happen”. Further down the line, I would like to be a Head Gardener, but maybe in a smaller place than Inverewe!’

James has a few top gardening tips that have certainly helped him to succeed over the years:

  1. Always plan by 2–3 months to maximise efficiency.
  2. Before sowing or planting out, make sure your ground is well prepared and well fertilised.
  3. Make sure your greenhouse is emptied once a year and well cleaned.

Inverewe has been awarded the prestigious title of UK Garden of the Year 2017 by BBC Countryfile Magazine, which is testament to the hard work of James and the other members of this world-class gardening team.