Website technical difficulties
See all stories
25 Aug 2023

The PLANTS project at Inveresk Lodge Garden

Written by Alistair Chalmers, PLANTS Inventory Team Manager
Alistair and Charlotte at Inveresk Lodge Garden
The PLANTS project team for Edinburgh & East came on board in April 2023. In this blog, Alistair shares a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the team’s first audit at Inveresk Lodge Garden.

The PLANTS East Inventory Officer Charlotte and I began working for the PLANTS project in April of this year. It’s been wonderful to have the knowledge and tips gained over the last year on how to audit gardens be shared by the wider team, as well as seeing how the Edinburgh & East garden management and gardeners have embraced, encouraged and engaged with us. After a short induction, we joined the PLANTS project west team to learn the mechanics of executing a plant audit and we found the experience and advice we received invaluable. Jennifer, the PLANTS west team manager, informed us that every garden is different with its own character. How true that is – each garden throwing up its own challenges but revealing treasures to excite and delight.

Our first garden was Inveresk Lodge, a tranquil garden on the edge of Musselburgh. Inveresk Lodge Garden was acquired by the National Trust for Scotland in 1958. It was extensively redesigned and planted with a collection of specimens which had received an RHS Award of Garden Merit – in other words, ‘the best’ – with plants such as Berberis x lologensis ‘Apricot Queen’; in full flower, it is easy to see why it received the award.

There were treasures to be found in every part of the garden. Acacia pravissima, a plant native to Victoria and New South Wales, Australia, which I would have considered too tender to grow outdoors in the east of Scotland. But there it was growing quite happily at Inveresk. In another part of the garden stands a magnificent walnut tree, Juglans regia, the most important commercial species. This species can be distinguished from the other commonly grown species Juglans nigra by its shorter leaves with fewer, rounder leaflets with a prominent terminal leaflet. In Juglans nigra the terminal leaflet is small or absent. While we were there, we were privileged to watch a swarm of bees land on the tree and disappear into a hole in the trunk to create a new nest.

Visitors to the garden were very interested in the work we were doing and asked us many questions. We even had a visit from our own chairman, Sir Mark Jones. It’s been amazing to be able to benefit from the work undertaken by Garden and Designed Landscape Manager for the region, Colin Wren, whose passion and expertise in record management and plant identification have been enlightening. It’s also been encouraging to see the gardeners of each property we visit share their own in-depth understanding of their own plant collections. This working in tandem is important, because when the PLANTS project finish auditing and data processing we will hand over responsibility for this data to the gardeners and, going forward, they will keep the records up to date. At Inveresk, Head Gardener Gary Jenson was always on hand with help and hospitality. We even benefited with the knowledge of the gardeners from Newhailes and Malleny who came over for a day to help with some important work in the garden.

The weather was for the most part very good, however one day it poured with rain. This was the excuse I had been waiting for to audit the recently renovated lean-to glasshouse. There were many fine specimens of tender plants, including an extensive collection of Pelargoniums.

Overall, for our first audit we couldn’t have asked for anything better – a beautiful garden with a wonderful atmosphere and plant collection. Charlotte and I are very much looking forward to revisiting Inveresk next season to capture seasonal plants which we could not see at the time to complete the audit. In the meantime, we continue to process the data we have recorded and look forward to the next garden.

Plant Listing at the National Trust for Scotland (PLANTS) is the biggest horticultural audit project undertaken by the Trust and aims to celebrate, protect and better understand the flora and vegetation across our gardens and designed landscapes.

Read more about the PLANTS project

Explore Inveresk Lodge Garden

Visit now