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15 Sept 2020

Treasured memories on Inverewe’s Giving Tree

Written by Jacky Brookes
A young woman stands beside a metal sculpture of a willow tree, lightly holding one of the leaves. She is wearing a bright blue hoodie and black trousers. A blue hydrangea is in flower behind her.
Kirsten Finnie recently visited Inverewe Garden to see the special leaf in memory of her mum Alison.
There are many opportunities to support the essential conservation work of the Trust in a way that is special to you. Here is the story behind one family’s kind donation.

From boxing the Hill House to turning the water wheel at Preston Mill once more, over the years we’ve launched many successful appeals to help raise funds for where our conservation need is greatest. Back in 2014, one such appeal was our Inverewe ‘Giving Tree’ project, which helped raise funds to restore our vital shelterbelt of trees at the Trust’s most northerly heritage garden.

Originally planted during the 19th century by Osgood Mackenzie, Inverewe Garden contains species from across the globe. The important shelterbelt of trees was one of the first things planted by Osgood Mackenzie to provide much-needed shelter for the wealth of species – the shelterbelt is key to the garden’s survival in such a weather-challenged environment!

The Giving Tree project was the idea of Head Gardener Kevin Ball in 2014. The approach was simple: people could buy a leaf to be engraved with a special message and it was then displayed on the sculpture of a willow tree. The Giving Tree and its leaves were made by Edinburgh-based Ratho Byres Forge, an artist blacksmith. Money raised by the project went towards trees, tools and equipment for the shelterbelt restoration.

A close-up of a metal leaf, attached to a sculpture of a tree. The leaf has an engraving upon it, reading: In loving memory of our daughter | Alison | Eric & Laraine McCrostie
A special leaf on the Giving Tree

Kirsten Finnie’s grandparents made a very kind donation, and Kirsten recently visited Inverewe Garden with her partner to find the Giving Tree and see for herself the leaf in memory of her mum Alison. She takes on the story:

‘When the National Trust for Scotland put out an appeal for funding for the tree of remembrance, my grandparents chose to donate a leaf in memory of their daughter – my mother Alison. My partner and I took a trip up to see the leaf recently, and when we asked for help locating the leaf, I was asked if I would like to share the story. I spoke to my grandparents, who thought this was a great thing to do not only for Inverewe Garden but also in memory of my mother.

‘Shortly before her passing from leukaemia, my mum planted a cherry blossom tree with help from myself (aged 5 at the time), my sister Lauren (aged 8 at the time) and my dad. When the appeal came out years later from Inverewe, my grandparents thought it would be a fitting tribute to my mum, as well as supporting Scotland and all that it has to offer.’

An older photograph of a mum and her two young daughters standing beside a newly planted tree in a garden. It is dusk and all three are wearing warm coats. The trunk of the tree has a red bow tied around it. A slide and climbing frame can be seen in the background.
Kirsten planting the cherry tree with her mum and sister

‘Inverewe Garden’s Giving Tree has been a wonderful thing for the family. Last year my grandparents decided to explore the NC500. They made a special stop to see their leaf, which gave them the opportunity to remember their daughter. When asked if there was anything my gramps wanted included in this story, he said to say just how much he loved the tinkling sound the tree makes; he said it was beautiful.’

The tinkling leaves of the Giving Tree at Inverewe Garden

‘This year, now aged 27, I wanted to go and visit the tree. It was heart-warming knowing that my grandparents had visited already, and I took a photograph with the leaf to match theirs. I Facetimed my sister whilst there and we shared a special moment. I particularly enjoyed spending time in the gardens after seeing the leaf. My partner and I sat in the wooden gazebo above the loch with a coffee, sharing stories and remembering what an incredible woman my mother was. We even had a special encounter with a little robin. I know that I can go back any time, and my sister and I are planning to take a trip with her children in memory of their special gran.’

We realise what a special visit this was for Kirsten, and we were so pleased she was able to see the leaf dedicated to the memory of her mum. Kirsten’s family’s kind donation was so important to us, giving us much-needed support to ensure the survival and continued protection of Inverewe’s precious shelterbelt.

Although the specific Giving Tree project has now ended, donations to the Trust remain an incredibly important source of support, enabling us to undertake vital conservation work. The coronavirus pandemic has left the Trust with a £30 million loss in essential income, and our current fundraising appeal hopes to raise a minimum of £2.5 million to ensure the continued protection of the treasured properties and cultural heritage in our care.

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