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Meet James Hannaford from Inverewe

June 30th 2017

Meet James Hannaford, First Gardener at award winning NTS Inverewe set amongst the rugged landscape of Wester Ross in the North West Highlands of Scotland. At 58˚ north and on the same latitude as Labrador and St Petersburg, Inverewe has been described as ‘an exotic paradise’ with plants from around the world flourishing in the mild climate warmed by the Gulf Stream.

James has been at Inverewe for the last 15 years. He started his working life as an apprentice in his native Aberdeenshire for four years with the MacRobert Trust, spent a short time in commercial landscaping but then joined the NTS at Castle Fraser moving to Inverewe in 2002.  As Assistant Head Gardener, he is now leading a team of five gardeners and up to seven at the height of the season.

In his role at Inverewe he has been involved in many and varied aspects of the gardens development – landscaping, drainage throughout the garden, upgrading paths, replanting, large scale removal of old plants, renovating small and large ponds – and working to maintain and develop the 150-year-old original Walled Garden.

Says James: ‘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 such a great deal over the years and am now able to pass this knowledge on to our apprentices.

Continues James: ‘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 visitor to this NTS garden. This is a role that I thoroughly enjoy, I gain a lot of job satisfaction from it and experience fulfilment in this role as I can ‘make it happen’. Adds James, ‘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 tips for readers:

  1. Always plan by 2-3 months to maximise efficiency.
  2. Before sewing or planting out, make sure your ground is well prepared and well fertilised.
  3. And finally, a good greenhouse tip – always make sure your greenhouse is emptied once a year and well cleaned.

He has always put these tips into action throughout his working life and these certainly have helped him to succeed over the years in his role as First Gardener.

NTS Inverewe has just been awarded the title of  UK’s Garden of the Year 2017 by BBC Countryfile Magazine, which is testament to the hard work of James and other members of this world class gardening team. For more information about world famous Inverewe, it newly renovated House, inspirational Sawyer Art Gallery, 2000-acre Highland estate and exciting 2017 Events Programme, go to