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Powerscourt Gardens Slideshow

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Slideshow: Powerscourt Gardens
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Wherever I travel, great garden visits top my list of must-do activities. My family spent a week in Ireland last summer. While our kids attended a Metallica concert in Dublin, my husband and I enjoyed a peaceful afternoon at Powerscourt Gardens about 30 minutes away. This magnificent estate is nestled in the Wicklow Mountains just south of Dublin and dates back to the 12th century.

I find inspiration in estate gardens and appreciate the design and engineering required to envision and construct them. At Powerscourt, the designers used Sugar Loaf Mountain as the focal point from the upper terrace and house. The concept of borrowing the surrounding landscape is an old one and well used in this garden. The carefully designed the formal gardens spread out below the terrace before blending into the farm fields and mountains beyond their borders.

The central Italian Garden sweeps down from the house in a series of terraces to the man-made lake near the bottom of the slope. Plants in this formal, symmetrically designed space serve only to add blocks of color and texture. The manicured turf frames the wide walkway and intricately patterned steps and terrace paving. Surrounding the garden, groves of huge trees, many of them rare species from around the world, soften the transition from this formal space to other gardens and natural landscape.

The walled gardens nearby predate the Italian garden and have a much less formal atmosphere. Deep perennial borders lie between the decorative gates, encroaching upon and softening the wide gravel path. Unlike the more formal areas, plants are the feature here. I loved the swaths of color and texture and happy plant combinations in this garden. Although large in area, the ancient brick walls give a feeling of privacy.

At the other side of the lower garden, the Japanese Garden, begun in 1908, symbolizes the transition from the outer, public world to our inner selves. Increasingly narrow paths lead from the open lawn and formal azalea borders of the outer landscape down into the damp grottos and closely planted inner garden. Bridges span the winding brook that bubbles and falls between moss-covered rocks and Japanese maples. Ferns grow from the towering ledges.

The most familial part of the Powerscourt Garden is the Pets’ Cemetery tucked into the trees near the bottom of the Italian Garden. Formal headstones with fond epitaphs mark the resting places of family dogs, horses and even a cow. This intimate place is a quiet reminder of those who lived here and shaped the land over the past 700 years.

Ann Whitman
Green Goods Supervisor, Gardener’s Supply