Powerscourt Estate HIstory
The gardens and grand Palladian villa at Powerscourt, south of Dublin, feature 47 acres of formal gardens and a shaded lake. The grounds, waterfalls, parks, garden pavilions, and fine tree-lined arbors were influenced by the Italian Renaissance and the grand estates of France and Germany. Cascading terraces and formal landscapes are planned with carefully designed walks, all framed by the gentle beauty of the Wicklow and Sugar Loaf Mountains.
Viscount Powerscourt is a title that has been created three times in the Peerage of Ireland, each time for members of the Wingfield family. It was created first in 1618 for the Chief Governor of Ireland, Richard Wingfield. Since the 18th century, the splendour and beauty of Powerscourt Gardens is due to the imagination and hard work of many generations of the Wingfield family. In 1961 the gardens passed to the Slazenger family, under whose aegis they have received much care and attention.
The house was rebuilt in the decade after 1731 and the surrounding grounds were also remodelled. The design reflected the desire to create a garden which was part of the wider landscape. A century later the 6th Viscount Powerscourt instructed his architect, Daniel Robertson, to draw up new schemes for the gardens. Robertson was one of the leading proponents of Italianate garden design which was influenced by the terraces and formal features of Italian Renaissance villas and perfected in gardens in France and Germany.
The death of the 6th Viscount in 1844 meant that alterations to the gardens ceased until his son resumed the work in the late 1850s. Using a combination of Robertson’s designs and the plans of the other landscape experts, the terraces were completed, enormous numbers and varieties of trees were planted and the ground adorned with an amazing collection of statuary, ironwork and other decorative items. By the time of his death in 1904, the 7th Viscount had transformed the estate. Further generations of the Wingfields maintained the grounds, adding the Japanese Gardens, Pepper Pot Tower and continuing to plant specimen trees.
The Italian Gardens
The Italian Gardens offer one of Ireland’s most dramatic vistas, as well as some of its best landscaping and design. Originally designed by architect Daniel Robertson in the mid-19th century, the exquisite terraces link the house to Triton Lake. The upper stone terrace was inspired by the Villa Rutera in Sicily. The dramatic lake itself features a fountain based on the one in the Piazza Barberini in Rome, plus two stunning, life-sized winged horse statues. The horses form part of the family coat of arms.
The Japanese Garden
A peaceful and tranquil oriental garden, the Japanese Garden was laid out over 100 years ago in 1908 by the 8th Viscount and Viscountess Powerscourt. It rests on reclaimed bogland just to the south of Triton Lake. The garden is particularly stunning in the spring, when the azaleas are in full bloom and their elegant blossoms perfume the air, and autumn, which brings out the vibrant sunset hues of the Japanese maple tree leaves. There are winding paths that eventually bring visitors to the centre of the garden, the innermost of three circles, which features a pagoda and a stream with picturesque Japanese bridges. The upper circle is the best place to get a full view of the Japanese Garden, plus in the distance one can see the Sugar Loaf Mountains.
Next to the Japanese Garden is one of the oldest features of Powerscourt gardens, The Grotto. It is a picturesque and elaborate system of caverns and secret pathways, dating from the 1st Viscount’s garden in 1740. This is a perfect place to sneak off to with your partner, as an air of 18th century romance still pervades the atmosphere.
This is the third of an extensive series of posts on the best gardens in the world, with the first covering the classical Master of the Nets Garden (网师园), in Suzhou, China, followed be an overview of Sanssouci in Germany. Please return next Monday for a look at the dazzling Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.