Emerald Green Ireland

Ireland is an Emerald Isle. I have proof! It is Powerscourt Garden, identified by National Geographic as number three of the Top 10 gardens in the world. Located less than an hour from Dublin, Powerscourt Garden should be on your travel list.

Entering this garden from the grand house you walk onto a pebble terrace defined by ornate gilded railings overlooking a cascading lawn which rolls down to a lake graced by magnificent trees. On the horizon, the Sugar Loaf Mountain peak reaches the sky. Standing there on a misty day was a moment of splendor. There is much more to explore in this 42-acre garden but nothing beyond compares to this view.

Notice the lush green terraces of lawn!

A mild temperate climate and plentiful rainfall creates this lush green amphitheater. Generations of the Wingfield family lavished attention on this estate for over 350 years.  The Estate, 40,000 acres and a castle, was gifted to Richard the First Viscount by the English Queen for his military achievements in defeating the Irish. Richard established the grand Italianate house in 1742 and began the gardens, but the sixth and seventh Viscounts are recognized as the builders of the gardens we see today. 

I’ve never seen a pot with both heads looking the same direction!

Viscount 6 traveled comfortably and widely as he visited Versailles in France, Schunbrunn in Austria, and other grand estates. He collected ideas for his own garden everywhere he went. While traveling, he shopped, buying statues, urns, and custom-made ornate gates. After his early death, his son, Viscount 7, continued to acquire beautiful elements to include in the garden. It’s nice to realize traveling and shopping have always gone together!

Just a few things you can pick up on your travels

In the 1840’s Daniel Robertson, Architect, was hired to design the garden. Robertson was a colorful character who suffered severely from gout, so he was moved about the property in a wheelbarrow as he gave directions.  He tempered his gout pain by drinking sherry throughout the workday, and when the sherry was gone, the workday for him ended.  But his ideas created this remarkable space.

The ground was shaped by hand. Up to 100 men at a time, using shovels and picks, moved the soil. Hauling it off by horse and cart, they shaped the landscape of the grand view we see today.

Pebble Terrace, stones collected by hand

The black and white pebble terrace was inspired by Viscount 6’s trip to Sicily. The mosaics are of 8-pointed stars, circles, and rectangles. These are very small pebbles collected by Irish workers as part of a famine relief program. The terrace is edged by ornate gilded railings.

Part of the gilded railing entering the garden
Perfect lawn, rounded edges, cascading green

This initial view is the grandest moment to savor.  When I could finally tear myself away, I began to descend the wide granite staircase. On each side are symmetrical Italian gardens with parterres, topiary, and urns. The stairs end at the Triton pool. The kneeling fountain sculpture of Triton, (the son of the sea god Poseidon) once shot water 100 feet in the air; its flow is reduced now to release the pressure on the very old fountain sculpture. 

View of the house from below, Triton kneeling in the lake, Twin winged horses at the base of stairs

Walking around the lake you have a marvelous view up the staircase to the commanding presence of the house.  

The garden is a haven of Champion trees, 20 of the best in Britain and Ireland. In the 1800’s it was fashionable to collect exotic trees and North American conifers were especially popular. Powerscourt features the tallest tree in Ireland, a Douglas Fir. The tree stands at 202 ft, (61.5 meters). The 8th Viscount is described as a prodigious planter of trees.

Walkway through the Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden was built in 1908 after Japan opened to Western culture, which generated a fever for the exotic infusion of the Japanese style.  Stone lanterns and bridges provide elements of this style,

Double rock arch, green with moss

but the moss rock work, rugged arches, and waterfalls are clearly Irish elements.

Entry to the walled garden

Today, the walled garden invites you to stroll through deep perennial and annual flower borders. Poppy blooms larger than my hand, in vibrant colors—foliage in purple, silver, and multiple shades of green on both sides. The ornate gilded gates are works of art. The most beautiful gate is here, theBamberg Gate‘ which came from the Cathedral at Bamberg in Germany.

The Bamberg Gate

Sculpture, water features, and Julias Memorial, a calm reflective pond built in honor of the 7th Viscountess by her son indicate this area was a significant aspect of the gardens development.

The grandest Irish waterfall is part of Powerscourt Estate, although it is three miles from the formal gardens.

The waterfall, landscaped and welcoming visitors

The water cascades 398 ft. (121M) down a granite slope. The Viscounts landscaped this area with trees, grasses, and tables, creating a picnic destination. 

Happy together in gardens

As luck would have it, visiting Powerscourt was garden visit # 1000 in my Traveling Gardener adventures. I believe the best way to explore the world is through gardens. Every garden has a story: who the gardener is, how it came to be located here, and what the architecture of the dwelling the garden surrounds reveals of the times. Gardens teach us so much about the world. Gardens are beautiful places to experience.

Waterfall in the Japanese Garden

Recently I discovered a new Lonely Planet travel guide for gardens, The Joy of Exploring Gardens is a terrific book. In the book’s foreword written by Lyanda Lynn Haupt, (nature writer extraordinaire) she wrote: “For a time we are free to dwell, to rest, to dance in a place beyond the ordinary.” This is the truth for me of exploring gardens.  I hope in my writing for Roots & Shoots I have inspired others to seek out gardens when you travel.  For as Haupt also writes: “A garden without a wanderer is a lonely thing, we find joy together.”

NOTES:
From National Geographic The 10 Best of Everything–The Gardens

  1. Château de Versailles, Versailles, France
  2. Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England
  3. Powerscourt Gardens, Enniskerry, County Wicklow, Ireland
  4. Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island, British Columbia
  5. Villa d’Este, Tivoli, Italy
  6. Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C.
  7. Gardens of the Villa Éphrussi de Rothschild, St.-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France
  8. Stourhead, Warminster, England
  9. The Master-of-Nets Garden, Suzhou, China
  10. Sans Souci, Potsdam, Germany         (Ive now been to 1-8 on this list!)

A Viscount is the fourth rank of royal peerage, From Debretts Ranks and Privileges of the Peerage
In order they are:
Duke
Marquess
Earl
Viscount
Baron

The Joy of Exploring Gardens
Lonely Planet
©September 2023

20 thoughts on “Emerald Green Ireland”

  1. What a marvelous tour with all your photos. So different than Arizona! All the wonderful greenery! Thank you for your post.

  2. Those unusual pale pink poppies in your last photo are sublime.
    Congratulations on your 1000th garden!!! Thanks for letting us tag along, without the Irish “mist”.
    Do you have a favorite or two from the eight world-class gardens you list?
    Patti

    1. I think the poppies are called Pandora, a bread poppy . .As for the #1-8, they are all fantastic but maybe Stourhead & Villa Rothschild . . .

  3. These are just beautiful photos. Thank you for taking your reading community along on so many varied adventures. 1000 and counting! What a gift your work is!
    I know there will be more to come.

  4. Another glorious visit this time to the Emerald Isle – well named . Outstanding vista’s , beautiful scenery , historic facts , detailed, inspiring graphic descriptions which enhanced our tour of these stunning gardens at Powerscourt..
    Thank you Linda
    Jan… Surrey UK

  5. Hi Linda,
    Thank you for sharing your visit to the beautiful Powerscourt Garden. Your garden story is interesting and informative, and photos are spectacular. Another fantastic garden to see!

  6. Breath-takingly BEAUTIFUL!! Thank you , so much, Linda-wonderful photography of outstanding gorgeous landscapes/gardens. Thanks again, happy travels, Vangie

  7. I have truly enjoyed all these moments of traveling with you and look forward to many more adventures together.
    Lovingly,
    Rich

    1. May it be so! I have to share this story from my friend Betsy, when she was the host for a former astronaut who was doing a lecture for the honors program at our college, the astronaut told her “Ireland is the only place that is green from space” Isn’t that amazing!

  8. Just beautiful! Lush, cool and green. In Arizona cold indoor air conditioning, I can close my eyes and am almost there!

  9. The photos are outstanding. Congratulations on garden #1000. You have brought us traveling with you. Thank you.
    Eileen

  10. 1,000! That is indeed an accomplishment! I saw some beautiful gardens on my trip to Ireland years ago but not this one, really enjoyed your photos. Thanks & congrats, keep it up!

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