Green gardening at Powis Castle
Now generating more energy than it uses, the Powis Castle estate which we look after in Wales, could be home to one of the first energy self-sufficient nurseries in Britain.
Hidden behind the Lady Violet tea room, where visitors can reflect on the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ cartoon-perfect roses, borders and gargantuan hedges, lives a very special nursery.
Restored glasshouses dating back to the pre-1900s are not only home to rows of roses, fuchsias and a yet-to-be-named astrantia, they are also kitted out with a host of green measures.
How green does your garden grow?
Just beyond the glasshouses a previously unused field has been transformed into a useful green hub. In one corner a ground source heat pump generates 90 per cent of the heat needed for the nursery.
Nestled into a banked area, a 50kw solar PV system generates enough electricity for the nursery’s needs – plus extra that we can sell to renewable electricity company Good Energy, via the grid.
Nearby an orchard is being cultivated and ‘green’ tea is even being poured at the Lady Violet tea room, which is powered by solar and air source heat technology. Further eco-friendly measures include capillary mats to feed thirsty plants from onsite borehole water and a reed bed system for treating the leachate from the large garden compost area.
Benefits of a ground source heat pump
Gardener Ben Thomas said the ground source heat pump had revolutionised the nursery – not only because it meant they were no longer dependent on expensive, energy draining electric heaters but because it was healthier for the plants.
‘Before, the air distribution and air movement was really poor - it was just pockets here there and everywhere,’ he said.
‘Now we have long pipes with holes drilled along the length of them, so the air is better distributed. As it blows out, it moves the plants back and forth which drives off moisture so they don’t rot. It also toughens the stem because it strengthens itself to cope with that movement, so you can make more stocky plants that don’t get flattened by the wind and rain as soon as they get out in the garden.’
Money doesn’t grow on trees
In total around £150,000 has been spent on green measures at the Powis Castle, but the team is confident it has been a worthwhile investment - energy use has been reduced by almost two-thirds and with the money they are making by selling excess electricity to our energy partner Good Energy, they expect to see a payback in seven years.
Powis Castle's carbon neutral nursery features in an upcoming green gardens and parks video aimed at boosting environmental standards across our 200 garden and parks.