The Golden Age of gardening at Powis

A view across the garden with Long Mountain in the background. Powis Castle and Garden, Powys, Wales

In the early 1800s, Powis passed first to the son, then the grandson of Robert Clive, the man who brought India into the British Empire. In their hands the garden was returned to ‘the most complete and perfect state of repair’.

Informality unfolds

Contemporary perfection required a softer, looser style throughout the garden. By 1809, the Dutch water garden had been removed in favour of a simple lawn where deer grazed to the bottom of the terraces. 
On the lower grassy terraces, small trees and shrubs flourished. On the upper more formal terraces, the once intricately clipped yews were allowed to become informal small trees. The wall-trained fruit trees were removed and replaced with creepers which grew up the walls of the Castle.
The geometry of the Italianate design was replaced by naturalistic shapes.

Lady Violet’s creation

The garden passed through the rest of the 19th century with no major changes, until it found a new enthusiast in Lady Violet (1865–1929), wife of the 4th Earl of Powis.
Lady Violet Lane-Fox, 16th Baroness Darcy of Nayth, Countess of Powis (1865-1929) by John Singer Sargent,
Lady Violet Ida Evelyn Lane-Fox, 16th Baroness Darcy of Nayth, Countess of Powis (1865-1929) by John Singer Sargent,
Her great-grandfather had been a Lane-Fox of Bramham Park, Yorkshire, a gardening dynasty that continues to this day. Still in her forties, she persuaded the Earl to let her manage and improve the garden.

Relocation, relocation

Violet’s most pressing problem was that several of the tall elms that formed the fourth, eastern ‘wall’ around the garden had fallen, and the last remaining trees had to be removed. This meant the unsightly, walled kitchen garden and glasshouses were now in full view from the Castle. 

Violet relocated the entire kitchen garden, glasshouses and all, to a new position behind the Wilderness ridge. On its empty footprint she made a new Formal Garden, suitable for large social occasions or children’s play.

Violet's Formal Garden

The Formal Garden became part of the view from the Castle and was typically Edwardian, comprising of flat open spaces set within walls and hedges. There was room for prettiness in flower borders and blossoming fruit trees which still stand today. 
The Formal Garden at Powis Castle and Garden
A view of the castle taken from the formal garden. Powis Castle and Garden, Powys, Wales

As well as making these changes, Violet set to work enriching the planting on the terraces with new varieties of shrubs and perennials, in her attempt to make Powis ‘one of the most beautiful gardens in Wales and England’.

Preservation and beyond

The garden remained unchanged after Lady Violet’s death in 1929, until 1952, when Powis Castle passed into the care of the National Trust. 
Since then, we've continued to pursue her ambitions for the garden whilst preserving its many-layered historic structure.