I see velvet lawns

Powis Castle, with its terraced gardens below. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

One of the reasons why we were keen to acquire the Sargent drawing I mentioned last week is that the sitter, Violet, Countess of Powis, played an important role in revitalizing the gardens at Powis Castle in the Edwardian period.

Violet, Countess of Powis, by Ellis Roberts. ©NTPL/John Hammond/Powis Estate Trustees

There was another portret of her already on show at Powis Castle, by Ellis Roberts, but that depicts her in the 1880s. The Sargent, which was done in 1912, by contrast, is from the time she had just started taking the garden in hand.

View from the terraces. The Edwardian gardens created by Lady Powis can be seen in the middle distance. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

She enriched the planting on the terraces below the castle, which frame the building and provide myriad views into the surrounding landscape.

The Fountain Garden, one of gardens created by Lady Powis. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

Lady Powis also made a series of entirely new gardens, on the site of the decayed eighteenth-century kitchen garden. Like an archetypal designer she exclaimed grandly ‘I see velvet lawns and wide paths: rose gardens – fountains – clipped yews – marble seats – herbaceous borders’ – and her vision became reality.

The wyvern-topped gate commissioned by Lady Powis in 1912. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

Despite their Edwardian grandeur, the new gardens were intended to fit into the overall Baroque setting at Powis Castle. Lady Powis also commissioned new Baroque-style gates from architect G.F. Bodley. Today the gardens are a major part of Powis Castle’s appeal.

9 Responses to “I see velvet lawns”

  1. Blue Says:

    I see velvet lawns
    I see trees of green, red roses too
    I see them bloom for me and you
    And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist!

    Wonderful gardens, though.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Personally, when I read the phrase “I see velvet lawns…” I was reminded of the grand editor Maggie Prescott (based I think on Diana Vreeland) in the film ‘Funny Face’ :)

  3. CherryPie Says:

    The gardens at Powis are one of my favourites. I love to see them in the different seasons.

  4. Jim of Olym Says:

    What would not be nice as kitchen gardens near the castle, so that they could grow their own food?

    so much for aristocracy!
    Jimof Olym, were we have farms that grow crops for us locallly.

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Well, gardening fashions change over time. These days at many National Trust historic houses the kitchen gardens have been taken back into production. But equally we want to cherish grand Edwardian garden additions, if they add to the overall value of a place.

  6. Barbara Says:

    One of my favorite destinations. The gardens simply caress human visitors.

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes, it is fascinating to think of gardens as living works of art: created by someone, or a succession of people, out of living material, which then continues to change gradually.

  8. columnist Says:

    You can’t really imagine Lady Powis actually lifting a trowel. I wonder how she communicated her vision, and how many people were involved in the drawing design, execution etc. She may of course have posessed unearthly powers, (pun intended)!

  9. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Columnist, I will ask the colleagues at Powis if they know about exactly how it was done – it probably involved a head gardener plus lots of other gardeners, as you would expect.

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