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