Seeing the wood for the trees at Powis Castle

A guided walk around the gardens of Powis Castle (Welshpool) ,in the company of the Head Gardner, to see the spring flowers was the promise made in the advert of the local paper. Having not been to Powis Castle before I felt that this would be a good excuse to visit so we could recommend it to our guests. Was it worth the twisty two hour journey from Gliffaes?

Very definitely, did we see any of the promised spring flowers? Well, we saw one daffodil, like the rest of the country the exceptionally cold winter has delayed the arrival of spring by about three weeks. However, the lack of spring foliage and flowers meant we could see the garden laid bare and appreciate how the gardens have developed over the centuries and we had the added bonus of the famous yew hedges and tumps looking their very best.

Powis Castle is a National Trust property on the outskirts of Welshpool right at the northern end of Powys and was once the seat of the Clive family (Clive of India). Both the castle and the gardens are open to visitors, with the castle being full of treasures brought back from India amongst other things. We did not venture into the castle but our hour and half tour around the gardens was excellent. The gardens reflect the changing fashions and grand visions of landscape gardeners over the last 300  years, all of which are visible in part  to the visitor today. The most dramatic part is the series of 300 year old terraces stepping upwards to the castle which is perched on the top of a rocky outcrop. Built into the terraces are an orangery, an aviary ( no birds in it now) and a balustrade complete with lead statues. The terraces trap the sun and protect from the prevailing winds resulting in micro climates in which the unusal plants and shrubs thrive. The newest part of the garden has been planted  on top of the old  vegetable garden at the turn of the 20th century. Lady Herbert  thought that vegetable gardens were vulgar and should not be visible from the castle and had it shifted and the unusually clipped ornamental apple trees that grow there now are something I have not seen before.

The real trump card Powis has is yew. Yew in all shapes and forms, from straight hedges to huge strange shaped ‘tumps’ formed over the centuries by the annual round of clipping and shaping. Keeping the yew in shape is a full time job and the annual clipping is a three month exercise for three gardeners.  Standing on the terrace looking across at a bank of yew trees left unclipped and growing naturaly we saw what appeared to be smoke blowing through the trees, this turned out to be thick clouds of pollen from the male yew trees blown free by the wind. The wilder part of the garden has some magnificently tall oak trees planted around 250 year ago and should not be missed. All in all a good day out and the drive across rural mid-wales is interesting, for those not keen on driving there is a train to Welshpool from Abergavenny which takes about and hour and fifty minutes with a change at Shrewsbury.