A Trip to the Orient – the Japanese Gardens at Powerscourt

Article by David Corscadden

As a child I have always been fascinated with the orient and in particular with Japanese gardens. I think I have always been mesmerized by them as they are so different to the gardens that I have grown up with and the ones that I see on a daily basis. You can understand then my excitement and my sheer delight each time I visit the Japanese Garden at Powerscourt.

One of the best places to witness the pure beauty of the Japanese Garden is from above. Lord Londonderry’s stone seat which is perfectly placed just above the wishing well offers a great eagle’s eye view of the entire garden. Don’t spend all your time up above the garden though. There is too much to see down below and surprises around every corner.

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Besides from the great collection of plants that can be found in the garden, the design and symbolism play vital roles in the serenity and utterly relaxing atmosphere that is found as you meander along the twisting gravel paths. Water and rocks play a vital role in the gardens at Powerscourt. One of the best features of the garden in my eyes is the waterfall and stream that runs right through the garden. The many bridges add a great way to transport you from one area of beauty to another. This is quiet fitting as in Japanese gardens bridges are seen as portal to paradise, in my eyes anyway these gardens are like paradise!

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I don’t think I could begin to write about the plants in this part of Powerscourt without starting with the great collection of cherry trees. While the flowers are long gone now, the large sways of pure white cherry blossoms that sit above the lawns almost like low hanging clouds is an image that is hard to get out of my head!


Another plant that vividly sticks out in my mind from this spring is the Skunk Cabbage plant, Lysichiton americanus. It is a plant that is truly great to look at however not really a plant that you would want to get too close to! As the name suggests it can smell rather like a skunk so be warned! I think it is great though and is very suited along the many winding streams in the garden as it loves a very damp site to grow in.

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Since the last time I visited Powerscourt the gardens had taken on a new life, another reason I love them so much. They change so drastically between seasons from the serenity of the pure white cherry blossom to the vivid yellows, oranges and pinks from the emerging Primulas.

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The great sways of Candelabra Primulas look like fireworks exploding into colour and vibrancy above the ground. There were some spectacular displays of them along the outer most walk when I visited. I must admit I was slightly envious of them as they looked much better than the ones I have around my own pond at home.

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The many majestic Japanese Maples had also erupted in a mass of auburn leaves since my last visit. This made for quite a sight when I walked out of the Grotto and was met with a mound of fiery leaves where not too long ago I was still eyeing up the masses of wild garlic. However now the garlic is long gone from the sight and has been replaced with a much more striking sight I think you will agree?!

There is also a great collection of smaller Japanese maples further into the garden that are under planted with hostas and primulas, that seem to make the red leaves of the maples even more vibrant in the dappled sunshine.

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While I enjoy every visit to the Japanese Gardens I truly can’t wait for the next big change that will take place this autumn. As soon as the temperature begins to change the maples shed their leaves in a blaze of colour and interest. It is definitely a sight not to be missed.

David Corscadden

David is a regular contributer to the Powerscourt Estate blog. From County Kildare David is a graduate of horticulture from University College Dublin and a self-proclaimed plant lover! Having spent a childhood playing in his grandfather’s garden he has grown up with a passion for gardening and affection for nature.

David recently finished an internship with Gerry Daly at The Irish Garden magazine and caught the garden writer’s bug. You can follow his journey with plants here on the Powerscourt blog and on his own blog: beyondthewildgarden.wordpress.com.

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