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The gardens at Powerscourt were laid out in two main periods. When the house was rebuilt in the decade after 1731, the surrounding grounds were also remodelled. The design reflected the desire to create a garden which was part of the wider landscape. To the north formal tree plantations framed the vista from the house, while a walled garden, fish pond, cascades, grottos and terraces lay to the south. Walks wound through the wooded grounds and a fine tree lined avenue was created. A century later the 6th Viscount Powerscourt instructed his architect, Daniel Robertson, to draw up new schemes for the gardens.
Robertson was one of the leading proponents of Italianate garden design which was influenced by the terraces and formal features of Italian Renaissance villas and perfected in gardens in France and Germany. Robertson designed the terrace nearest the house. He is said to have suffered from gout and directed operations from a wheelbarrow, fortified by a bottle of sherry. When the sherry was finished, work ceased for the day!
The death of the 6th Viscount in 1844 meant that alterations to the gardens ceased until his son resumed the work in the late 1850s. Using a combination of Robertson's designs and the plans of the other landscape experts, the terraces were completed, enormous numbers and varieties of trees were planted and the ground adorned with an amazing collection of statuary, ironwork and other decorative items. By the time of his death in 1904, the 7th Viscount had transformed the Estate. Further generations of the Wingfields maintained the grounds, adding the Japanese Gardens, Pepper Pot Tower and continuing to plant specimen trees. In 1961 the Estate passed to the Slazenger family, under whose aegis the Gardens received much more care and attention.
Today the public continue to enjoy the gardens which first began to take shape over two and a half centuries ago. The charming walled garden, the striking terraces, fine statuary and varied trees are linked by carefully designed walks and set in the magnificent surroundings of the Wicklow mountains.