The Powerscourt Blog

Carmel Byrne

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Family Adventures in Magical Gardens at Powerscourt

Posted by Carmel Byrne on Apr 19, 2016 9:44:09 AM


Interested in what’s on for families in County Wicklow this May? Join Abracadabra School for Creative Kids on May 8th in an exciting walk in the beautiful Powerscourt Gardens, where tour guide Katie and her friends will take you into the story. Literally. Powerscourt Gardens are magical and contain many hidden secrets. Our mission is to find one of the great ancestors of Powerscourt, Lord Londonderry, as we have to deliver an important message to him. The Lord is a very generous man so we are sure that he will reward us with one of his fascinating stories brought home from his travels!


Children will learn magic spells and enjoy singing and dancing during the walk. Families are welcome to dress as a favourite character or in costume to add to the fun! Be sure to bring weather appropriate clothes, and just in case of rain….wellies! The event costs €30 for a family of 5, with other ticket options available. To book your place, visit


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The Purrfect Pet from the Pavilion!

Posted by Carmel Byrne on Feb 10, 2016 3:34:37 PM


Introducing Milly!

We have always had a number of feral cats living here at Powerscourt Estate. They are usually found hanging out in the old farm buildings and whilst they serve a purpose in keeping the mice count down we felt it was time to address the issue from a humane point of few. It was heart breaking to see kittens having kittens and then not being able to look after them. My colleague Brenda approached the management team here at Powerscourt and they gave us their full support to undertake a neutering program. We found a wonderful veterinary practice in Roundwood and Bernie and her team agreed to help us out, without costing an arm and a leg! I volunteered to drop the cats in and collect them as I was passing by on my way home.

The first couple were successfully neutered and released back without any drama. I got a call from Justin in the Garden Pavilion to say he had trapped a kitten but it was very small. I called over to collect it on my way home to drop it in to the vets and when I saw the little mite I felt quite emotional. She was so tiny, a jet black ball of shivering fur curled up in the cat trap. It hissed a little as I placed her in the boot of the car, but I never hear another peep out of her all the way to Roundwood. When I got to the vets I left her in the care of the staff but I just couldn’t get her out of my mind. Bernie phoned to say she was a little on the small side but she would go ahead with neutering her, but she had to keep her for an extra night as she was so tiny. Her size indicated a kitten of about 3 months old but she was in fact about 5 months! The following day we trapped the mother and she was quite the opposite well fed and well able to live at the Garden Pavilion! Again I dropped her into the vets and agreed to collect her and the kitten on Saturday morning. I planned to keep them both for the weekend and release them out on Monday. A very different story unfolded.

 I collected them both on Saturday morning and admittedly I was even afraid of the mother feline as she was well and truly wild. The little black kitten on the other hand looked more vulnerable than ever with her bare patch and stitches. I knew I hadn’t the heart to let her back out! Mother cat was getting anxious in the cage and unfortunately I could not let her out as she was too wild to handle, so myself and my two kiddies brought her back to Powerscourt on Sunday morning. My son was concerned that she would bite me when I was holding the cage open but I explained to him that she was planning her escape and not too concerned about my hand. With that she bolted and was gone. The staff in the Garden Pavilion still leave food out for her and the other cats everyday especially as the weather has been so cold.

 We now knew the kitten was female and I had agreed to keep her at home to build her up a bit, but in the back of my mind I knew I wasn’t going to let her go. I didn’t want to build up the children’s hopes just in case things didn’t work out. Rather than having her in the cage that we caught her in we decided to try her in a hamster cage that we had at home. She was so tiny in the hamster cage but she was a lot more content. She used her litter tray immediately and lapped up the warm milk with great gusto. After a couple of days we decided to try and pet her and although she cowered away there was no loss of anyone’s fingers. We did this everyday so she got used to us and each day she got more used the noise and hustle and bustle of a busy household. At this stage it was obvious she was going nowhere so we named her Tilly.

With every passing day she gained weight and grew bigger and is now a member of the family. She sleeps by day under the duvet in the bedroom and in the evening when we arrive home she is hugged, kissed, petted and played with! There are times when she just wants her quiet time and sits on my shoulders and sings but early in the morning she has great energy and is like a bolt of lightning running around the kitchen. She loves chasing shadows, playing ball and playing hard to catch! She is still nervous of outside but in time we will introduce her to a whole new world of adventure and discovery. (For further tips of taming).

 Thanks to my colleague Brenda for initiating this program, to Justin Smyth in the Garden Pavilion for helping us to catch them, to Powerscourt Management for covering the cost of the programme and an especially big thank you goes to Tess and Finn for their patience and love for Tilly, they have done me proud.

 Now is the perfect time to trap and neuter cats before they have Spring kittens.  “Feral” cats are abandoned cats or the offspring of abandoned cats and are not vermin. They are sentient creatures as entitled to life as any “tame” pet. Neutering not only prevents more kittens but it also reduces straying and fighting, and marking by male cats. Contact your local vets and they can refer you to a charity who can loan you a trap and can often help you find a vet offering reduced cost neutering. Roundwood Vets have been very good to us. (It has been relatively easy to “tame” Tilly, using the hamster cage (or a dog crate would work too) to let her experience family life while feeling safe with her own space. Children should be supervised with kittens as the kittens are so delicate and can scratch if they are frightened (when they are sitting on your lap and purring and grip you with their claws this is actually showing affection!). Do share us your stories! For more feral cats advice see


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Topics: Powerscourt Garden Pavilion

Healing House Plants - Plants of the Month August 2012

Posted by Carmel Byrne on Aug 2, 2012 2:53:00 PM

Healing House Plants

This month we are looking at the added benefits of house plants. They are easy to look after and have great health benefits too!

House plants are like a large, natural filtration system in your home. As few as 15 houseplants can purify the air of a 1,800sq ft home.

  • They absorb harmful substances from the air.
  • They filter dust and dirt in the surrounding environment.
  • They emit oxygen - refreshing the air in your home.
  • They act as natural humidifiers - giving you cleaner air and easy breathing with fewer colds, less headaches and less fatique.

Plants reduce sound levels, improve the appearance of your home and reduce stress levels. Studies have shown that the very presence of house plants increases positive thoughts and feelings and reduces anxiety, anger and sadness.

Plants also have physical healing properties and can soothe irritated skin. To receive the optimal benefits of these plants place them close to your personal breathing zone within 6 to 8 feet of where you work, sleep or spend a lot of time.

So what are these plants? An unaffordable exotic plant? Not at all! Most people are familiar with these plants but may be unaware of their benefits. First up is a customer favourite!

The Peace Lily or Spathiphylum
This plant is great at reducing mould particularly in bathrooms. The plant soaks up the mould organisms through its leaves and transfers the spores to the root to act as food. This helps to reduce the build up of spores on shower curtains and tiles, resulting in less cleaning and easier breathing for you.
This plant is also wonderful if there is a smoker in your house which helps clear tobacco pollutants such as benzene and formaldehyde from the area.
The Peace Lily thrives in a semi shaded area. Water approximately once per week. It will also benefit from misting the leaves once per week.

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The Boston Fern
Modern heating and ventilation systems in our homes can leave our skin feeling dry and itchy. Boston Ferns help soothe dry skin by acting as a humidifier. They restore moisture to the air by releasing water vapour in exchange for air born pollutants.
The Boston Fern is a classically elegant plant with lucious sword like fronds that arch gracefully. It is another plant that is easily cared for. It loves a bright spot out of direct sunlight. Keep the soil slightly moist and feed weekly.

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The Spider Plant (Chlorophytum)
The Spider Plant is one of the most powerful air cleansers and has been known to remove 90% of toxins from indoor air in just 2 days! The plant filters harmful substances and aborbs mould spores along with carbon monoxide and formaldehyde which results in less headaches and better breathing.
Place your Spider Plant in a bright position away from direct sunlight. Only water every second week as it prefers to be a little drier than most plants and never leave it sitting in water.

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Aloe Vera
This very easy to grow plant needs a bright sunny windowsill so it can get lots of warmth and light. Water regularly in Summer but hold back on watering in the Winter months. It will throw up baby plants around the edge of the mother plant - these can be removed and planted to start a new plant.
Not enough can be said about the healing power of this plant. Use it to treat minor burns, soothe sunburn, ease the discomfort of eczema and psoriasis, reduce the signs of ageing and brightens skin tone to mention a few.
Recent research suggests that Aloe can help with cancer, cholestorol, arthritis, high blood pressure, crohns disease and many more. It really is one to watch!

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The most surprising healing plant has to be the Gerbera Daisy
Most plants release oxygen during the day. Gerbera Daisies take in carbon dioxide during the day and release oxygen at night. You will reap the benefits of having this plant placed in a bedroom as it helps to give a deeper more restful sleep. They are brightly coloured and cheery and easy to grow, all they need is a bright spot and keep evenly moist.

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Topics: Powerscourt Estate, Powerscourt Garden Pavilion, Gardening

Plant of the Month - Hydrangeas

Posted by Carmel Byrne on Jul 11, 2012 11:47:00 AM


These shade loving beauties are the real workhorses of the garden, producing massive flowers in both mophead and lacecap forms with a wide variety of colours and varieties. They are moisture loving and love a cool corner in the garden, but they will also tolerate a half shade providing there is plenty of access to water.


Hydrangea Macrophylla or the mophead variety is probably the best known of all the Hydrangeas and one of their interesting quirks is their ability to change colour! This colour change is due to the change in the soil ph which affects aluminium availablilty. Blue and pink varieties are blue in acidic conditions, mauve in acidic to neutral conditions and pink in alkaline conditions.

White varieties remain white and are not affected by ph of the soil. Pruning this hydrangea seems to cause some confusion. It is best to leave the faded bloom on over the Winter as this provides some frost protection for the tender buds below. Remove the dead blooms in the Spring, cutting back to the first buds lower down the stem. The lacecap varieties are slightly hardier and the flowerheads can be cut back to the second pair of leaves directly after flowering. On older more established plants cut one or two of the older stems at the base to encourage new replacement growth that will flower more freely.

Poor neglected plants can be given a new lease of life by cutting off all the stems at the base, be warned though, this will remove all the flowers for this Summer and new stems will not flower until next year.

Here are some varieties to try;
Hydrangea macr. 'Lady in Red' (red)
Hydrangea macr. 'Bela' (blue)
Hydrangea macr. 'Benxi' (white)
Hydrangea macr. 'Blueberry Cheesecake' (Blue, Mauve)


Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'
Annabelle is probably one of the most loved white hydrangeas. It is a stunning white drumstick flower which can often measure 10'' in diameter. Annabelle will produce flowers every year even after severe pruning or a cold harsh winter. It looks amazing planted as a hedge and you can prune back severley in Winter to keep it tidy.

A new introduction - Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle' is the first pink flowered mop head form of hydrangea to be sold commercially. Also known as 'Pink Annabelle' it has large globular flowers that bloom in June and July and repeat until the first frosts. Each flower head is densely packed with showy florets that emerge a deep dark pink, maturing to a bright pink. As with Annabelle, Invincibelle enjoys the partial shade and a moist but free draining soil.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Magical Fire' and Hydrangea pan. 'Mega Mindy' are two brilliant new varieties.

'Mega Mindy' is a solid, fast growing shrub which carries large panicles of flowers but does not collapse under the weight of the flowers. It grows to approximately 4-5ft tall. The flowers appear in late July-early August and at first are white but turn pinkish red as they mature. It flowers every year on new growth which means they can be cut back hard every year without interferring with the flowering.

'Magical Fire' is a spectacular new variety similar to 'Mega Mindy' starting off white, then dark pink and then a fiery red in Autumn. It has gorgeous red stems which are a lovely contrast to the healthy green foliage.

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Topics: Powerscourt Estate, Powerscourt Garden Pavilion, Gardening

Our Favourite Roses at the Garden Pavilion - June 2012

Posted by Carmel Byrne on Jun 15, 2012 4:45:00 PM

A selection of Roses

A garden without a rose is not complete. From the old fashioned fragrant blousy bloom to the more modern repeat blooming varieties there is a rose for everyone.


The varieties available are almost endless but here are a few of our favourites;

Gertrude Jekyll
This fabulous rose has a strong 'old rose' frangrance. A beautiful double mid pink rose with a repeat flowering nature of the modern rose varieties. It grows to approximately 5ft high and 3ft wide and is ideal for a sunny wall.

William Shakespeare
A magnificent variety with beautiful rich crimson blooms which deepen to purple. They are deeply cupped but flatten as they age and again have a strong 'old rose' scent. They are good for repeat flowering and have excellent disease resistance.


Winchester Cathedral
This arching shrub rose has glossy green leaves that accompany clusters of fragrant, double white and buff-pink flowers in Summer and Autumn. This is a good repeat flowering rose and its scent is reminiscent of honey and almond.

Rose Trumpeter
This is a more modern variety and is a small contact floribunda rose with an upright shrub like habit. Large clusters of double orange-red flowers which seem to last forever are the best feature of this rose, sometimes even flowering into December! It looks great planted en-masse in a flower bed.

Rosa Margaret Merill
Margaret Merill is a hybrid tea rose. This rose grows to approximately 3ft with shiny dark green leaves. It flowers in Summer and early Autumn with large clusters of double white flowers flushed with pink and has yellow stamens. It's beautiful rich fragrance is its best feature.


Rosa Dublin Bay
Dublin Bay is a beautiful climbing rose reaching heights of about 8ft. Dark green glossy leaves are the perfect backdrop for the double crimson flowers which have a light soft scent.

Roses a very easy to grow. They prefer a sunny position in a spot where their roots are not competing with roots of other plants, particularly trees. Roses enjoy good soil but add plenty of well rotted manure before planting to ensure vigorous growth, regular watering is essential.

Good feeding is essential especially for repeat flowering varieties. Slow release fertilisers applied to the ground are the most effective. Mulching around the plants will help conserve moisture, keeps the ground cool and feed the mirco-organisms and worms in the soil.

Keep an eye out for pests and diseases, the main ones being greenfly, blackfly, blackspot, mildew and rust. Choose disease resistant varieties where possible. Spraying early in the season is beneficial and can help prevent some diseases. Pruning is very easy  - January and February are the best time.

 That's all for now from the Garden Pavilion, keep tuned for our next gardening tips soon!

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Topics: Powerscourt Estate, Powerscourt Garden Pavilion, Gardening

Your Summer Hanging Basket - Top Tips from the Garden Pavilion

Posted by Carmel Byrne on May 15, 2012 11:00:00 AM


The Hanging Basket takes centre stage this month. This traditional planting can make a real statement in your garden and is really easy to accomplish.

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What you will Need

You will need a 14'' hanging basket, 14'' liner, multi-purpose compost, water retaining gel and slow release fertiliser. And of course some plants of your choice!

Let's get Started

Start with proping the basket with the liner onto a bucket (this will stop the basket from rolling around as you are planting it).

Mix your compost with a spoon of swell gel and a spoon of slow release fertiliser and water (leave this mix for about an hour before using).

Half fill the basket with your compost mix, then start placing your plants. Plant something tall in the centre e.g. geraniums to create some height in the basket. Surround this with your trailing plants (petunia, diascia, bacopa). Fill in with compost and as a finishing touch plant lobelia or allyssum into any gaps. Water well!

Shhh...Our Top Tips

When hanging your basket avoid windy spots as this will dry out the basket very fast.

Place in a sunny spot - water at least once a day and more when it is hot and dry or very windy.

Choice of Plants

The choice of plants for your hanging basket is very personal. Some people like a riot of mixed colour while others like a more co-ordinated look. It will also depend on the aspect of where you are placing your basket although remember most of the summer bedding plants prefer a sunny spot.

If you have a shady area, choose plants such as begonias, fuschia, mimulus and new guinea bizzy lizzie which will give you fantastic colour and brighten up that shady corner.

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Topics: Powerscourt Estate, Powerscourt Garden Pavilion

Plant of the Month - Ceanothus

Posted by Carmel Byrne on Apr 16, 2012 11:23:00 AM

The California Lilac, so called because it is native to California and the flowers resemble those of the lilac tree (Syringa).


The Ceanothus are a family of both evergreen and decidious shrubs or small trees. They come in a variety of colours including pink and white but most people will be familiar with the beautiful blue varieties.

Ceanothus enjoy a sunny South or West facing position, sheltered from cold winds and a free draining soil. Damage can be caused by positioning in a wet spot particularly in Winter. Ceanothus vary in colour (depending on the variety) from a subtle powdery blue to a deep sapphire blue. They require very little feeding and almost thrive on a little neglect! If feeding becomes necessary early Spring is the best time to do it. Pruning, if necessary, should be done immediately after flowering. Avoid pruing late in the season as it promotes new growth which can be hit hard by early frosts.

Some varieties to try; Ceanothus x 'Blue Sapphire', it's graceful arching form makes a beautiful ground cover specimen. Abundant dark sapphire blue flowers cover the plant in April. The dark emerald foliage turns almost black in Winter.

Ceanothus arboreus trewithen blue is a much larger growing variety growing 8ft high with deep blue panicles of flowers which appear in April and May, backed by a broad dark green foliage.

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. repens flowers in April, May and into early June. This low growing evergreen shrub is cloaked in fluffy powder blue flowers. Planted at the front of a mixed border, it looks great when coupled with Euonymus 'Emerald & Gold' or Dianthus 'Kahori'.


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Topics: Powerscourt Estate, Powerscourt Garden Pavilion, Gardening

Plant of the Month - Azalea

Posted by Carmel Byrne on Mar 8, 2012 2:16:00 PM

It is very difficult this time of the year to pick a plant of the month! There are so many beautiful plants beginning to flower, golden daffodils, blue anemones, the gorgeous primula and the fragrant viburnum, but our favourite is the showy Azaleas which will be in flower towards the end of March.

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The Azalea is so easy to look after with a vast array of colours available, great for pots or the open ground. Azaleas prefer a semi shaded spot in the garden and require acidic soil. If your soil is neutral add fir needles, sulphur, iron sulphate or coffee grounds to increase acidity. A heavy clay soil can be helped by adding fresh potting soil to improve drainage. Start a regular feeding prgram with a fertiliser for acid loving plants. A feed in the Spring just before blooming and again in late Summer should be sufficient. Ensure your Azalea is kept moist but not wet or water logged. Prune, if needed, directly after flowering.

Azaleas come in both evergreen and deciduous forms. Deciduous varieties such as Fanal, Gibraltar and Anneke are large about 5-6ft and extremely beautiful. Evergreen varieties tend to be smaller. Try varitietes such as 'Hatsugirl', 'Amoena', 'Vuyks Rosy Red' and the fabulous "Mother's Day" which is very appropriate for this month.


          Azalea Amoena                 azalea

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Topics: Powerscourt Estate, Powerscourt Garden Pavilion, Gardening

Garden Pavilion Plant of the Month for February - Magnolia

Posted by Carmel Byrne on Feb 1, 2012 3:44:00 PM

Few trees say that 'Spring is nearly here' as the showy Magnolias do. This group of fine ornamental small trees put on a display of flowers long before the first leaf buds unfold.

There is a Magnolia for every garden, no matter how small. They are a magnificent treasure heralding the coming of Springtime.

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Some points to remember when planting a Magnolia. They ideally prefer a medium, neutral to acidic loamy soil with plenty of organic matter to hold moisture. They prefer sun or partial shade and shelter from strong winds. Avoid planting in the morning sun as flowers and young foliage of the early flowering varieties may be damaged by frost and morning sun combination.

Magnolia Stellata

Magnolia stellata or the star magnolia is well deserving of it's name. This variety is ideal for the smaller garden growing to a tall shrub rather than a tree. The branches can carry hundreds of star like flowers in the early Spring. Why not try Magnolia Stellata "Royal Star". This variety has beautiful pale pink buds opening to glorious white flowers. You could underplant this with vibrant blue muscari which would enhance the white flowers - a real Spring treat.

Magnolia X Soulangeana

This is another beautiful cultivar and one of the most popular. It is a very old hybrid, a cross between m. denudata and m. liliflora made in the 1820's in Europe. Its' gorgeous rounded flowers give it its nickname "cup and saucer'. Why not try Magnolia X Susan which is one of the eight "little girls" variety. The Susan has upright flowers that are reddish purple colour with slightly twisted petals that will smother the stems before the leaves emerge.

 Now available at the Garden Pavilion

                Magnolia resized 600  magnolia white

Until next time!

Best wishes, Marianne Caplice (Powerscourt Garden Pavilion Horticulturalist)

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Topics: Powerscourt Estate, Powerscourt Garden Pavilion, Gardening

Garden Pavilion Plant of the Month - Camellia Japonica

Posted by Carmel Byrne on Jan 13, 2012 2:29:00 PM

The rose of the Winter, the show-off Camellia is our plant of the month at the Garden Pavilion this January. Camellias have amazing roselike flowers and lush, shiny evergreen leaves. The flowers range in colour from white to pink to red.

Camellias are relatively easy to grow but do have specific requirements:

  • Most Camellia plants are shade lovers and prefer dappled shade to full sun.

  • Avoid an east facing position.

  • A sheltered westerly position is much preferred, avoiding heavy winds.

Camellias require an acidic, well draining soil and will not thrive on chalky soil or other calcium rich soils. Alternatively they will happily grow in a container with the appropriate compost.

Camellias are thirsty plants and require lots of water, rainwater is the best, especially in hard water areas, when  tap water can often contain too much calcium. Never allow them to sit in water.

Feed Camellias with acidic fertilisers, such as miracid, sulphate of ammonia or sulphate of potash. Using slow release fertiliser pellets mixed through compost for container grown plants is quick and easy and avoids the need to fertilise until the next season.

Camellias are early flowering shrubs and form flower buds in late Summer and Autumn, particularly on new growth. Pruning at this time could remove potential flowering growth. The best time for pruning is the Spring, immediately after flowering.

Try varieties like "Debbie", Donation" or "Merry Williams" all gorgeous pink varieties.

Camellia Japonica's Chinese cousin Camellia sinensis is a plant of major commercial importance as this is the plant that gives us our favourite beverage - tea!


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Topics: Powerscourt Estate, Powerscourt Garden Pavilion, Gardening