Powis Castle Gardens – Trainee to Head Gardener.

Powis Castle and Terraced Gardens

Taking a trip down memory lane and re-visiting the past may not be something many of us have time to do! Instead looking to the future the changing of the seasons and our future plans.

I wanted to take this opportunity to re-visit and share with you my memories of working, training and learning at one of the most idyllic and prestigious Italian influenced terraced gardens in the World.

The Baroque style gardens have remained largely untouched since the 1680’s, although the grand lawn with dramatic water features were dismantled in the 1800’s the statue of Fame re-claimed from these changes now has pride of place in the Red castle’s courtyard. 

My article that best describes my time spent at these stunning, historical Gardens and Estate is entitled  “The Making of a Head Gardener” and has some suggestions on how to gain the necessary experience to manage a Garden and Estate for yourself.

powis castle welshpool
The Fountain Gardens are a perfect foreground for some beautiful photographs of the seasonally changing terraces, boasting an unrivalled range of plants, trees and shrubs. Photos by: Steve Cotterll
powis castle stautes
Powis Castle boasts stunning photo opportunities at every twist and turn, statues like these lovingly restored 18th century lead sculptures.


powis castle gardens
Such a wealth of colour, contrast and structural interest provided by flowers, foliage, carefully manicured hedges, walls and balustrade.
tropical terraces powis castle
Tropical planting achieved by combing tender perennials with long flowering hardy grasses, sub shrubs and perennials. A tightly packed sub-tropical visual paradise with no room for weeds.
powis castle tropical borders
Dramatic planting schemes with plants rarely found flourishing in Mid Wales enjoy this south facing sheltered aspect.
powis castle borders
Planting combinations that are sure to delight leaving visitors with ideas for their own garden and a plant shop that invites you to plant unusual tender and hardy perennials and shrubs at home.

I have very fond memories of my time spent training in the grounds and gardens of Powis castle. I recall being keen to work on the terraced borders and glasshouses in favour of lawn care and grass cutting much to the annoyance of the then Head Gardener and my mentor “Jimmy Hancock”. A truly magnificent gardener who I had the pleasure to install in me some great gardening principles and disciplines that remain with me to this day.

Having a world famous Garden at my feet at just 16 years old and straight from school, I was thrilled to have found a subject, that soon was to become a life long a valuable career in Horticulture.

Hand on heart, I can honestly say that it was the years of training and Head Gardener road trips to other National Trust properties throughout the UK that provided me the tools and enthusiasm required to pursue a rewarding career in Horticulture.

Almost 30 years later as Estate Manager and Head Gardener for the private sector, I still hold dearly my time spent as a National Trust apprentice and hope that my experience shared, is in some small way my re-payment for the kindest, support and mentorship that was offered me, all those years ago.

Interested in finding out more about my journey? Then you may enjoy my article that best describes my time spent at these stunning, historical Gardens and Estate is entitled  “The Making of a Head Gardener”

powis castle gardens view

Photos by: Steve Cotterll

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About Head Gardener 290 Articles
Award winning, 40 something year old professional plantsman and horticulturalist with National Trust, private parks and estate management background. My vast plant knowledge and hands on techinical experience, afforded me the opportunity to work in various horticultural landscapes, in the UK, USA & Eastern Europe. Having worked in both garden retail & the design service industry gave me the practical diversity and managerial skill set, required for running a large prestigious gardens and stately homes. I strongly believe knowledge is to be shared and have worked closely with people and staff of all ages and abilities keen to develop their passion for gardening, including groups of children, special needs and adults. I have hosted guided walks, talks and tours for those keen to learn about cultivated and wild plants, garden development, history and design. As an member of the NNCPG and National Trust, I am actively involved in the preservation of several important plant collections both in public and private gardens throughout the UK. “It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion grow together, in a garden it’s paradise” Follow @IGrowHort on GardenTags. Stephen is passionate about gardening as Head Gardener with a team of ten staff he manages a prestigious Cheshire country estate of 55 acres, inc wild flower meadows, woodland, organic kitchen and formal gardens. Follow Stephen today”


  1. I started out in architecture and interior design, but kept wanting to go outside. Now that I look back, I was crazy about plants when I was a child, but it was always more about looks than science. I guess I’ve finally come full circle. And now, as a result, I’m delving deeper, and much more interested in the practical matters of it all. 🙂

  2. Thanks for your comments, starting out with a National Trust apprenticeship gave me the foothold I needed to climb the Horticultural ladder. However I attended uni at 19, a NVQ in amenity horticulture followed by a 3 year, Level 3 Diploma in horticulture. Coupled with a burning desire to teach, I soon realised that a classroom was too small for my subject matter, finding that instructing on a practical level suited my teaching style perfectly. Great to connect hope to see you here again soon.

  3. No school like the real thing… I wish I would have realized my dream job at 16 instead of wasting so many years. Oh well, there is a meaning with everything, I suppose. 🙂

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