The Marlese Lowe Gourley Island Garden

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The Island Garden opened in 2001 as the jewel at the epicenter of Powell Gardens. This gardener’s garden is chock full of special plants at every turn.

The Water Gardens

The centerpiece water gardens have a Monet-inspired planting palette with waterlilies, lotus and giant Victorias. Vibrant water cannas and the unique forms and reflections of papyrus, reeds and more fill the pools in summer. Boulders surround the smallest “spring pool,” which cascades into the middle pool.

Decks on each side of the large pool offer places for quiet contemplation (while bio-filters underneath help clean the garden’s waters). On calm days the largest “infinity” pool blurs the line between the water garden and our centerpiece lake. During strong southerly winds, its 75-foot cascading waterfall changes to a frothy, roaring rage that spews drifts of mist across the garden.

The Secret Garden

Discover a secret, sunken garden just past the spring pool. This garden’s own waterfall and pool are surrounded by raised flower beds studded with Bonica and Carefree Beauty shrub roses and seasonal annuals that are a study in purples. Sheltering hedges of sheared baldcypress enclose this mini-garden. The wall around this circular space provides a private place to sit, relax and visit.

The Living Wall

The retaining wall along the garden’s path is the longest “living” wall in North America. Made of stacked limestone, it’s home to all sorts of rock-loving plants that thrive in a well-drained planting medium. You will see hen-and-chicks, sedums, many herbs like lavenders, horehound, santolina and winter savory; salvias, and glade and rock outcrop-loving wildflowers. It puts blooms at eye level and may be gently touched—creating a memorable experience for everyone from children to the elderly and disabled.
Bringing It All Together

Masses of color coordinated perennials and ornamental shrubs complete and integrate the garden’s components. The shaded arbor and floating dock on the east side are good places to experience the lake.

Along the shoreline, enjoy beds of water-loving shrubs like Virginia Sweetspire, Buttonbush and Summersweet Clethra and water-loving perennials like iris, rose mallows and cattails. A prairie planting covers the “back” half of the island facing the Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel to enhance the view from inside.

What’s in Bloom?


January is the best month for viewing the structure of the trees, as branches are visible. At the end of the month, Snowdrops appear on sunny, south-facing slopes.


Snowdrops and early Crocus are blooming. Children may like to hunt for mussel shells – leftovers from raccoons getting their supper.


Daffodils begin peeking out this month. Our Magnolias will be blooming, and Creeping Phlox start blooming as well.


Crabapple Trees should be putting on quite a show in April. The native Wisteria on the arbor should also be blooming by this time. The display pools will be running, with some cool, seasonal plants installed.


The hardy Waterlilies will be in the pools, as well as hardy marginal plants. The goldfish will be in their home for the summer – the sunken garden pool.


All tropical water plants will be installed in the display pools. Our tropical succulents collection will be on display at both entrances to the island. The Hydrangeas should be covered in blooms as well.


The Waterlilies should be at their prettiest, especially the Victoria Waterlilies, whose leaves can easily span 3′ across. The Vitex will be covered with purple blooms.


Our living wall will be at its prettiest this month, with the Lavender, Sedum, and Salvia all showing their color. The roses should have some great blooms as well.


the Asters will begin bloomig this month, a solid carpet of blues and purples in the wall by our East bridge. The Rose-of-Sharon will be blooming as well.


The Mums will be blooming, as well as the Ornamental Kale, Pansies, and other annuals.


The Bluestem grasses in the prairie will be changing color from blue to a beautiful copper color. The island is a great place to enjoy the fall colors surrounding the lake.


Festival of Lights will be in full swing. This year we have even bigger and better things planned for the entire island.