Lakeland Horticultural Society


The Lakeland Horticultural Society was founded in 1969 with the aim of promoting the science, practice and art of horticulture, particularly with regard to the conditions prevailing in the Lake District. From the original 200 members, membership has grown to about 1600, of whom 250 or so are actively involved in one way or another. Members come from all areas of the UK, with a few from further afield. The largest cohort of members, and most of our volunteers, are from the Cumbria/North Lancashire area. Read about opportunities for volunteering here.


There are many advantages to being a member of the LHS, not least of which is being part of a large group of friendly people, united by a shared love for Holehird Gardens and the desire to support the continuing work of the LHS there. Members are encouraged to visit Holehird as often as they like, without being asked to pay the suggested £5 visitor donation each time.

Members are able to benefit from the LHS aim of furthering the science, practice and art of horticulture in a number of ways. Two issues of The Lakeland Gardener, a carefully researched, written and illustrated publication, containing articles on a range of horticultural topics, some directly related to Holehird, others more general, are sent to members each year. Three issues of a separate Newsletter containing Society news and details of future events are also distributed.

The Library at Holehird is one of the best-stocked horticultural libraries in the north of England, with approximately 2000 books and 20 journals available for members to read and borrow. Additional resources include a range of digital microscopes, as well as computers and a printer for the use of all members.

LHS members are invited to join a number of garden tours each year. These range from day trips to longer tours in the UK and abroad. Recent examples include tours to West Wales and Yunnan, China.

LHS hosts a series of monthly lectures on a variety of gardening-related topics at the Marchesi Centre in Windermere from October to March each year. These lectures are open to the public but a second series of mini-lectures at Holehird from April to September is offered to LHS members only.

Finally, a range of practical gardening courses is offered at Holehird. LHS members are asked to pay a small administrative fee for attendance on the courses. Non-members may also attend, if places are available, on payment of a higher fee which also includes membership of the LHS.

Details of all lectures and courses may be found in the News & Events section.


Membership of LHS costs £18 per annum for an individual member, £27 for two people at the same address. The membership year starts on 1 September and subscriptions may be paid by cash, cheque or direct debit. Follow the link to download an application form.

10 beautiful gardens in the Lake District

The Lake District has many treats in store for the green-fingered amongst us! 2016 is VisitEngland’s Year of the English Garden, and from the formal plots of historic homes to natural gardens undergoing restoration, there’s something in the area for everyone to enjoy.

Here’s a roundup of our favourite horticultural days out in the Lake District!

1. Holehird, near Windermere

Holehird has to be one of the Lake District’s best kept secrets! The 17-acre hillside gardens, run by volunteer members from the Lakeland Horticultural Society, feature a fabulous walled garden, alpine houses, rock gardens, herbaceous borders and three national collections, as well as woodland pathways and a walk to and around the lower tarn. With seats and benches placed throughout, you’ll want to spend hours exploring Holehird’s paths and planting, and sit and drink in the peaceful atmosphere and beautiful views across Windermere to the fells. Holehird doesn’t have a café, but there are a couple of picnic benches in the lower garden and toilet facilities onsite. 015394 46008,

View our cottages in Windermere.

2. Rydal Hall, Rydal

Rydal Hall is a conference and retreat centre owned by the Diocese of Carlisle, and its beautiful formal Edwardian gardens were designed in 1911 by the world-famous landscape architect Thomas Mawson. You must visit the ‘Quiet’ Garden too, which leads to a delightful little building called the ‘Grot’ – this is a small viewing station built in 1668, which overlooks the lower Rydal waterfalls and was recently featured on BBC1’s Secret Britain! You can also explore the estate’s sculpture trail, which follows what is believed to be the first permanent outdoor exhibition of textile sculpture in Britain, and pay a visit to The Old School Room Tea Shop, with seating by the river. 015394 32050,

View our properties in the Grasmere and Rydal area.

3. Holker Hall, near Grange-over-Sands

Holker Hall is home to the Cavendish family, and its part-formal, part-woodland gardens cover 25 acres, and are surrounded by a further 200 acres of parkland! Holker has something to see in every season, although the rhododendrons create a particularly stunning display in the spring. Look out for features such as the labyrinth and the great Holker Hall lime tree, one of The Tree Council’s 50 Great British Trees! You can also sit outside on a warm day with lunch or afternoon tea from the Courtyard Café. Holker is home to the renowned annual Holker Garden Festival, which in 2016 is taking place from 3rd-5th June. 015395 58328,

View our cottages in South Cumbria.

4. Dalemain Mansion and Historic Gardens, Penrith

Just two miles from Ullswater, Dalemain means ‘manor in the valley’ and its five acres of pretty and sheltered gardens first come to life with thousands of snow drops and aconites in spring. In June and July, over 200 old-fashioned roses can be found at their best on the beautifully scented Rose Walk, and other features include a Tudor knot garden, gazebo with 18th century seating, stumpery, children’s garden and wild garden, as well as ancient apple trees and herbaceous borders – don’t miss the sleeping giant! 017684 86450,

Click here to view all our holiday cottages nearby.

5. Levens Hall, near Kendal

Levens Hall dates back to the 13th century, and its world-famous topiary gardens were laid out in the 1690s by Guillaume Beaumont. According to the Guinness Book of Records, this makes it the oldest topiary garden in the world! Many of the 100 or so topiary shapes are abstract, but there are a number of chess pieces for you to look out for too! The 10 acres of garden at Levens also feature an orchard, rose garden, herb garden, 17th century-style garden and herbaceous borders. There’s a lovely play area for the children, and a willow labyrinth which is great fun for everyone! You can also sit out overlooking part of the garden with something delicious from the Bellingham Buttery tearoom. 015395 60321,

Take a look at our cottages in the South East Lake District.

6. Muncaster Castle, Ravenglass

Spring is the best time to pay a visit to Muncaster Castle, which is home to one of the largest rhododendron collections in Europe! The gardens cover around 70 acres, and are surrounded by beautiful views of the Lake District fells. After the daffodils and magnolias, the vivid colours of camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons emerge, and Muncaster is also famous for its bluebells, which make their appearance between mid-April and mid-May. Muncaster is home to the Himalayan Gardens, featuring a number of plants rarely seen in the West, and as if all that isn’t enough, you can visit the castle itself (reputedly one of the country’s most haunted!), the hawk and owl centre, the MeadowVole Maze for children, Creeping Kate’s Café, and Muncaster Church. 01229 717614,

Take a look at our properties in Ravenglass.

7. Lowther Castle, near Penrith

If you’re looking for manicured lawns and planting perfection, Lowther might not be for you, but it has a wonderful charm all of its own and makes a perfect day out for those with imagination and a wish to explore! Lowther Castle, now a romantic sandstone shell, was once home to 130 acres of grand gardens which are undergoing restoration. Lowther describes itself as ‘a hidden place waking from hibernation’! You can walk through its series of outdoor ‘rooms’ and look for clues as to what might have been 350 years ago, and there are some lovely woodland walks leading to fantastic Lakeland views (look out for the red squirrels!). Enjoy lunch or sit back with a cup of coffee at the Café in the Courtyard.

8. Acorn Bank Garden & Watermill, Temple Sowerby

Acorn Bank is well known for its herbs and fruit orchards. This National Trust property has pretty linked gardens surrounded by 17th century walls, and is home to the National Trust’s largest collection of culinary and medicinal herbs. You can take a short riverside walk to the working watermill, which dates back to the early 19th century and was restored in the 1980s, and sit outside in the garden courtyard with a snack or lunch from the tearoom. 01768 361893,

Click here to browse all our properties close by.

9. Hutton-in-the-Forest, Penrith

In the north east of the Lake District, Hutton-in-the-Forest is surrounded by beautiful woodland and is home to Lord and Lady Inglewood. Its Walled Garden was built in the 1730s, and now contains herbaceous planting, roses and fruit trees. The terraces show off topiary dating back to the 1890s, and lead to the Low Garden, Cascade and the lake. There is also a peaceful woodland walk, with some trees more than 200 years old. Look out for the 17th century Dovecote, which once housed around 400 pigeons!

Have a look at all our nearby cottages here.

10. National Garden Scheme (NGS) Gardens

Cumbria NGS has a strong following, with a huge number of commercial and private Lake District gardens opening for charity each year. Grab a brochure from a tourist information point across the Lakes, or you can search online for gardens due to open when you’re in the area.

Other gardens and nurseries to look out for in and around the Lake District include:

• Brockhole on Windermere – walk round a Mawson-designed garden at the Brockhole Visitor Centre,
• Giggle Alley – the remains of a Japanese garden in woodland next to the village of Eskdale Green,
• Sizergh Castle – delightful gardens including a rock garden with acers, at the gateway to the Lake District,
• Larch Cottage Nurseries, Melkinthorpe – a charming nursery with daytime restaurant near Penrith,
• Hayes Garden World, Ambleside – a garden centre with something for everyone. Just make sure you’ve plenty of room in the car!

We hope that our post will inspire you to explore some of the Lake District’s finest and unique gardens during your stay! To find your perfect cottage in the ideal location from which to begin exploring, visit our search facility online. And for more about some of the area’s stately homes, take a look at our post featuring the Lake District’s top 10 historic houses.

20 wonderful gardens to visit in Cumbria and the Lake District

PUBLISHED: 00:00 25 July 2016

Deear at Holker Hall and Gardens

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Plot a course to these glorious gardens and see for yourself how blooming lovely the Lake District’s gardens are.

Levens Hall

At Levens Hall and Gardens near Kendal, visitors can see 100 pieces of topiary, each clipped to an individual design that includes a king and queen, four peacocks, a judge’s wig, a jug of secret recipe Levens’ Morocco Ale, Queen Elizabeth and her Maids of Honour and the ‘Great Umbrellas’.

Another quirky, not-to-be-missed feature is the Living Quilt in the gardens at Swarthmoor Hall near Ulverston – the birthplace of Quakerism. This is a copy of the quilt in Swarthmoor’s Fells Bedroom, brought to life by nature.


At Brantwood, on Coniston Water, there are eight unique and beautiful gardens to explore, at the former home of John Ruskin. The Zig Zaggy is laid out to a Ruskin sketch of 130 years ago and is said to represent Dante’s Purgatorial Mount, while the Hortus Inclusus has British native herbs laid out in the form of a medieval manuscript. Additionally, visitors can seek out a ‘Bee Penthouse’ in the Professor’s Garden.

At Kirklinton Hall near Carlisle, children will find it impossible to not rush off to the Faerie Glen, to see how many faeries they can spot. They can then walk alongside a stream – perhaps enjoying a paddle – and seek out the rock-carved face of Maelgwyn the Fair, a faerie princess who pined away for her love.

Holker Hall Gardens – photo Val Corbett

Nobody should be able to pass by Holker Hall and Gardens, near Cartmel – the Countryfile Garden of the Year 2015/16 – and home to the 400-year-old Great Holker Lime – a tree with a girth of 7.9 metres and declared one of Britain’s 50 great trees in 2002, as part of Golden Jubilee celebrations. You can also see a labyrinth designed as a Hindu temple.

The gardens at historic house, Mirehouse, near Keswick, not only afford views of beautiful Bassenthwaite Lake, home to ospreys, but also house a snuff garden, in which rare asarabacca plants grow. There is also a walled bee garden and a heather path maze, of a form used by the medieval Christian church to assist meditation.

Hutton in the Forest

Those seeking links to the tales of Arthur and his knights, should make tracks for Hutton-in-the-Forest near Penrith, where the Woodland Walk creates associations with the medieval forest of Inglewood, with which the legend of Sir Gawain and the Greene Knights is associated.

Explore this 17th century time capsule of Beatrix Potter’s life; tour her quintessentially British home in her 150th birthday year and delight in the lovely cottage garden that became hers thanks to the proceeds of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Make sure you meet the present-day Mr McGregor, to learn all about the historical roots of the garden.


There are some glorious blooms in the 2013 Garden of the Year at Dalemain, near Dacre, but children will probably be more enthralled by the Children’s Garden, in which an animal is referenced in the common names of most of the plants grown. Here, you will find, Bear’s Breeches, Snapdragon and Foxgloves, among many others, and charming wooden animal signs next to each plant, to identify it. Dalemain is also home to the biggest Silver Fir of its kind.

Also close to Windermere, you will find Holehird Gardens, the Lakeland Horticultural Society’s Gardens, maintained by volunteers and the holder of four National Collections – Astilbe, Daboecia, Meconopsis and Polystichum Ferns. Holehird also has a renowned collection of Hydrangea, and a children’s trail, not to mention stunning herbaceous borders and island beds, in July and August.

Brockhole, Windermere

Brockhole on Windermere, is a great place from which to hop in a canoe, kayak or rowing boat, or have a go on the treetop zip-wire, but also contains a cherished Handkerchief Tree and a Chilean Lantern Tree within the 30-acre grounds originally designed by Arts and Crafts designer, Thomas Mawson.

Winderwath Gardens near Temple Sowerby is a glorious, five-acre privately-owned plantsman’s garden boasting Wellingtonia, Cut-Leaf Beech and Cedar, as well as many other plants, an apple orchard and a stunning salvia display in summer.


Getting on the trail is also great fun in the Grade II listed gardens at Askham, near Penrith, where animal trails will introduce the family to shorthorn cattle, rare breed pigs, Boer goats, ducks and chickens. They should also keep an eye out for red squirrels, rabbits, badgers and pheasants, as Askham is a haven for wildlife.

If it’s literary connections you want, however, there are three Wordsworth-associated gardens in the Cumbria’s Living Heritage cluster group: Dove Cottage, Wordsworth House and Allan Bank. At Dove Cottage, in Grasmere, you can explore the natural and semi-wild garden that William and his sister, Dorothy, created and planted up with plants and flowers collected during their walks and given to them by friends and neighbours. At nearby Allan Bank, you can relax in rugged woodland, a walled garden and around more formal lawns, in a place that Dorothy described as a “child’s paradise,” while at National Trust Wordsworth House in Cockermouth, the garden is packed with 18th century vegetables, fruits and herbs, just as it would have been when William played there as a child.


In Western Cumbria, the view of the fells from Muncaster’s gardens, close to Ravenglass, was described by Ruskin as the “Gateway to Paradise”. Here, you can visit Sino-Himalyan gardens containing plants rarely seen in the West and do that extraordinary thing of experiencing something similar to that in the Himalayan foothills, even though you are only standing at sea level.

National Trust Acorn Bank boasts an incredible herb garden of over 250 herb varieties, while National Trust property, Sizergh, located near Kendal, has a wonderful limestone rock garden, ablaze in colours ranging from deep butter yellow, to burnt orange and red, in Autumn. Sizergh is also home to a National Collection of Hardy Ferns and is a wonderful place to see young coot chicks preening themselves whilst perched on flowering water lilies.


Finally, at Blackwell – the Arts and Crafts House, near Bowness, you can enjoy views of the Coniston fells from terraces designed by Thomas Mawson, sipping homemade lemonade while, this summer, discussing dramatic sculptures by Laura Ford, which are decorating the lawns and in situ until September 4.

There aren’t just quirky things to spot outside the heritage attractions that have come together as Cumbria’s Living Heritage, but inside too. A Heritage Past-Port detailing these can be downloaded at, where you’ll also find links to the websites of the gardens, discover admission prices, opening times and everything else there is to see and do.

The Lake District is well known for its stunning scenery, magnificent forests and some of the most beautiful gardens in the UK can be found here. With a backdrop of lakes and mountains there is a huge variety of gardens to discover, many of which sit alongside historic houses and landmarks.

We have many types of gardens you can visit from cottage style and informal gardens to sweeping estates with world famous plants and topiary. Whether you are after flower walks, good places to picnic, somewhere to walk your dog or let the children play, there is a great day out to be found. Or venture into the woods for walking and cycling trails, discover quiet picnic areas, admire the wildlife and amazing sculpture.

Plan your visit by clicking on our Gardens and Forests in Cumbria to find out more:

Acorn Bank (Temple Sowerby, near Penrith)

Allan Bank (Grasmere, near Ambleside)

Askham Hall (near Penrith)

Brantwood (Coniston)

Brockhole Visitor Centre (Windermere)

Dalemain Mansion & Gardens (Dalemain, Penrith)

Grizedale Forest (Hawkshead)

Holehird Gardens (Windermere)

Holker Hall & Gardens (Cark-in-Cartmel, Nr Grange-over-Sands)

Hutton-in-the-Forest (Penrith)

Levens Hall & Gardens (Kendal)

Mirehouse & Gardens (near Keswick)

Muncaster Castle, Gardens, Hawk & Owl Centre (Ravenglass)

Sizergh Castle (Sizergh, near Kendal)

Swarthmoor Hall (Ulverston)

Wordsworth House & Garden (Cockermouth)

See also our collection of Historic Houses and Stately Homes across the Lake District and Cumbria.

Top Gardens in Lake District, England

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2016 is the year of the English Garden and the Lake District has no shortage of beautiful gardens to visit. With summer approaching many of the gardens are really blooming into life and now is a great time to explore. From cottage style to gardens to formal estates with world famous plants and topiary there is a great day out to be found. The hardest decision will be deciding which one to visit first.

Holker Hall & Gardens

Home to the Cavendish family, Holker Hall near Cartmel has 25 acres of beautiful gardens, meadows, woodlands and a deer park. There is something to see all year round but Spring and Summer see magnificent rhododendrons, azaleas and roses. One special tree to look out for is The Great Holker Lime, which measures a huge 7.9 metres in girth and dates back to the early 17th century. The Holker Garden festival on 3-5 June is not to be missed and is a great event showcasing the best in gardening, flowers, food and crafts. Find out more

Askham Hall

These Grade II listed gardens near to Penrith are full of stunning features, including colourful terraces, a 230ft long double herbaceous border, unusual species of plants, formal lawns, kitchen gardens, woodland, meadows and ponds. There are views down to the River Lowther, a charming kitchen cafe and you can also buy plants to take home. Find out more

Holehird Gardens

The Lakeland Horticultural Society’s Gardens at Holehird, near Windermere are one of the Lake District’s hidden gems. Set on 17 acres of hillside, the garden includes specimen trees and shrubs, extensive rock and heather gardens, alpine houses, a walled garden and herbaceous borders. The superb Lakeland setting also contains a small woodland walk and water features. Developed and completely maintained by volunteers, the gardens are entirely funded by donations and the sale of plants propagated from the garden. Find out more:

Winderwath Gardens

Privately owned, this beautiful and unique five-acre garden, near Penrith was originally laid out at the end of the 19th Century. The mature trees, Wellingtonia, Cut-leaved Beech, and Cedar date from this time. Extensive work has been recently carried out to the rockeries, herbaceous borders and pond area. There is now a large collection of Salvias for Autumn colour, Herbaceous and Himalayan Plants. There is a picnic area by the pond where the Primulas are very colourful in the Spring. Quiet and understated you can also buy plants and fruit and vegetables when in season. Find out more:

Levens Hall & Gardens

A fascinating Elizabethan mansion, Levens Hall is home to world-famous topiary gardens which date back to 1694, making it the oldest topiary garden in the world. A sort of living sculpture gallery, there are chess pieces, a Judges Wig, a Lion, a Jug of Morocco Ale and four Peacocks to look out for. As well as the topiary there are cut yew trees, an orchard, herbaceous borders, massive beech hedges, rose garden, nuttery and vegetable garden which provide year round interest. Find out more:

Holehird Gardens

Holehird Gardens in December – 3 things to look out for when you visit:

  1. The Holly Bed next to the viewpoint displays an array of contrasting colours in both leaf and berry. Ilex aquifolium ‘Alaska (f)’ has the classic red berry, while its larger neighbour Ilex aquifolium ‘Bacciflava’ bears a yellow berry. Both contrast with nearby Ilex mesereae ‘Blue Prince’ which has no berries but does feature a wonderfully glossy, spiky, purplish-green foliage. As the picture above shows, this is also a great place from which to admire the view to the hills.
  2. The Walled Garden in winter has a very different feel to its vibrant summer offering, but there are still pockets of interest if you look closely. Berries again draw the eye on the prominent Cotoneaster frigidus. Less immediately obvious is the neighbouring island bed which features a lovely globe of Buxus variegata surrounded by yellow Euphorbia oblongata and several varieties of origanum. The same bed also contains deep red Sedum ‘Matrona’ and Rudbeckia fulgida var.deamii (black-eyed Susan), both of whose dramatic seedheads will be left to provide winter interest.
  3. On the Fell Border, the National Collection of polystichum ferns continues to provide interest throughout the winter. These soft-shield ferns are wintergreen so this year’s fronds only die back after next year’s have appeared. In the main fern border planting is in raised banks, mimicking the conditions in which they grow in the wild. Look out for polystichum x dycei, easy to identify by its gold label highlighting it as one of the plants chosen by the Holehird volunteers to feature in our 50th anniversary publication, “Gardeners’ Choice: 50 favourites from Holehird Gardens”.

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