Saturday, 1 May 2010


When we dream of the perfect Lake District garden, we begin to imagine many things...

Slate strewn pathways winding their way up a wooded fellside. Towering trees above, alive with the sounds of spring birdsong amongst the fresh new green leaves. Beneath them, majestic broad leaved rhododendrons heavy with flower and sweetly scented. Sheets of bright azaleas and large collections of regal magnolias, their huge chalice shaped flowers open to the dappled sunshine filtering through the canopy above.

Twisting trails take us up past all this and more as we make our way across rustic bridges spanning rushing streams where cascades and small waterfalls are framed with mighty Gunnera and Lysichiton.

The woodland walks continue ever higher with glimpses through the trees to sparkling Windermere below and later broad views out across the lakes to the mountains in the distance. Later, this natural garden’s rocky outcrops blend seamlessly with the wooded fellside and the bare, high felltops beyond.

Finally, as we wind our way back down through this dreamy scene we are enchanted by shimmering drifts of bluebells, Erythroniums and primulas carpeting the ground all around.

This is not just a dream however, it is sublimely beautiful reality at Stagshaw, south of Ambleside. This supremely wonderful eight acre delight is for me, Lakeland’s most magical garden in May...

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Sizergh in Spring...

Visit any of the Lake District’s wonderful gardens in springtime and you will see them at their freshest, sparkling best. Bright green grass, deep, clear blue skies, early blossom and fresh spring flowers all paint a colourful picture of the new season’s life bursting eagerly forth.

Sizergh Castle in the south of the county is certainly superb at this time of year. It stands proudly in its rolling pastoral landscape, the grandeur of its great tower reflected in the lake at its feet. The home of the Strickland family for centuries, and now a national trust property, its beauty and history have been preserved and opened up for all.

The extensive grounds contains a huge limestone rock garden, threaded through with streams that mirror its many gems. Right now, it is peppered with cheerful drumstick primulas, species narcissus and the extraordinary huge yellow spathes of ‘skunk cabbages’. This property is also rightly famed for its wildflower banking which sees a progression of pretty native rarities including many local orchids.

Elsewhere cherry avenues create the most delightful living tunnels of colorful blossom carpeted beneath with tiny bulbs, and further on huge magnolias light up the sky with their enormous open flowers.

It is also the place to see a little of the work that goes on behind the scenes... It is a pleasure to walk beneath the old fruit trees in the natural orchard, deep with drifts of gorgeous daffodils. There is also the working kitchen and cutting garden to explore, its many rows of old fashioned vegetables and traditional flowers proudly watched over by the ever vigilant scarecrow.

Put simply, Sizergh shows us all that is good in a garden in springtime....

Monday, 1 March 2010

Holker Hall

Winter may have been long and hard this year, but that only serves to make spring all the more special. Nowhere brings the new season in in such style as at Holker Hall on the furness peninsula. Here at the south-west tip of Lakeland, the sun and sea’s influence is never far away and spring’s warm sunshine is felt here first.

It is Holker’s 60th season of welcoming visitors to the magnificent Hall, and 25 acres of gardens and grounds. To celebrate from the start, over 38,000 bulbs have been planted...

Early snowdrops, crocus and winter aconites are naturalized in generous drifts across the grassy slopes. In time they will be followed by golden daffodils, species narcissus, camassias and lilies. In the more formal areas unparalleled displays of tulips are set off amongst thickly planted primrose and primula.

As spring reaches forward into summer, rare and exotic trees and shrubs excite at every turn throughout the extensive woodland garden. While closer to the house, one of the finest formal gardens in all England demands and deserves the greatest admiration.

Formal cascades and water features, wild flower meadows, standing stone labyrinths and a superb slate sundial in a breathtaking parkland setting all contribute to this most exhilarating of garden experiences.

Share in the magical re-awakening of the garden in springtime at Holker Hall, home to one of Lakeland’s greatest gardens.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Holehird- Spring awakenings...

As winter loses its icy grip across Lakeland’s landscape, the first brave signs of spring can been seen. Snow is retreating now to the highest fells as days lengthen, the sun grows warmer and birds begin to sing and seek out nest sites.

Holehird, home of the Lakeland Horticultural Society situated high above Windermere, is the perfect place to explore the excitement of the coming season. Ten acres of the most wonderful and immaculately cared for gardens in the country.

The bright red and yellow of dogwood stems, silvery birch boughs and the sweet scent of daphne mark winter’s highlights still. But, the new years promise is showing all around as snowdrops of every sort sparkle, certain sign of life’s quickening springtime pace.

Hellebores in intriguing shades from lime green to deepest burgundy abound, and bright yellow winter aconites shine out in the sunshine. Soon these earliest and hardiest flowers give way to swathes of golden, nodding daffodils tumbling down the slopes, themselves followed by a growing profusion of springtime favourites and rarer beauties too.

From the tiniest and most intricate natural alpine specimens to the rich herbaceous borders and mixed plantings of the walled garden; from the highest rock garden slopes, down streamside plantings to tarn-side walks below. All is enhanced by the most wonderful views out across Lake Windermere to the Coniston and Langdale fells beyond.

Savour Spring’s awakening at Holehird. One of the best situated, most skillfully planted, finely detailed and lovingly maintained gardens to be found anywhere...

Friday, 8 January 2010

Levens Park - a Winter Wonderland

Lakeland in winter can be a magical place. Crystal clear air, deep blue skies and views that go on for ever. Snow covered mountains stretch away into the distance and ice cold, mirror like lakes reflect the picture perfect alpine scene.

Gardens silently rest under their snowy mantle, a glittering dusting of white transforming them into sparkling wonderlands.

Too cold to sit and stare too long, this is the time for warming brisk walks, sledging or building snowmen!

Levens Park in the south of the county is the perfect, easily accessible, low level destination... Public footpaths follow the River Kent through its idyllic valley setting. Every turn and rise opening up new views. Rocky outcrops, rolling slopes, sparkling water, woodland scenes and glimpses of distant fells.

Ancient oak trees are scattered throughout this picturesque landscape. Originally enclosed as medieval deer park, its mile long avenue of gnarled and venerable trees marches alongside, following the old carriage drive to Levens Hall.

Rare breed ‘Bagot Goats’ and a herd of unusual ‘Black’ Fallow Deer wander at will here. Sharp eyed observers will also see many species of birds on the wing, amongst scrub, or at the water’s edge.

As Cumbrian gardens slumber under their snowy blankets, dreaming of a wonderfully warm spring and summer to come. It is good to explore and enjoy some of the county’s finest parklands and footpaths.

The Lake District in winter... Cold, bright, clear days - perfect for a warming walks and a breath of crisp, clean air.
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