Secrets of the Himalayan Garden

Harewood is renowned for its beautiful gardens and inspiring planting schemes. In the Himalayan Garden, which is at its peak between April and July, the stream, rock garden, waterfall and mature planting give this enclave of the grounds a natural, untamed feel, not unlike being in a miniature version of a Himalayan valley.

Harewood House in Yorkshire has a wild garden

Harewood’s Himalayan Garden contains many rare and unusual plants, many of which were introduced by intrepid plant explorers, and include Blue Poppies, Cobra Lilies, Primulas and Orchids, all planted amidst a host of trees, shrubs, rhododendrons and bamboos.

What to look out for?

Rare plants grown in Harewood House in Yorkshire

These must include the famous Blue Poppies of the genus Meconopsis from the Sino-Himalayan region. There are several kinds of Chinese and Himalayan poppies growing in the Himalayan Garden and many more are being planted this spring. They’re not all blue either, other colours include lemon, white, pink and red. Some species grow as small Alpine plants on thin soil in the rock garden, whilst others can grow to 2 metres on humus-rich, moist soil in the woodland garden.


Rare Terrestrial Orchids at Harewood House in Yorkshire


If you’re looking for orchids there are several types growing in the Himalayan Garden, mainly in the gorge and rock garden area. Terrestrial orchids representing genera such as Pleione, Cypripedium and Calanthe can be found at Harewood.



Harewood House has unusual plants in the gardensCobra Lilies of the genus Arisaema are an exciting and unusual addition to any garden. There are several species growing at Harewood, all of which are very striking plants with their distinctive snake-like appearance. They are very variable too with some having large reticulated hoods with long appendages and very large leaves, whilst some are short and slender with club-like appendages and narrow leaves. One species even has a cobra-like hood and a twisted tongue-like appendage and can grow up to 2 metres tall. Keep a look out for this striking plant in July.


Primulas are grown at Harewood House in Yorkshire


One of the simplest and most striking plants to grow in the Himalayan Garden is the “Candelabra” primula. Flowering between May and June, this is a robust spieces, thriving in wet soils. From western Sichuan, the bright pink flowers stand out against the pale silver stems.


Rhododendron grow at Harewood House in Yorkshire

One of the finest displays of colour at Harewood in spring is derived from the hundreds of species and hybrid rhododendrons that grow throughout the grounds. From dwarf species with tiny leaves and flowers growing in rock crevices in the gorge to tree rhododendrons standing upwards of 20 feet tall with large trusses of funnel-shaped flowers growing in the woodland garden, there is a huge variety of colour and form here. The best time to see the rhododendrons in flower is between April and June, although we do have a beautifully fragrant white-flowered species which flowers in late summer. This is Rhododendron auriculatum which was HRH Princess Mary’s favourite.

Top Tips for Growing Rhododendron from our Head Gardener:

Trevor has been caring for Harewood’s gardens for over 20 years now and has some hints to help you choose and successfully grow rhododendrons in your own garden.

  1. Choose the right rhododendron for your particular site and buy quality plants from a good nursery. There are so many different kinds of Rhododendron available to suit all kinds of situations. Ask at the nursery for advice on the best rhododendrons for your site.
  2. Plant in moisture-retentive acid soil. Good drainage is also important, and on some sites it is better to plant in a shallow scoop, firm in with soil and then mound-up to the top of the root-ball with compost rather than to plant in a pit. At Harewood, we add compost at planting but prefer to add this to the upper part of the root-ball rather than sitting the plant onto a layer of compost, which then sinks leaving the plant sitting in a sump which collects water, especially in winter.
  3. Keep your plants healthy by applying an ericaceous fertiliser annually in early spring, and giving them a plentiful supply of water during the summer months, followed by a mulch of leaf mould in the autumn.

Don’t forget to come and visit Harewood when we open in April to see these beautiful plants at their best.

Harewood nominated for Landmark of the Year award

Six months on from the Tour de France, following the magnificent Grand Depart event, Harewood House has been nominated to win Landmark of the Year 2014-15, a BBC Countryfile award.  Going up against Shakespeare’s Birth Place Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon, Llanddwyn Island Lighthouse on Anglesey, The Kelpies in Falkirk and Dark Hedges in Armoy, Harewood will compete for the award in a public vote.

Lord Harewood said, “The Grand Depart was a great occasion for Yorkshire and I’m really proud that Harewood was able to play its part in it. Everything came right on the day – even the weather – and that’s a tribute to the hard work, energy and commitment of so many people, both here and across the county.”

Harewood House at the start of the 2014 Grand Depart

The weekend was a fantastic spectacle of sport, community and entertainment which resonated around the world. Harewood stood at the start of the race as a true Yorkshire icon, hosting thousands of spectators including their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. The sight of the peloton approaching the historic building as the Red Arrows flew overhead was one of the moments of the day, prompting race bosses to describe the start of the 2014 Tour de France as “the grandest Grand Depart ever”.

Harewood House welcomed the Royal Family

July 2014: HRH Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry open the 2014 Tour de France at Harewood

Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire said, “The Tour de France was an amazing showcase for Yorkshire. Harewood House was a magnificent backdrop and helped raise Yorkshire’s profile around the world.”

Vote for Harewood:

To whittle down the contenders, BBC Countryfile asked experts in each field to draw up shortlists of candidates. They are now asking members of the public to vote for their favourites via post, email ( and on the BBC Countryfile Magazine website,

A Christmas Legacy Continues

At the start of the First World War, there was a mass outpouring of sympathy and charity for the men fighting for Britain. The Royal family were not immune to this and in October 1914, the young Princess Mary, inspired by her visits to hospitals for injured soldiers, wanted to show her support.

She felt the dangers of war as sharply as many other women did as her two brothers, David (later King Edward VIII) and Bertie, (later King George VI), began active service.

On October 15th 1914, Mary publicly announced her intentions to provide a gift for ‘every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front’ in a letter sent out from Buckingham Palace.

By the 20th October 1914, the fund had received over £12,000 in donations. The following week this amount had risen to £31,000. By the time the fund was closed in 1920, £162,591 12s 5d had been donated. This money was used to create over 2.5 million gift boxes for soldiers, sailors, nurses and other people involved in the war effort at Christmas 1914.

 About the Christmas Gift Fund

The inaugural meeting of the Christmas Gift Fund Committe, which was set up to pursue Princess Mary’s ambitions, was held on the 14th October 1914. The committee comprised of significant and notable personalities from the time. The Chair of the committee was the Duke of Devonshire supported by the British Prime Minister, H. H. Asquith, the Treasurer Lord Revelstoke, and the secretary Rowland Berkeley.

Princess Mary lived at Harewood after WW1

HRH Princess Mary

Wasting no time, on the 15th October 1914, Buckingham Palace released a statement from Princess Mary:

For many weeks we have all been greatly concerned for the welfare of the sailors and soldiers who are so gallantly fighting our battles by sea and land. Our first consideration has been to meet their more pressing needs, and I have delayed making known wish that has long been in my heart for fear of encroaching on other fund, the claims of which have been more urgent, I want you now to help me to send a Christmas present from the whole nation to every sailor afloat and every solider at the front. On Christmas Eve, when, like shepherds of old they keep watch, doubtless their thoughts will turn to home and loved ones left behind, and perhaps, too, hey will recall days when, as children themselves, they were wont to hang out their stocking wondering what the morrow had in store. I am sure that we should all be happier to feel that we had helped to send our little token of love and sympathy on Christmas morning, something that would be useful and of permanent value, the making of which may be the means of providing employment in trades adversely affected by the war. Could there be anything more likely to hearten them in their struggle than a present received straight from home on Christmas Day? Please will you help me? Mary’

The Gift Box and the contents

Things began to progress quickly. The next decision to be taken was what should be included in the boxes, and how they should look.

The final design for the boxes was provided by Messrs Adshead and Ramsay. The boxes were five inches long, 3 and a quarter wide and one and a quarter deep, with a hinged lid. In the centre of the lid is an image of Princess Mary, surrounded by a wreath, with two Princess Mary ‘M’ monograms beside this. Inscribed on a cartouche at the top of the box are the words Imperium Britannicum, a reference to Britain’s imperial power. In other cartouches, around the edge of the box are the names of Britain’s allies in the First World War; Belgium, France, Servia, Montenegro, Russia and Japan. At the bottom is inscribed Christmas 1914.

Harewood House has a interesting history with WW1

Most gift boxes contained smoking paraphernalia. The standard box contained a pipe, one ounce of tobacco, a lighter and twenty monogrammed cigarettes, along with a Christmas card from the royal family, and a picture of Princess Mary.

People began to point out that there should also be a gift made available to those who did not smoke, and to Ghurkhas fighting for the British, many of whose religion did not allow smoking.

For non-smokers, an alternative box was arranged. Inside these boxes, instead of cigarettes the men found a pencil, with a case made to look like a bullet, a pack of sweets, and, again, the Royal family Christmas card and picture of Princess Mary.

Indian troops, again, got something different. They received a box with a packet of sugar candy, one packet of cigarettes, if their religion allowed, and a small box of spices. Unlike native British troops Indian Ghurkhas were given an allowance, as opposed to rations, so they could buy their own food. These Indian Ghurkhas could use their spices to cook dishes from India which would normally be unavailable when fighting in Europe.

Another special gift box was made up for nurses serving in frontline hospitals. These still contained the Christmas card and Princess Mary picture, which featured in all variations of the box, but contained chocolate, as opposed to sweets and cigarettes.

Type of Gift Box What Was Included?
Standard smokers 1914 (inc. Ghurkhas) Christmas card, Princess Mary picture,Lighter (sometimes replaced by alt. small present), Pipe, One ounce of Tobacco, Twenty monogrammed Cigarettes.
Standard non-smokers 1914 Christmas Card, Princess Mary Picture, Bullet casing pencil, Acid tablets, Khaki writing case.
Sikh gift box 1914 Christmas Card, Princess Mary Picture, Sugar candy, Box of Spices.
Bhistis 1914 Christmas Card, Princess Mary picture, Tin box of spices.
Other Indian Troops 1914 Christmas Card, Princess Mary Picture, Sugar candy, Packed of Cigarettes, Box of spices.
Nurses 1914 Christmas Card, Princess Mary Picture, Chocolate.
Universal box 1915-1918 New Year’s Card, Pencil.

Manufacture and Distribution

The production and distributing of the Gift Box was a huge task. All industries were under strain during the First World War. Tobacco was becoming harder to come by and more of a luxury, and all metal was being pumped into the armaments industry to make weapons.

It was difficult to obtain the necessary resources to create Princess Mary’s Gift Boxes. The boxes were to be made of brass, a material hard to come by due to its usefulness in weapon and munitions productions. Special sheets of brass had to be ordered in from the USA which took a long time to arrive eventually halting production.

Another twist in this tale comes from an unlikely source; the sinking of the US ship the Lusitania. This famous ship was sailing from the USA to England before it was hit by a German torpedo and sunk on 7th May 1915 just off the Irish coast. This tragedy involved a huge loss of human life, with all 1,195 passengers on board losing their lives. Also lost was a large quantity of brass that was to be made into Princess Mary gift boxes.

Despite these problems the gift boxes were still a success. By Christmas 1914  355,716 gifts had reached members of the British Expeditionary force, 66,168 gift boxes had reached men at home on sick leave, 4,600 had gone to the French Mission, fighting alongside British soldiers in France, and 1,390 boxes had reached nursing staff in the army. This meant that over 426,724 gift boxes had been made and distributed in just two months. Over the next four years another two million boxes would be delivered to people involved in Britain’s war effort.


These boxes were designed to create a feeling of unity under the British Royal Family and to boost morale among those facing front line fighting. Princess Mary received many letters of thanks from serving troops expressing their gratitude at the thoughtful generosity of the young Princess and from the British nation.

Harewood has WW1 stories

The box occasionally had a more specific impact on individuals too. One Private Maynard, who fought in WW1 wrote to the Princess Royal whilst she lived at Harewood to inform her that her gift box had saved his life! Whilst serving, Private Maynard was shot in the chest. The bullet was deflected by the gift box which he was carrying in his pocket at the time.

The Story Continues

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Great War, and to say a heartfelt thank you to the thousands of brave troops currently serving in the armed forces, this December, Fortnum & Mason is sending beautiful, limited-edition Christmas tins to all British servicemen and women on active duty throughout the world. The tins are filled with bespoke, miniature playing cards and a luxury milk chocolate bar.

WW1 Gift Box replica

Called ‘Tommy’s Tin’, after Tommy Atkins, the colloquial term for a common soldier in the British army, Fortnum’s 2014 tins are virtually identical to those sent to the troops by Princess Mary  during World War One. They come in the same brushed-gold colour, with the same hinging, and are heavily embossed just like the originals. A few discrete alterations indicate that this tin is a 21st century creation. The Fortnum’s replica includes the badges for the Army, Navy and Air Force, whilst on either side of the head of Britannia, the central design feature, are the letters ‘F’ and ‘M’.

You can see the original Gift Boxes and the 2014 editions at an exhibition at Harewood from 3rd April 2015.

Date Confirmed for 2015 Brownlee Tri

  • 2015 event date confirmed: Saturday 26th September
  • Alistair & Jonny Brownlee “Harewood a great venue for triathlon”
Harewood House hosts sports events

September 2014: Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee host the Brownlee Tri North at Harewood

The Brownlee Tri will be returning to Harewood House in Leeds on Saturday 26th September 2015. Alistair and Jonny Brownlee’s hugely popular triathlon will once again offer Sprint and Super Sprint distances for individuals and a Sprint relay for teams around the spectacular Harewood course. Early bird registration for the triathlon is set to open within the next few weeks.

The 2015 Brownlee Tri will build on the success of the 2014 event, when over 1,000 competitors and 4,000 spectators enjoyed a fantastic day out at the stunning Harewood estate. The event proved to be an instant hit among the triathlon community, who praised the course for its breath-taking scenery, closed circuit layout and one of the most exciting new bike routes on the calendar.

Swimmers in the lake at Harewood House near Leeds

Alistair Brownlee commented “We’re really pleased to be able to bring the Brownlee Tri back to Harewood House. It’s such a great triathlon venue with a course that offers something for everyone: young and old, experienced or new to the sport.” Jonny added “Last year was brilliant, seeing so many people competing and enjoying themselves at a venue only 10 minutes from our own home.”

The event will once again offer a packed entertainment village and the opportunity for competitors and spectators to explore the grounds of the Harewood Estate, including the Bird Garden and Adventure Playground.

Cycling at Harewood House in Yorkshire

Race Director Louise Cornish said “We’re delighted that the Brownlee Tri is returning to Harewood House, which we believe is one of the UK’s best triathlon venues.  As with this year’s Brownlee Tri, we want to deliver a premium triathlon experience for competitors of all abilities, as well as a great day out for the thousands of friends and families who turn up to support.’

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2014 Thank You

As Harewood House and gardens close for the winter months, we wanted to thank you for playing your part in what has been an extraordinary year. We have produced five art exhibitions, hosted three car shows, a food festival, an antiques fair, a dog show, a music festival, an outdoor theatre performance, seventeen talks, tour and workshops and three sporting events. Le Grand Depart was naturally a huge highlight along with the historic visit from their Royal Highnesses William, Kate and Harry. We would like to thank you for being part of our 2014 year.

Harewood Prepares for 2015

During closed season, we will be undertaking some significant capital projects. One such project will see the historic House connected to a new state-of-the-art biomass heating system located within the Estate. The Georgian building will be taken firmly into 2015 with a fully sustainable heating system which will reduce energy consumption, fire risk and save vital funds which can go back into preserving the building and art works.

Inside the House, the collections will undergo a deep clean. Scaffolding will be erected in the State Rooms allowing our expert team to clean chandeliers and paintings as well as make repairs where necessary. Harewood House Trust was set up to maintain and develop the collections for the public benefit and your membership or ticket goes towards this essential goal. It really does make a difference.

In the gardens, the grounds team will prune the trees, enrich planting on the Terrace and they plan to introduce a range of hardy-herbaceous perennials. 2015 will also see HRH Princess Mary’s rock garden revamped by replanting alpine plants including lilies, blue poppies and fox tail lilies.

Thank you once again for being part of a historic year at Harewood and we look forward to welcoming you back in April 2015 with more exciting things to come.

Terrace at sunrise in October credit Harewood House Trust