A LEADING horticulturist who ran a Lake District garden centre and became president of Cumbria in Bloom has died, aged 91.

Peter Howarth was well-known across the north of England for judging at flower shows and lecturing to WIs, garden groups and societies.

Born in Blacko, near Nelson, in 1928, Mr Howarth was brought up on a hill farm near Pendle Hill. His father had played the organ in the local Methodist church, which left Peter with a love of organ music that never left him.

He enrolled in night school while working in a local nursery and market garden before moving on to the parks department of Bolton Council. He then spent a year at the County Institute of Agriculture at Hutton, Preston, on a residential course in horticulture before gaining a diploma in horticultural science from Manchester University.

In 1950 he became a student at the Royal Horticultural Society, Wisley, where he gained his National Diploma in Horticulture

He became superintendent of the Glasshouse Unit, Wisley, before becoming horticultural advisor for Worcestershire and Lincolnshire with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Foods in 1954.

Twelve years later he became Horticultural Marketing Advisor covering all of Great Britain. During this time he and his family spent many holidays in the Lakes District and they eventually moved to Winster in 1972 where he set up a tree and shrub propagation unit alongside running the garden centre at Grasmere with his family. This was followed by three years as curator at Muncaster Castle.

For many years he was a judge for Cumbria in Bloom and later became chairman and then president.

Mr Howarth was co-founder and later president of the Lakeland Rhododendron, Camellia and Magnolia Society and president of the Solway and Hadrian Fuschia Society

He was also president of Ambleside Horticultural Show & Craft Society for more than 30 years, helping to run the spring and summer flower shows

He ran his own garden class in Bowness for many years, and until he was 70 he took people on garden tours in Cornwall and Scotland

And until he was almost 80 he ran five-day holidays for gardeners at Rothay Manor in Ambleside. It was while he was in and out of Rothay Manor that he met Julia, who was the receptionist. They married in 2003.

He had five children - Susan, Ashley, David, Richard and Mark - to his first wife, Joan, and has eight grandchildren and three great-grand children.

He loved classical and organ music, and despite spending his last few months in Heron Hill Care Home was still able to attend organ recitals in Kendal and band concerts in Grange. He also paid occasional visits to the Kendal Midday Concert Club.

Mr Howarth died peacefully at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary on July 31.