Towards the end of September, not far from Penrith, in the village of Melkinthorpe, somewhere in the middle of the beautiful countryside of Cumbria, we found the gate open to a fantastical and unique nursery.
An assembly of statue and ornament intermingled with plants greets us at the entrance and artfully built stone walls create a courtyard effect.
Developed in 1984 from a derelict site, Peter Scott created the nursery for his landscape business and employed a team of skilled craftsman. It is difficult to decide upon which archway to take.
An oak door leads into a building; half way between a fine barn and a conservatory it houses some tender plants and is the territory of a little wren.
Light comes in on one side through the full length windows, and at one end is a decorative stained glass window.
We take the narrow arch that leads through pots of towering bamboos,
and pass the office, reminiscent of a Tuscan farmhouse.
Further on is the terraced restaurant which has a slightly oriental look.
Japanese acers either side of the little wooden bridge.
Cornus kousa var. chinensis ‘China Girl’ is laden with fruit.
Old fashioned roses and clematis adorn bold brick pillars and you just can’t help but wonder if this really is a nursery or actually a private garden.
Yes, there are rows of plants, not just the acers and roses but in fact 15,000 varieties of rare and unusual shrubs, perennials, climbers, and dwarf conifers, many of which are propagated on-site. It is the place for plantaholics.
Larch Cottage has supplied Botanical gardens such as Kew, Durham and Sheffield, Universities and Colleges, many National Plant Collections, Alnwick gardens as well RHS Wisley.
Visitors never need feel alone; statues quietly appear in different corners and in many guises. Made from marble, bronze, lead and stone.
Good old Atlas heaves his world up through the sunflowers.
It is not all classical; there is a touch of the contemporary too.
Some pieces are commissioned to order, whilst others are sourced from reputable suppliers worldwide. There is also a comprehensive range of terracotta and glazed pots.
A wide arch, a neat brick path and more plants.
Classical columns provide the support which supply the perfect conditions for shady plants
Another arch, this time narrow and well guarded.
The path widens towards the end of the nursery,
and we find ourselves in the vegetable garden where healthy runner beans clamber over metal frames, and no doubt are a supply for the popular restaurant.
Through the produce the path leads to the gate to the secret garden, open just on Wednesdays in aid of charity including two days in June and October for the NGS.
The freshly mown lawn invites us in. Encircled by borders planted with vigour and variety.
Neatly edged, the large labels identify the choice plants, these Alstroemia ‘Mauve Majesty’ are putting on a good display so late in the season.
and Malvia sylvestris ‘Marina’ is particularly welcome to a visiting bee.
Pink Diascia, with its long flowering season, never fails to delight.
The design of a circular lawn is repeated beyond,
and the wonderfully sounding Kniphofia ‘Wrexham Buttercup’ that I photograph for its Latin name, which I want to keep saying again and again, and here it sure catches the eye.
Calmly grazing on the lawn is a charming family of bronze deer.
A smooth path, so perfect for all things with wheels, winds through a great selection of shrubs,
until it reaches the still round pond. The plants reflect on the surface but the sun has left us now and the light has changed.
A variety of plants pack the water’s edge, such as the low growing Arum-lily
and the elegantly tall fennel.
It has all been recently constructed and a little chapel presides at the furthest point,
with an artistically painted interior, it is private and preserved for family occasions.
Erigeron karvinskianus grows naturally amongst the man-laid stones,
grasses such as Miscanthus sinensis ‘Sarabande’ contribute to a naturalistic planting,
while Hydrangea quercifolla ‘Burgundy’ gives a burst of autumn colour.
We return following the line of the natural stream, where a patchwork of leaves converge to hide the gently flowing water.
There is an orchard to the right bearing beautiful red apples Malus ‘Red Falstaff’ fit for any thespian, even a goddess too,
who now appears to be feeling the autumnal chill. This is quite a nursery and one not to be missed.