• Maureen Little

Larch Cottage Nurseries

We visited one of my favourite nurseries recently – Larch Cottage Nurseries in Cumbria. It doesn’t seem to matter what time of the year, month, week or day you go there are always keen gardeners seeking out the more unusual plants that Larch Cottage has to offer.

Where else could you delight in a whole bench-worth of lupins, for example? Or an equally vast array of ferns in all their guises?

Admittedly, there wasn’t a huge number of plants in flower, but to the avid gardener that doesn’t matter. With over 15,000 varieties of plants to choose from we’re like kiddies in a sweet shop, relishing the names and descriptions, delighting in conjuring up an image in our mind’s eye of what the plant will look like in flower, and drooling over the prospect of new acquisitions taking pride of place in the garden.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but my nose led me to two distinct plants which were a joy to behold. The first was an unassuming, modest little flower, easy to overlook except for its scent, the heavenly scent! Viola odorata, or sweet violet, is a brave soul, flowering at a time of year when little else dare show its face. It’s a native plant but you’d be hard pushed to find many growing wild unless you know where to look: so it’s even more important that we find room in our gardens to nurture and cherish it. To do that we need to replicate the conditions they enjoy in the wild, namely winter and spring sunshine but shade in the summer. So, a deciduous woodland or shrub area would be ideal. If they decide they like the spot you’ve given them, they will spread, rather more than modestly, and reward you with their divine scent.

Talking of divine scent brings me to the next plant my nose led me to. I found Daphne tangutica in a sheltered spot, in the corner of the fern area. The scent was intoxicating, probably because of the abundance of flowers. I had a feeling that this species didn’t grow to much above a metre, but I’m guessing this specimen reached the height it has (a good 1.8m) because of its protected location.

Two plants that were in also in full flower were Helleborus sp and Euphorbia sp. So here are a few of the varieties that it was oh so tempting to buy ….

As we were leaving, we noticed the plaque on the wall. In 2019 Larch Cottage was voted The Nation’s Favourite Garden in the North - an award hosted by the National Garden Scheme and English Gardens Magazine. Well, it’s certainly my favourite garden in the north – it’s a joy to be proved right!