Hidden away in the tiny hamlet of Melkinthorpe in the Eden Valley is one of the country’s great horticultural gems.

Established by the Cumbrian landscape designer Peter Stott in 1984, Larch Cottage Nurseries has grown from originally providing plants for his landscaping business into a true garden of Eden with a thriving nursery.

Romanesque walls, draped with greenery, act as a backdrop for the plant displays bursting with mature stock plants that have been cultivated on the local land.

There’s an intimacy and tranquillity to these gardens, which have been cleverly planted and arranged in a series of outdoor rooms.

Now, after many years of tireless work, the work of Mr Stott and his dedicated staff has been recognised nationally with a feature length piece in the English Garden magazine.

Speaking to the News & Star, he was in reflective mood and spoke of his humbling at being recognised nationally as a result of the actions of his loyal customers.

"I'm very grateful to all of our customers and visitors who have felt us worthy to be entered into the competition. I didn't even know about it when we were entered in it so it was a bit of a surprise when we heard we had been shortlisted for it. It thought it was a wind-up actually!

"It's such strange times that we are living in that you don't quite know what's real at the moment," he laughs.

Combining his love of art, beauty and good architecture Peter and his wife, Jo, have worked with his team of experienced craftsmen to create Larch Cottage Nurseries, which also houses the Red Barn Gallery on two floors. Upstairs, the gallery has a reputation for showcasing the work by some of the country’s most highly regarded artists, sculptors and craftspeople.

"I've been involved in the arts all my life," Peter explains.

"I try to create a place where people can get in touch with ideas inside us through space and architecture alongside the plants. I like to get people to feel their environment as well as see it.

"I feel very privileged to have been able to bring some Cumbrian horticulture to the fore as it's not something Cumbria has been known for before so I do feel very lucky that we have the staff and the regular customers who have helped us to achieve what we have been able to.

"It fills me with pride. Without everyone's commitment, with even the best will in the world, all of my best ideas would come to nothing if I didn't have the people around me to help me achieve it. So I'm very grateful for all the work the staff put in.

"I've always been grateful for the support. We've started the business off around thirty years ago from nothing and it's always been a dream to be a centre of horticultural excellence I suppose. It's just a case of working towards that dream all the time and I feel lucky I've always had a dream to follow. It gives you confidence you are at least doing something people appreciate!"

A life passion, Peter confirms that his main motivation is creating a space for the public to enjoy.

"I would do it even without recognition. I build it for people to enjoy and so it's not something I do for my own ego. I enjoy building gardens and creating and to have an accolade is a lovely bonus but it's not the raison d'etre for what I do."

He feels that the pandemic alongside the efforts of conservationists such as David Attenborough will have a direct impact on young people, in particular, beginning to appreciate their environment even more.

"I think that people like David Attenborough have had a massive impact on getting across to people just how little we have conserved the world. He's put it over in such a way that people, young and old, are now understanding just what we've been doing to it and I think that everybody is starting to hae a slight shift in focus and it's about time.

"We should be very grateful for people who are encouraging us to have a real look at the natural world and inspiring people to try to alleviate all the troubles we are causing.

"Without a doubt, I believe that young people are realising through this crisis that quality of life is more important than the things one can buy and I do think there is a real mental shift in how people are aiming their focus. Constant striving for material wealth something that, I believe, will not bring someone much contentment in life!"

He added: "It is something I'm proud we can offer. Prior to the pandemic, perhaps we had become disengaged from nature and it's a wake up call. It becomes really obvious that we do need that outdoor space and the sanity-creating environments that we can create for each other.

"We really do need to re-equate ourselves. You need to know it to love it. Outdoor spaces, though, are really helping to keep people sane at the moment."

The various national lockdowns that have been in place over the past nine months have allowed for reflection but he explains that he has missed his loyal customers greatly.

"In the first lockdown it was fantastic for the first fortnight. I'd never had the place closed and all to myself before and so it was nice to enjoy it in that sense. That said, very quickly I did begin to find it rather unsettling. After a fortnight, it felt really, really disjointed and wrong psychologically. It didn't feel right because people are such a massive part of what I do."

For someone so dedicated to creating a public space that ties together the best of art and the environment, the pandemic experience has been difficult.

"I think that has been one of the worst aspects of the pandemic. I create for other people and we have many, many really loyal customers who have been coming to us for so many years. It's really sad that you don't now see them. It's like swallows, they come back every year. We try to make it as safe an environment as possible and our customers are the same. We certainly miss them.

"I think with any business it's that to and fro between the commercial side and the personal aspect. People become friends over a lot of years and that's what you miss. It's that personal aspect. It has nothing to do with money. Rather, it's that exchange of ideas, good conversation and just general humanity.

"We are social animals and I guess we are not designed to not have that interaction with each other so it's something I very much look forward to returning once things improve. We feed on each other and each other's ideas."

You can order a copy of English Garden magazine on their website.