Spring in Cotehele's garden

Cotehele’s garden is relatively young in historical terms. It has developed since the sixteenth century and continues to vary and evolve each year.

Now the milder weather has returned to Cornwall, Cotehele is coming to life, with signs of spring wherever you look.

What to look out for in spring

Spring has come late to the garden this year. The wet winter followed by the cold snap and the Beast from the East at the beginning of March damaged some early buds and has pushed back the flowering season by several weeks. We'd normally expect the daffodils to be on the wane by mid-April but this year they're still looking fantastic.

Framing the view

You can expect to see the magnolias coming into flower around mid-April and this is a great time to enjoy the view across the valley. In spring it is framed by magnolia blossom from the trees either side.

Magnolia in bloom at Cotehele
Magnoila in bloom with the house behind at Cotehele, Cornwall
Magnolia in bloom at Cotehele

A garden of many delights

There’s something new in the garden for you to discover 365 days of the year. Spanning 14 acres plus 12 acres of orchard, it has variety far beyond the average garden on account of its terrain, rills and juxtaposition to the house.

The Old Orchard

The old orchard contains a variety of productive trees including apples, Tamar cherries, pears and walnuts.

Although the lichen-covered trees look old, many if not all are comparatively recent, having been planted since the 1960s. Despite the young age of the present trees, a 1731 map of Cotehele indicates that areas behind the house have been used for growing fruit trees for many years.

The Mother Orchard

Apple collectors and propagators James Evans and Mary Martin inspired and informed the Mother Orchard. It was planted in 2007 and is part of a wider programme to trial West Country apple varieties. There are over 300 trees in the orchard representing some 120 different varieties of predominantly local origin.

The varieties grown here have been bred over the last 250 years to survive the mild and damp climatic conditions of the southwest peninsula. The intention of the current project is to provide a reference set of ‘mother trees’ that can be used for the selection of future varieties for both domestic and commercial use.

The Terraces

The Terraces on the east side of the house are probably the most formally planted. Here you’ll find seasonally mixed borders of hydrangeas, roses, geraniums, spring tulips, a giant busy lizzie, magnolias, azaleas and a towering handkerchief tree in the north-east corner.

The Upper Garden

Look out for the brilliantly-coloured dogwood stems on the island in the pond. These are still looking good well into this spring season. The hellebore flowers are still blooming in the flower borders too.

As spring progresses the upper garden shows its true colours: the top (north) border is planted in ‘hot’ colours, and the west border is in golds and silvers, following a plan introduced by gardens adviser Graham Stuart Thomas in the 1960s.

Dogwood stems in winter in the Upper Garden at Cotehele
Red dogwood stems in winter on the island in the pond at Cotehele, Cornwall
Dogwood stems in winter in the Upper Garden at Cotehele

The Cut Flower Garden

This is where we grow a variety of annual flowers for both the house and the 60ft-long Christmas flower garland usually on display in the Great Hall between November and December. Annually there are 20,000-40,000 flowers in the garland -- the number varies depending on the growing season.

The Valley Garden

A tunnel from the formal terraces leads to the steep and wild Valley Garden with a path curving down to a thatched Victorian summer house, a medieval stewpond and dovecote.

A gate at the bottom takes you to the Chapel-in-the-Wood, built by Sir Richard Edgcumbe I.

Purple crocuses and white snowdrops at Cotehele, Cornwall

What's that plant?

If you see a plant you'd like to identify and you don't see a gardener nearby, simply email: askthecotehelegardener@nationaltrust.org.uk and a member of the team will identify the plant. Try to: >> Describe the location > > Provide some photographs > > Describe any special features such as flower and leaf shape, colour, bark etc.