Cotehele 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.

The garden is open every day from dawn to dusk.

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. Once all of the leaves have fallen, winter is the time to prune the trees. Annual pruning encourages fruit and opens up the crown to allow air to circulate through the branches and it gives the gardeners a chance to have a good look for fungus, pest and disease.

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

We're busy in winter pruning the trees here too. 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.

In winter we cut back the herbaceous plants to tidy them up. It’s also the time when we plant tulips, to be ready for spring.

A frosty urn in The Terraces at Cotehele
A frosty urn in The Terraces garden at Cotehele, Cornwall

The Upper Garden

In winter, look out for the brilliantly-coloured dogwood stems on the island in the pond. Snowdrops and hellebore flowers make an appearance in the flower borders, and the white bed behind the cut flower garden looks at its best in winter with heather, hellebore and snowflakes, to name a few.

The winter garden is a precursor to what will come in spring: 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

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.. By winter the garland flowers have been harvested, dried and made into a beautiful decoration. 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.

Winter's the time when you can see the trees in their naked form and appreciate the size of the valley. A gate at the bottom takes you to the tiny Chapel-in-the-Wood, built by Sir Richard Edgcumbe I.

The Valley Garden under a blanket of snow at Cotehele
The Valley Garden under a blanket of snow at Cotehele, Cornwall
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.