The Christmas garland at Cotehele

The yuletide tradition of decking the Tudor Hall with a garland is a relatively recent one. Begun in the 1950s, the Christmas flower garland is now firmly established as one of Cotehele’s annual highlights.

The Christmas garland at Cotehele

Watch the gardeners build the garland: 1 - 10 November, 11am-4pm, (booking essential, details to follow).

See the garland on display: 11 November - 6 January (except 25 & 26 December), 11am-4pm (booking essential, details to follow).

Check out the video from last year

When the residents of Cotehele first hung a modest, floral, Christmas display in the Tudor Hall six decades ago, little did they know how their simple decoration would turn into the magnificent garland it is today.

Every petal home-grown

All of the flowers in the garland are grown at Cotehele from seed and planted in early spring in the Cut Flower Garden. The gardeners pick them daily during the summer, strip their leaves and carefully hang them in the potting shed to dry.

Stripping the leaves from each individual stem is one of the most time-consuming elements in the garland-preparation process. Clean stems enable the flower to be pushed easily into the Pittosporum. Typically, the gardeners would like about 30,000 flowers in the garland.

Volunteers stripping the Christmas garland flowers at Cotehele
Volunteers strip the leaves from Christmas garland flowers at Cotehele, Cornwall

Building starts in November

In early November the gardeners start with a 60ft-long piece of rope, which serves as the core and is designed to drape twice in the 44ft-long hall. They attach small bunches of Pittosporum (foliage) to the rope with potato metal wire sack ties, incrementally covering the entire rope. This gives the framework to which they will add the dried flowers.

They set up a scaffold in the Great Hall, hang the green swag and are ready to add the colour. Another 40ft-long garland frames the door on the east end.

Adding the flowers

The gardeners insert the flowers one by one into the Pittosporum. The number and exact selection of flowers varies from year to year and depends on the weather and other environmental factors. In 2016 there were 31,200 flowers in the garland itself and another 7,920 on the decoration around the doorway. They won't know the numbers for this year until they start to build it.

Volunteers to the rescue

Constructing the garland takes about 10 days including gathering and preparing the Pittosporum, but there are many more hours planning. The total number of hours spent preparing for and making the garland roughly equates to one full-time person every year.

" We’re so grateful to our volunteers. Without them, building the garland wouldn’t be possible. It's a real labour of love."
- Dave Bouch, Head Gardener

Remembering summer

The winter garland marks the end of the growing year and also reminds us of the glories of the summer months. Making the garland is a significant part of the Cotehele gardening team's calendar.

You can watch the gardeners building the Christmas flower garland in the Great Hall between 1 - 10 November, 11am-4pm (booking essential, details to follow).

The garland will be on display between 11 November - 6 January, 2018 (except 25 and 26 December), 11am-4pm (booking essential, details to follow).