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

See the garland on display: daily until 6 January 2018 (except 25 & 26 December)

Watch the video

The garland is now in its sixty-second year and is as colourful as ever. Check out the video from last year when the gardeners made a silvery garland to celebrate its 'diamond' sixtieth anniversary.

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 easily placed 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
Volunteers stripping the Christmas garland flowers at Cotehele

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. This year there are 32,000 indivudual stems.

A young visitor admires the Christmas garland flowers at Cotehele
A young visitor delights in the flowers that are used in the Christmas flower garland at Cotehele, Cornwall
A young visitor admires the Christmas garland flowers at Cotehele

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.

The garland is on display daily until 6 January, 2019 (except 25 and 26 December).