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.
Every petal home-grown
The garland itself has evolved from a simple display of Pittosporum (foliage) with a few dried flowers to the colourful and lavish garland you see today. All of the flowers are grown at Cotehele from seed and planted 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 for several months.
Building starts in November
In early November the gardeners start with a 60-foot long piece of rope, which serves as the core and is designed to drape twice in the 44-foot long hall. They attach small bunches of Pittosporum to the rope with wire ties, incrementally covering the entire rope. This gives the framework to which they will add the dried flowers. They set up a scaffold, hang the green swag and are ready to add the colour.
Adding the flowers
The gardeners insert the flowers one by one into the Pittosporum. They use Statice or Limonium first, its tall stems and small flowers in blues, purples, yellows and pinks give both structure and soft colour to the green Pittosporum. Other flowers include the striking gold Helicrysum ‘Dargon Hill Monarch’, Limonium Suworowii or ‘pink pokers’, Helipterum and Lagurus grasses. The exact selection of flowers varies from year to year and depends on the weather and other environmental factors.
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 on 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."
One of the most time-consuming elements in the garland-preparation process is stripping the leaves from each individual stem, Clean stems enable the flower to be pushed easily into the Pittosporum. Typically, the gardeners would like about 30,000 flowers in the garland.
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. This year the team will build the garland between 5 – 14 November. Visitors are welcome to climb the scaffold and help between 11am - 4pm. The completed garland will be on display daily between 15 November and 31 December (closed Christmas and Boxing Day).