Winter in Cotehele's garden

A frosty bench in the Terraces garden at Cotehele, Cornwall

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 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, a giant busy lizzie 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 of year when we plant tulips, to be ready for spring flowering.

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

The Upper Garden

In winter look out for the brilliantly coloured dogwoods and the white bed, behind the cut flower garden, looks at its best in winter, with heather, hellebore and snowflakes to name but a few.

The winter garden is a precurser to what will come in spring, as at the edges of the garden, the deep borders are colour themed. 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 Old Orchard

The old orchard contains a variety of productive trees including apples, Tamar cherries, pears and walnuts. Once the leaves have fallen, winter is the time we prunce the trees. Annual pruning encourages fruit and opens up the crown to allow air to corculate through the branches and allows the gardeners to have a good look for any fungus, pests or 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 ten years ago a part of a wider programme to trial West Country apple varieties. There are over 300 trees in the orchard representing 125 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 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 is the time when you can see the trees in their naked form and on a clear day you can really appreciate the size of the valley.

A gate at the bottom takes you to the Chapel-in-the-Wood, built by Sir Richard Edgcumbe I, and inside the building you'll find details of the lucky escape which led him to build it.

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