Cotehele, nr Saltash, Cornwall


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A couple of years back we visited Cotehele to see the Christmas garland (here). This time around, to bring a little variety to the proceedings, I thought it would be nice to go a week or so earlier and see the garland in the process of construction.


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All the raw materials are grown on the estate. It’s been a good year and that has translated into a bumper crop of flowers for drying… 46,000 have been used in total: 34,000 in the 60′ long main swag and a further 12,000 in an extension around a door.


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The core of the swag, created from foliage such as pittosporum, is first suspended from the ceiling of the Great Hall. The gardeners and volunteers then insert each and every dried flower by hand.


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It’s a painstaking process.


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But what an incredible result.


The light in the Great Hall wasn’t great and flash isn’t allowed so the photos are maybe not quite as sharp as Mike would have liked. We caused a bit of a stir, briefly, when he used my head in lieu of the tripod he’d left at home. Unfortunately it was the first thing people saw as they came in through the door.


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Here’s a list of the flowers used:


Limonium sinuatum (Statice)

Lagurus ovatus (Hare’s tail grass)

Helipterum ‘Pierrot’ (Sunray)

Acroclinum roseum (Paper Daisy)

Xeranthemum annuum (Paper Roses)

Helichrysum ‘Bright Bikini Mixed’ (Everlasting flower)

Xerochrysum ‘Dargan Hill Monarch’ (Strawflower)

Limonium suworowii (Pink Pokers)




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It was a pretty miserable day. If we’d thought for a second that photography was challenging in the Great Hall it was nothing to what we encountered once outside. The Met Office in their wisdom have decreed that storms bearing down on British shores will henceforth be honoured with a name and, just as we descended upon the garden, Abigail decided to put in an appearance.


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Impatiens tinctoria


And did it dampen our enthusiasm? Well, not mine. Especially with delights like this on show. Who knew that anything as exotic could be blooming so gloriously in November? I am late to the world of Impatiens, the ubiquitous Busy Lizzie of my youth having so much to answer for. But this one really is a must have. Apparently it can overwinter in the ground in the south of the country when heavily mulched. Just as well really as it’s a big plant, growing up to 2m tall and almost as much across.


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Magnolia soulangeana ‘Rustica Rubra’

And what about the superb seed pods on this magnolia?


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Camellia sasanqua

I read about this plant on a blog a couple of weeks ago and now, well I’m blowed, here it is. An autumn blooming camellia. Another for the November must have list. As you can see, by this time it wasn’t just the wind getting up but driving rain as well. The Under Gardener was less than pleased.


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Time to repair to the cafe for soup and a roll.

Mutiny in the ranks only narrowly avoided.

Cotehele Garland Pin

2017-10-24T19:32:42+00:00November 18th, 2015|Tags: |


  1. derrickjknight November 18, 2015 at 11:33 am - Reply

    Good pics despite the conditions

    • Jessica November 18, 2015 at 5:01 pm - Reply

      Thanks Derrick. No doubt storm Barney would have been even worse.

  2. Brian Skeys November 18, 2015 at 11:46 am - Reply

    We visited Cotehele one summer, the Impatiens was in flower then. I remember being very impressed and taking a photo. The cutting beds were very impressive with all the flowers growing for creating the swag.I have seen the Christmas Swag on the television, I don’t expect it compares to seeing it in real life.

    • Jessica November 18, 2015 at 5:03 pm - Reply

      It’s made me think about growing some plants specifically for drying. Nothing as exotic as a garland, but a few arrangements to cheer up winter a bit.

  3. Julie November 18, 2015 at 11:47 am - Reply

    How lovely, what a wonderful garland, puts anything I have ever attempted into a very dark shade, but must be really rewarding to take a small part in the construction, did you get the opportunity to help? Love the image of you as the tripod!

    • Jessica November 18, 2015 at 5:07 pm - Reply

      It didn’t look like they were encouraging people to climb the scaffold tower which was disappointing, especially as I am now scaffolding trained!

  4. Jayne Hill November 18, 2015 at 11:59 am - Reply

    I’ve seen this on TV a couple of times but that medium doesn’t really do justice to the scale. Please congratulate The Under Gardener – his pictures are wonderful.

    All round looks like a splendid visit, Abigail notwithstanding.

    • Jessica November 18, 2015 at 5:09 pm - Reply

      It is an impressive sight. Sad to think it all comes down in January.

  5. pagedogs November 18, 2015 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    I’m not sure I could hold still enough for my head to serve as a tripod! Love the last photo.

    • Jessica November 18, 2015 at 5:12 pm - Reply

      Apparently I didn’t stand still enough either. The ‘tripod’ was ditched in favour of raising the ISO.

  6. Sigrun November 18, 2015 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    Beautiful! I want to visit Cothele. Some years we where there at easter sunday, but only at the carpark. I saw the masses of people and go home!


    • Jessica November 18, 2015 at 5:14 pm - Reply

      It is very popular. But do try again at a less busy time. It’s a very beautiful old house.

  7. Island Threads November 18, 2015 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    amazing Jessica, thanks for sharing, the view of and across the garden shows a lot of green still, lots of foliage variation, wet flowers and foliage have a nice shine to them and soup sounds like a good way to warm up, Frances

    • Jessica November 18, 2015 at 5:16 pm - Reply

      I wish I’d had longer in the garden. We tried again after the soup but the wind had got up even more, not very pleasant.

  8. M. L. Kappa November 18, 2015 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    Those garlands are absolutely stunning! Thank god there are people who find pleasure in doing this kind of thing ( rather than gunning people down in the streets…). Thanks for sharing the pictures, which I found good, despite the problems.

    • Jessica November 18, 2015 at 5:28 pm - Reply

      Burying my head in flowers is a good way to escape, even though I know it is only a temporary solution. ‘Tis a troubled world in which we live and I do so agree with the words in your post.

  9. Pauline November 18, 2015 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    How wonderful to have seen the garland in the making!We have visited earlier in the year. but never at this time. Your photos captured your visit perfectly.

    • Jessica November 18, 2015 at 5:31 pm - Reply

      Thanks Pauline. It is quite a task putting it all together. They make it look easy but achieving such an even distribution of the blooms across the whole must be far more difficult than it appears.

  10. Astrid Bowlby November 18, 2015 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for this blog entry. I am new to your blog and I garden in containers on a sidewalk in Philadelphia, PA. It is a delight to learn about your garden and your thatched roof and wonderful traditions such as this spectacular garland. Opening my email is like opening a present. Thanks, again!

    • Jessica November 18, 2015 at 5:42 pm - Reply

      Hi Astrid!
      That is the beauty of gardening, we can enjoy it anyplace anytime. You’re very welcome and thank you so much for your lovely comment.

  11. Peter/Outlaw November 18, 2015 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    Stunning in scale and degree of detail, this garland is beautiful in your images but must be even more so in person. What a beautiful house and gardens!

    • Jessica November 18, 2015 at 9:35 pm - Reply

      The colours are so well preserved, it’s hard to believe some of these blooms are dried.

  12. Jackie November 18, 2015 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    I am so impressed, not only with the garland itself, but with the pictures, your head was obviously up to the job.

    • Jessica November 18, 2015 at 9:37 pm - Reply

      Hi Jackie and welcome.
      Sad to say my head did not pass muster in the end. It’s very difficult to stay still enough!

  13. Backlane Notebook November 18, 2015 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    Great images as always and good to see plants that are flowering in November.

    • Jessica November 18, 2015 at 9:39 pm - Reply

      We only got as far as the terrace immediately outside the house. I’d loved to have gone further into the garden to see what else we could find, but the weather was just so bad.

  14. Jacqueline November 18, 2015 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful garland ….. I wouldn’t mind that on my fireplace this Christmas Jessica !!!!!! I think that I saw a TV programme about it once.
    ….. and, what a glorious show of colour for mid November ….. all I’ve got are a few Japanese anemones left, some hydrangeas hanging on ….. my Euphorbia Diamond Frost is still flowering like mad, a white fuchsia is throwing out a few straggly blooms but that’s about it !!!! I’m now looking forward to Spring 2016 !! XXXX

    • Jessica November 19, 2015 at 1:45 pm - Reply

      Ha! You’d need a big fireplace Jackie! But I did have in mind growing and drying some annuals for a more modest sized garland next year. The colours are just superb.

  15. wherefivevalleysmeet November 18, 2015 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    Was the Abutilon inside? Incredible to see it still in flower.
    I remember the garland from last time you showed it – a really exquisite piece of dried flower work

    • Jessica November 19, 2015 at 1:51 pm - Reply

      The abutilon was outside but grown against a wall on a sheltered terrace, as sheltered as you can get in a named storm! Annoyingly there wasn’t a label that I could see because it was a beauty. I shall have to try and track it down.

  16. Dorothy @ The Nature of Things November 18, 2015 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    Wow! That is amazing!

    • Jessica November 19, 2015 at 1:52 pm - Reply

      Thanks Dorothy, it’s hard to capture the scale in the photos!

  17. Denise November 18, 2015 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    I was in need of some beautiful flowers to cheer my soul today, so thank you for the garland photos! Xx

    • Jessica November 19, 2015 at 1:54 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome. Hope all’s well.

  18. Amy at love made my home November 18, 2015 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    I always enjoy seeing your posts of this fabulous and incredible garland! It looks spectacular again this year! xx

    • Jessica November 19, 2015 at 1:57 pm - Reply

      They were saying it’s better than ever, because of the number of blooms they had to choose from. The colours are slightly different to last time too.. more yellow this time around.

  19. 1gus1 November 18, 2015 at 9:32 pm - Reply

    Such dedication – does the garland last all year? (or is that a silly question?)

    • Jessica November 19, 2015 at 2:03 pm - Reply

      I heard someone say they take it down in January, the house is closed over winter. I would have thought it would last longer. It’s one of the reasons I want to have a go myself. Dried blooms around the house, especially if I managed to retain that level of colour, should look good all over winter.

  20. Chloris November 18, 2015 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    What a great idea to go and see how they make these amazing garlands. It sounds like a fun trip. Abigail has been and gone and now we have Barney. Giving these storms names makes them sound nice and cosy and domesticated.

    • Jessica November 19, 2015 at 2:38 pm - Reply

      And from what I read, next we have an arctic blast. It’s shaping up to be an interesting winter. Time to hibernate.

  21. jannaschreier November 18, 2015 at 10:01 pm - Reply

    I’m so with you on Impatiens. My mum used to squeeze a solitary Busy Lizzie (preferably none of the same colour) into any gap she could find around the garden each June….but actually Impatiens can be nice! Lots more to choose from over here. In fact all of your close ups could easy have been taken on an autumn day in Sydney.

    • Jessica November 19, 2015 at 2:48 pm - Reply

      Cotehele is near the coast so I would imagine they can get away with a lot more than me but it was lovely to see so much still in bloom. Some disease or other has struck the bizzy lizzie over here. Sad eh?

  22. sustainablemum November 19, 2015 at 12:06 am - Reply

    Oh wow what an amazing garland!

    I am thoroughly fed up with Abigail, strangely I rather like storms having a name, I wish she would leave us alone now she has been hanging around too long and has most definitely outstayed her welcome.

    I am always in complete awe of any plant that can flower in November, they always seem to be the most delicate ones. I don’t think they would stand a chance up North tho’ eh?

    • Jessica November 19, 2015 at 3:02 pm - Reply

      I’m not convinced they would survive for me either, the impatiens especially dodgy! November is my least favourite month. The stormy weather, short days and just the length of time till Spring.

  23. Kris P November 19, 2015 at 3:00 am - Reply

    What an beautiful garland and the estate grounds were incredible too. I’m sorry that the weather was unpleasant for the reporter and her assistant but your photos didn’t suffer from the dismal skies. Storms here have long had names, at least those that impact a broad swath of the country. I’ve always wondered if that practice impacts the naming of children in a given year – I’ve yet to see a study on the subject, although I bet there is one somewhere.

    • Jessica November 19, 2015 at 3:13 pm - Reply

      It would be tempting to name a child after a storm if it was born in the middle of it. This year’s names here were suggested by members of the public so I’ll bet there are some children’s names in the mix. At the current rate of progress they’ll need a new set before the winter ends.

  24. germac4 November 19, 2015 at 3:36 am - Reply

    Wonderful! I did enjoy the photos of the amazing garland, and also had a look back at your first visit. Just lovely….enough to make me take up dried flowers, but then I would need a splendid chapel to put them in…thanks for an interesting post.

    • Jessica November 19, 2015 at 3:16 pm - Reply

      I am thinking of doing the same, that was the main reason I noted down the names of the blooms. Even just a few sprays around the place would be enough to cheer up the winter gloom.

  25. Charlie@Seattle Trekker November 19, 2015 at 6:40 am - Reply

    The garden photos are gorgeous, but the photos of the swags are just stunning; the wonderful color and textures in the swags are such an amazing visual treat.

    • Jessica November 19, 2015 at 3:20 pm - Reply

      I was amazed by the colours, the flowers don’t even look dried.

  26. homeslip November 19, 2015 at 8:33 am - Reply

    Beautiful photos and what a great idea to go and see the garland being constructed. We’ve had a handful of short breaks staying at The Sawmill, a favourite NT holiday cottage down near the quay at Cotehele (the river and woodland walks are stunning out of season and I always like seeing the ‘bones’ of a garden I know well from summer visits) and have seen the garland just once. The scale and texture and colour, not to to mention the engineering, is amazing. Thanks Jessica, I am starting to feel excited about Christmas!

    • Jessica November 19, 2015 at 3:28 pm - Reply

      We had lunch at the cafe down by the quay. Such a different day to the visit a couple of years ago, then we walked along the quay quite a way. This time it was a sprint back to the car in the wind and rain!

  27. Christina November 19, 2015 at 8:42 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing this Jessica. I visited Cotehele some years ago at the end of May and if my memory serves me correctly the swag was still in place although all the vivid colours of the flowers had gone. I have a wonderful image in my head of you as a human tripod! A smile to start the day is never a bad thing!

    • Jessica November 19, 2015 at 3:30 pm - Reply

      I’m not sure human tripods will catch on.. At least not if they move around as much as I allegedly did!

  28. jenhumm116 November 19, 2015 at 9:18 am - Reply

    Hi Jessica – such a lovely, cheering post, thank you.
    I saw one single photo of the garland in the Times last week, which was followed by a grumpy letter the next day by some man complaining that all Christmas decorations at National Trust properties ‘should be confined to the the tea rooms as they ruined his photos’. Honestly!
    I’m delighted both you and I have far more tolerant consorts. Pity his poor wife – if he has one!

    • Jessica November 19, 2015 at 3:39 pm - Reply

      Oh golly! I would have to agree with him if the NT deployed miles and miles of gold tinsel but whenever I’ve seen Christmas decorations they’ve reflected the period and been tastefully done. The garland is just extraordinary.

  29. Sam November 19, 2015 at 1:26 pm - Reply

    Fabulous, beautiful garland. Very uplifting 🙂 I love the look of that Impatiens too.

    • Jessica November 19, 2015 at 3:42 pm - Reply

      I’m going to have to give the Impatiens a try, something that exotic blooming in November has to be done. Even if only once.

  30. Sheila November 19, 2015 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    What a stunning creation this garland is! I’m impressed with the bright colours of the dried flowers. I expect they will fade with time, but will be no less lovely for having done so.

    • Jessica November 19, 2015 at 3:51 pm - Reply

      Maybe that’s why they restrict flash photography, to delay the inevitable fading. But there is a lot of natural light in the Great Hall too. Still, for the short time the garland is up it does look so impressive.

  31. Rosie November 19, 2015 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    The Garland looks wonderful and the photos of its construction are good as are those in the stormy outside world. We visited Cotehele in the summer a few years ago but I would love to see the garland as it looks magnificent. I can see that warm soup would be called for after all that activity:)

    • Jessica November 19, 2015 at 10:43 pm - Reply

      The warm soup really hit the spot. I regret to say I may have followed it with toffee pudding too.

  32. Em November 20, 2015 at 9:17 am - Reply

    That garland is so, so beautiful. Lovely to see it again. As for the plants – what beauties! My Grandmother had the dreaded Busy Lizzies absolutely everywhere in the house so I know your childhood horticultural pain. She just let them straggle all over the place and always the most lavatorial shade of pink. x

    • Jessica November 20, 2015 at 7:23 pm - Reply

      Just so fabulous to see those plants at Cotehele blooming away in a gale in November. They have to be worth a try.

  33. Rick Nelson November 20, 2015 at 9:57 am - Reply

    The Christmas garland looks spectacular rd, 60′ is a lot of space to fill. I used to use Busy Lizzies until they were laid low by disease because they were just about the only summer bedding plant which would perform, even in fairly deep shade, as long as they were given enough water.

    • Jessica November 20, 2015 at 7:28 pm - Reply

      I hadn’t thought about the shade. I’ve never really got into annuals or bedding plants, mostly because of the work involved. The lazy urchin in me wants to plant something and have it come back every year without my help.

  34. Sue a November 20, 2015 at 11:55 am - Reply

    The close up of that garland is beautiful.
    Our magnolia has never produced any seed pods, I wonder if the seeds would germinate.

    • Jessica November 20, 2015 at 7:29 pm - Reply

      I don’t know how usual it is for them to produce seed pods in our climate, certainly I’ve never seen them before.

  35. Sue Garrett November 20, 2015 at 11:59 am - Reply

    Sorry the above comment went before I was readt

  36. snowbird November 20, 2015 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    Now that is what I call a garland! Amazing!xxx

    • Jessica November 20, 2015 at 7:32 pm - Reply

      Spectacular isn’t it!

  37. aberdeen gardening November 21, 2015 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    Stunning images indoor and out. In the days when we were over the top with Summer bedding we would use a lot of Impatiens, then they just stopped growing for us due to some disease. Starting to see them in garden centres again although I am not sure if the problem has been resolved.

    • Jessica November 22, 2015 at 4:06 pm - Reply

      Hi Alistair, thanks and welcome!
      They do seem to be a different variety these days. Always sad when plants are overwhelmed by disease and we can’t grow them anymore.

  38. Caro November 22, 2015 at 1:45 pm - Reply

    I wonder if the gardeners at Cotehele look forward to this task or dread it? It must be a huge amount of work, not least in getting all those flowers ready. I made a christmas wreath last year, just a simple thing, and even that took ages – and the greenery was fresh. I’m wondering now how they dry the flowers and whether the whole thing ends up on the compost heap. Like all beautiful things, it has its fleeting moment.

    • Jessica November 22, 2015 at 4:16 pm - Reply

      It probably does end up on the compost heap, dried flowers don’t last forever. But I’m tempted to grow some annuals for drying next year, just to try it. When we lived nearer Kent we would go and buy hop bines each year and hang them from the kitchen beams. They would dry in situ and looked great, if an open invitation to every spider for miles around, but by the following year a new batch was definitely needed.

  39. SeagullSuzie November 22, 2015 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    Another to add to my to do list and it’s so close. Great images despite the conditions.

    • Jessica November 22, 2015 at 4:18 pm - Reply

      Yes, definitely go. It needs to be soon though, the garland is only up until the New Year.

  40. Jo November 22, 2015 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    What a huge undertaking that garland is but you’re right, it’s an incredible result. I love the close up photos, you can see all the detail in it.

    • Jessica November 22, 2015 at 6:28 pm - Reply

      It’s the colours that I find amazing, they’ve hardly faded at all. The blooms still look so fresh.

  41. CherryPie November 22, 2015 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    It is fascinating to see how the garland is created. I always love to see them but had never considered quite how much work was entailed.

    • Jessica November 23, 2015 at 6:22 am - Reply

      It starts in February when seeds are sown for the blooms, so almost a year of work. The result justifies it though. I’m thinking of trying it next year… on a slightly smaller scale!

  42. Mike @ A Bit About Britain November 23, 2015 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Astonishing garland! I’m not sure about this business of giving storms names – I get confused enough as it is, when people talk about people I’ve never met as though I should know them.

    • Jessica November 23, 2015 at 8:44 pm - Reply

      I’ve been calling storms names for quite some time, but possibly not cosy and polite names such as Abigail and Barney.

  43. Julieanne November 23, 2015 at 11:52 am - Reply

    That garland is amazing. What a wonderful piece of work, from planting to harvesting and making. I’m deeply impressed. Thanks for sharing Jessica, I’ve never seen anything like it so I’ve learned something new as well as enjoying the beauty. Hope to see it in reality one day.

    • Jessica November 23, 2015 at 8:47 pm - Reply

      It really is a labour of love isn’t it, ten months in the making from sowing the first lot of seeds. And so weather dependent too…

  44. Josephine November 23, 2015 at 11:44 pm - Reply

    Simply stunning, what a beautiful garland, created with lots of love and dedication.
    Thank you for sharing it’s beauty.

    • Jessica November 24, 2015 at 7:55 pm - Reply

      My pleasure Jo.

  45. Sarah November 30, 2015 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    That was a good idea to see the garlands being prepared, it must take so many hours and is so beautifully done. As a child we always had dried everlasting flowers on display in our home. Did you venture as far as the orchard? I expect all the fruit had been picked. Sarah x

    • Jessica November 30, 2015 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      The weather was so awful it was as much as I could do to get Mike to venture as far as the terrace outside the house, where all these blooms were. I said it last year, but we must go back to Cotehele in the Spring or Summer and be able to have a good look round.

  46. […] few weeks ago I read with great interest Jessica at Rustyduck’s account of visiting Cotehele to see the annual swag being prepared for the Great Hall; I […]

  47. Donna@Gardens Eye View December 19, 2015 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    This is a new vision for me to see…what a stunning garland using dried flowers…oh my it is just amazing!

    • Jessica December 19, 2015 at 8:36 pm - Reply

      Christina visited it more recently than me and it still looks remarkably fresh. I don’t know how they do it!

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