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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.

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