The Cotehele Christmas Garland


Even on the dreariest, dankest of days Cotehele is a magical place. For nearly 600 years this medieval-Tudor house was the home of the Edgecumbe family who aquired it through marriage in 1353. In 1947 it passed into the ownership of the National Trust in lieu of death duties.  Naturally, December is not the best time to visit, not if you wish to see the main house, or wander in the gardens. But from mid-November to 31st December Cotehele does have one very special attraction that makes it well worth the trip up winding, narrow lanes and into the mysterious Tamar River hinterland.

Every year in the Great Hall, and with a log fire flickering in the grate below, an epic swag of dried flowers is hung from the rafters to brighten the festive season.

The garland comprises one hundred feet of rope dressed with 46,000 dried flowers, all of which are grown on the Cotehele estate.  When you step into the Hall there is the faintest scent of summer hay, all of which puts one in mind of old English Hardy-esque midsummer relevry, and brings on a fit of nostalgia for the rustic yesteryear that probably never was.

But it does not matter. As invented traditions go (and the notion for it began in 1956), the garland is beautiful, and a darn sight more picturesque than that other English invention of similar vintage – the Ploughman’s Lunch that is still found lingering dolefully on most pub menus.

The garland takes staff and volunteers two weeks to construct. The base is made up of cuttings from 60 evergreen pittosporum trees. Added to these are statice, grasses, helichrysum, pink pokers, xerochrysum, acrolineum and helipterum. The whole creation lifts the spirits, and in the darkest days of the year, what more could one ask for, that and a delicious bowl of homemade soup in the National Trust tea room?




Cotehele Great Hall

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

24 thoughts on “The Cotehele Christmas Garland

  1. It is simply amazing at how much your are surrounded with over there, from Great Castles, to Great Manor Homes and all the beautiful gardens you could ever want to see and photograph. Here you must travel hours and hours to get to great homes and gardens. The closest and best here on the east coast is Biltmore in Asheville NC. though too often I have that been there done that attitude, not so there, I could go every year and never say that i had seen everything, let alone the acres of gardens. Alas it is only a mere 7 hour drive from my home. 😦 You truly are so lucky Tish!

    1. Yes, lucky indeed, Mitchell. Thank you for reminding me of this, as it’s too easy to take these things for granted. We are very lucky too to have the National Trust – the charity that has done so much to preserve, conserve and upgrade so much of our built and natural heritage.

  2. Well Tish despite living quite a few hours further away than I, you have succeeded in visiting at garland time and I haven’t. Your photos are fabulous x 🙂 x

  3. I have read about this recently, but never seen it so I thank you for sharing this. What beautiful flowers in that garland, I like that much better than a Christmas tree. One more on the list.

  4. A beautiful post Tish, and the perfect garland to string over the festive season. Mind you, I’m a bit fond of ploughman’s lunch although I certainly wouldn’t describe it as picturesque!

  5. What a very lovely thing it is, Tish! You have me yearning for yesteryear 🙂
    Beautifully captured too! No doubt you’ll have found some garden goodies for Jude 🙂

  6. Charming, intricate and so beautifully described Tish. I can imagine the amount of joy the staff and volunteers would get during that 2 week creation. I’m with Meg, I’m rather partial to a good Ploughman’s lunch. eaten in front of a roaring log fire

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