The Cotehele Holiday Garland

Courtesy of an article in the holiday issue of the British edition of Country Living, I became acquainted with a National Trust property in England known as Cotehele. The property features a rambling stone manor house built in the 14th and 15th centuries, on 1300 acres of property.  It is one of the oldest and most well preserved Tudor houses extant in England today.  It has been owned and maintained by the National Trust for a very long time. People visit for the gardens, art and tapestries, and events. They support the Cotehele conservation efforts. Country Living visited for the Christmas garland, which has graced the Great Hall from late November through the beginning of January, since 1956.

The story of the Cotehele garland is an enchanting one. The project takes about a year, start to finish. All of the flowers that go in to the garland are grown at Cotehele. In a good year, 35,000 flowers will be grown and dried especially for the garland. The seed which gets ordered in December will be sprouted, and transplanted into individual planting packs. Grown on until they are sturdy enough to go in the ground, many thousands of seedlings are planted out in April. Both staff gardeners and volunteers help plant, tend, and harvest the flowers.

At harvest time, the flowers are cut, and bunched for drying. The flowers are hung upside down in the attic above the kitchen to dry. The varieties of flowers grown are different every year, but the garland is predominantly populated by white flowers. One year the garland was constructed in commemoration of the end of World War 1, and featured red white and blue flowers. The Cotehele garland not only takes months to create, but it is organized around an idea decided upon prior to construction.  The garland is not only beautiful, but it is meaningful to the community from whence it comes.

In early November, a team of Cotehele gardeners and volunteers assemble to begin the task of creating the garland.  Bunches of pittosporum branches are tied to a stout rope, one bunch at a time, very close together. This creates a green garland some two feet wide  and sixty feet long whose branches will capture and hold the flowers as they are stuffed in to the greens. It takes 3 people about a week’s time to transform 40 wheel barrow loads of pittosporum into a 60 foot long garland. Astonishing, this.

The garland is hung high in the air space in its green state, and large scaffolding is positioned so volunteers and staff can safely stuff flowers into the greens. The stuffing of the garland with the dried flowers takes lots of hands over the course of 2 weeks. One account says it takes 40 people two weeks to flower up the garland.

The resulting garland hung in place is magical. In a year in which the dry flowers are especially plentiful, a garland is hung on the jawbones of a whale that has framed the doorway of the great hall since 1837.

The story of the holiday garland at Cotehele is a story worth telling. So many people active in the garden for the good of all. This garland is a story about a community, a place, a gardening community, and a sense of purpose. It is a compelling story.

This holiday garland makes my heart soar. Any sincere expression of the garden is a source of great joy to me. A community garden such as this at Cotehele is a sure indication of how the love, persistence, and cultivation of a garden can benefit many. I am sure to see it in person is a breathtaking experience.

Cotehele garland 2018

If you are interested in the full story, click on the following link.

Deck the Hall

If you are also interested in why I might be talking about a holiday garland on March 11, please read on. The Cotehele garland inspired me to do a version for my newly restored cherubs.  See to follow what has occupied my hands over the past two weeks.

twisted jute rope and dry integrifolia leaves

leaves meeting in the middle

adding the flowers

garland end

I am well on my way to finishing the second garland. How I have enjoyed the magic that is making something.

 

Comments

  1. All that airspace in the DGW building… I have a feeling this is only the beginning of your garland-making phase, Deborah. Best wishes to you.

  2. Linda Hagan says

    How incredible to see your garland and the Cotehele back story! Especially since I too saw the Country Living article and was enchanted. Just made reservations to stay at Cotehele in early December, 2019, traveling in Cornwall and the Cotswalds with my high school friend who now lives in San Francisco. Love that you took the garland idea and made it your own. Only you, Deborah!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Linda, I am so pleased you are going to see it. I am sure it will be spectacular. all the best, Deborah

  3. Paul Clancy says

    Absolutely beautiful work Deborah. The Cotehele garland has an amazing backstory. Your inspired garland is stunning, I particularly loved the finishing of the garland with the layered leaves and cascade of jute. It’s these finer details you do so well that always astound me. I am sure the Cotehele garland artisans of 1937 would be tipping their hats in admiration.

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says

    What an inspiration the Cotehele Garland has made. Your interpretation is just as lovely even if it is a bit smaller.

  5. Susie Duquet says

    Magical on move sides of the pond!

  6. Marguerite says

    Deborah, what a wonder both in England and in Detroit. Will your garland be able to just stay in place, preserved as a dried garland? what a lovely complement to your cherubs. Loving the photobombing canine cherub too.

  7. Inta Krombolz says

    Love your creative spirit and the work of your hands!

  8. Stunning! Such an inspiring post. Where’s my glue gun?!
    Can’t wait to see the finished installation with your cherubs.
    By the way, there is some rather lovely art work on the walls of the office — are these some of your paintings?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Terry, I am finally finished with all-and happy to give my hands a break from that glue gun.I did not have any serious burns, as I have had a lot of practice keeping that melted glue off of me-but every so often-OUCH. best, Deborah

  9. Christine says

    Beautiful obsession on both sides of the pond

  10. Mariana Greene says

    Are the flowers you used dried or faux?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Mariana, they are neither. Mulberry paper flowers are made from handmade paper-which is made from mulberry trees. best regards, Deborah

  11. Beautiful! Just another place to add to my bucket list! Thank you for sharing. Did you use a glue gun to attach each leaf on the jute rope?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Wrenn, some leaves were glued individually. I also glued in small branchelets with multiple leaves, especially where the garland gets wide. best, Deborah

  12. Kathleen Paneitz says

    This was fascinating to read ~ and the flower garland just exquisite. Yours turned out amazing too and what a great winter project. Thank you for sharing this tradition.

  13. Joyce Baker you said it perfectly!
    Thanks Deborah.
    Dianne Jones
    Alabama

  14. lisa narozanick says

    Amazing! magnificent! what patience you must have!!!

  15. How interesting & beautiful/magical! Thanks for sharing. . . sounds like a trip you need to take one day if you haven’t already. I loved how you restored the cherubs and, now, adding a hand made, gorgeous garland. . . .icing on the cake!

  16. Holly Tomlinson says

    Wow!

  17. The Cotehele Garland is fabulous! Thank you for sharing this. Your garland and cherubs are going to look amazing!

  18. Carolyn Hefner says

    Beautiful article – thank you for always offering inspiration!

  19. Joyce Baker says

    WOW! Just wow! What an awesome thing a vivid imagination is and how lucky we newsletter recipients are to be able to share in your creations.

    Thank you for all you do in getting the newsletter to us.

  20. Amazing! Both the UK version and your’s too. I have never heard of this but how inspired and inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

  21. Wow Deborah!
    You certainly have out done yourself here! So beautiful- can’t wait to see it in the shop!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Diana, mine is not even a 10th the size of the Cotehele garland, but it was a pleasure to make. all the best, Deborah

      • Deborah, this is one of those instances where size really does NOT matter – both of these garlands, Cotehele’s and yours, are works of art and examples of joyousness in doing!

        Yours are definitely not ‘idle hands’!

Leave a Comment

*