Hallo again everyone. Yesterday was another beautiful, cold, crisp, sunny day, so my friend and I decided to drive just over the border into Cornwall to visit a beautiful old house, called Cotehele, which is owned by The National Trust.http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cotehele/
As transformations go, few are more breathtaking than the decoration of the Great Hall at Cotehele, a National Trust property near Plymouth. Every December a huge garland, made almost entirely of dried flowers, is hung from the vast roof. Apparently, over 30,000 flowers are used in the making of the swag.
Smelling of freshly cut hay it breathes life into the usually spartan medieval building. Beneath the brilliant display lies a length of ordinary rope that spends the rest of the year neatly coiled behind the office door of head gardener John Lanyon.
The 60ft garland is a year in the making. Seed is ordered the previous December and sown in early spring. Seedlings are pricked out into individual plant cells to minimise root disturbance, grown on and hardened off in frames before being planted in the cut flower garden from late April.
The flowers are cut and gathered as they appear, then strung upside-down in small bunches in the loft above the potting shed to dry.
It takes three people about a week to make the garland, using 40 barrow-loads of pittosporum - six bushes in all. Starting at the end of November, 12in-long sprigs of "pittos" are bunched together and fixed to the rope with metal ties.
Gradually an enormous green caterpillar, about 2ft across and 60ft long, is brought to life. John then commandeers as many helpers as he can to lift it into position with the aid of ladders and scaffolding.
Decorating the garland is straightforward, though time-consuming. Flowers such as limonium, which makes up the bulk of the display, are pushed into the leafy framework. Next bracteantha, rhodanthe and gypsophila are added.
The long pink tassles of Psylliostachys suworowii look particularly effective dripping from the bottom of the swag, while the silver discs of honesty light up the top. Three days later the metamorphosis is complete.
The garland is seen as a major part of Cotehele's local appeal, and producing enough flowers for it is a huge responsibility, particularly given that many of its key components dislike the damp Cornish growing conditions.
"When I first started I used to find the whole process quite nerve-wracking," says John, who has been head gardener for five years. "But I now have a very good team that understands exactly why and what we are doing."
Each season the garland design and flowers change slightly and this year the predominant colour is pink. It is a triumph, and what better way to mark the end of one growing year and welcome in the next. Here are a few photos that I took for you to have a peek at.
They also have a wonderful Gallery beside the house, which is home to wonderful displays by local artists. Again, here are a few photos.
“Have nothing in your house you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
― William Morris
"Ordinary riches can be stolen; real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you".