Custom contrived: Cotehele House Garland

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Living in an old Georgian house I felt the need to establish my old customs as befits it; so at Christmas I have revived the Kissing Bush and placed garlands of evergreen materials over the fire places and up the stairwells. It is a mammoth – and frustrating – task so I feel empathy for the volunteers at Cornwall’s Cotehele House who since the 1950s have established their own – and far more complicated garland.

46,000 dried flowers grown on the house estate are tied together into one hundred feet of rope. Although it takes the staff and volunteers two weeks to construct in reality it takes all year, seeds are ordered in December, grow through spring and summer, picked and dried in the autumn ready for its November construction. In its construction are 60 evergreen pittosporum tree cuttings as its base, with grasses, statice, helichrysum, acrolineum and helipterum being added to it.

In 2013 a BBC news webpage National Trust’s Cotehele creating 90ft flower garland recorded:

Gardeners at a stately home are creating a garland that is more than 90ft (27m) long, following a bumper year for flowers.

Garlands have been made at Cotehele, in south-east Cornwall, since the 1950s and are normally about 60ft (18m) long.

David Bouch, head gardener at the National Trust property, said that more than 40,000 flowers were collected compared to an average of 22,000.

He added that “brilliant growing season” had prompted the increase.

Mr Bouch said he believed the garland was the longest created at a National Trust property.

“Normally, loops go along the centre of the Great Hall, but because of the bumper crop an additional 33ft (10m) of garland will also frame the door,” he said.”

The result is indeed impressive and unique and attracts visitors far and wide to observe it as it sways across the old hall cafe. It certainly puts my efforts to shame.

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