Stunning display of flowers drying for the Christmas garland.

Aimee Kingdom & Sophie Littleton with the 30,000 drying flowers at Cotehele

Aimee Kingdom & Sophie Littleton with the 30,000 drying flowers at Cotehele

The gardening team at Cotehele have again had a successful year growing and drying flowers for their annual Christmas garland.

‘We were so lucky with the warm and sunny summer, ‘says Dave Bouch, Cotehele’s Head Gardener, ‘and we’ve really benefitted from it. This year we’ve grown and picked about 32,000 flowers and the drying has been really reliable. It will be satisfying this winter to look up at the colourful garland and reflect what the summer was like.’

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Baking on a roll at the Edgcumbe on Cotehele Quay

Jenny Freeman baking at the Edgcumbe on Cotehele Quay

Jenny Freeman baking at the Edgcumbe on Cotehele Quay

The Great British Bake Off has nothing on the bread, rolls and cakes at the Edgcumbe tea-room on Cotehele Quay.

‘I may be biased, but I think our baked goods are especially delicious,’ says Vanessa Channings, Edgcumbe Co-Supervisor at the National Trust property near Saltash. ‘That’s thanks to our head baker, Jenny Freeman. In my mind, Jenny IS the Edgcumbe. Customers love her. One couple have been coming for Jenny’s cakes every Sunday for years. He has lemon drizzle and she has coffee cake.’

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SW region star in tourism awards

Dickon Allen (right) receives the award from Travel writer Sally Shalam, with Andy Yeatman, from category sponsors, the Met Office looking on © South West Tourism Awards / Nick Williams

Dickon Allen (right) receives the award from Travel writer Sally Shalam, with Andy Yeatman, from category sponsors, the Met Office looking on © South West Tourism Awards / Nick Williams

The National Trust in the South West has had a winning night at the SW Tourism for Excellence Awards, coming away with two golds, two silver and a bronze award. Continue reading…

Garden academy student training scheme

Jane Hammacott

The National Gardens Scheme (NGS) is a charity which gives away more than £2.5 million each year to nursing, caring and gardening charities. Each year it funds 12 Garden Academy students who undertake training within National Trust properties.

 This scheme was set up in 2001, in response to the shrinking pool of qualified gardeners from which any private or public owner could recruit new staff.  We are grateful to the NGS for recognising this need and for funding this scheme which has since seen 200 individuals train as gardeners in National Trust properties.  Many now work as full time, professional gardeners at National Trust, private and other major gardens at home and abroad.

The National Gardens Scheme is currently training four aspiring gardeners in the South West through the academy scheme.  Trainees are currently located at Hidcote Manor Garden, Stourhead, Tyntesfield and Cotehele. 

Jane Hammacott used to be a science teacher and researcher in a microbiology lab before she started her National Trust Academy training at Cotehele. She went straight into the training post following 18 months of volunteering at Cotehele and has been full-time for 5 months. 

She says: ‘I am on a steep learning curve at the moment, but every day brings something new. For me, the most important thing I am learning at the moment is to identify plants in the garden.  We have a collection of some 2000 species at Cotehele and there are a large number that are entirely new to me.  I am also learning propagation techniques and how to use and maintain garden machinery as well as some garden design methods.’

Jane has been inspired by those she works with at Cotehele; people who have a real passion for what they do and are keen to share their knowledge.  ‘Cotehele has a very special atmosphere – it is tucked away, high up above the banks of the River Tamar and has the feel of a lost world.  It is very tranquil and is known and loved by many locals. It is a fantastic place to work because it is a place people visit to relax and it is nice to feel that I have made a contribution to people’s enjoyment.’

‘I would love to think that I have a career ahead of me in the National Trust.  As an organisation it stands for many things that I think are important and it has the vision and initiative to make things happen.’

Please support the NGS so that we can continue to train the gardeners of the future.  There are hundreds of beautiful NGS gardens open throughout the country so there’s bound to be an open day near to you soon.  See http://www.ngs.org.uk/ for more details.

Creating the Cotehele garland

Despite a very tough growing year, National Trust staff, volunteers and members of the public at Cotehele in Cornwall, are just starting the meticulous process of creating the longest Christmas garland at any Trust property in the country.

Although a really tough growing year has meant that only 25,000 flowers have been picked this year rather than the usual 30,000, the team involved are confident the garland will look as stunning as ever.

The flowers are picked and dried in the garden at Cotehele; usually flower picking begins in May but this year due to the poor growing season it didn’t start until July.  Each flower will now be added one by one to create a stunning 60ft garland – which forms an integral part of the Christmas display at the property.

Every November, the historic house opens to the public so visitors can watch staff and volunteers putting the garland together from flowers such as Ornamental Grasses, Everlasting Sand Flower, Straw Flower, Paper Daisy, Paper rose and Statice. Visitors are also invited to climb the scaffold and poke in a few flowers if they’d like.

Constructed during November by a team of staff and volunteers, the spectacular result can be seen daily through December, except 25 and 26 December.

Dave Bouch, Head Gardener at Cotehele, says, ‘Each year theGarlandis different, depending on which of the specially grown flowers have done well. It’s been a really tough growing year and this has affected the quantity of flowers to pick and the time it’s taken us.  However I’m confident it will still be a stunning display and we’re once again encouraging members of the public to help us create this magnificent garland. If you’ve not seen theGarlandat Cotehele, you must. A visit to the garland will undoubtedly become one of your family’s annual Christmas traditions.’

Elsewhere in the hall, traditional decorations include conifer and Mahonia around the door ways perhaps highlighted with some native berries from the garden. They’ll also hang Beech and hazel branches from the wall.

The Hall at Cotehele is now open for visitors to see the building of the garland which continues until 23 November, 11am – 4pm. Its then open for viewing until the 24 November – 31 December (except 25-26 December) 11 am – 4pm. £5pp entry; National Trust Members free.  During this time 18 different choirs and musicals groups will perform at various times under the garland during the holiday season. Antique weapons will be on display for close inspection on most weekdays before Christmas in December.  Check the website for more details.

Cotehele prepares to harvest their mistletoe

It seems hardly anytime since the team at Cotehele harvested their annual crop of apples in the orchards at Cotehele in Cornwall, earlier this autumn. But the property team are just finishing preparations for the second orchard harvest of the year, however the crop isn’t apples this time, but instead mistletoe and it looks like its going to be a bumper one.

The crop of mistletoe berries are making their transition from light green beads to the ripe pearly white translucent berries that we’ve come to love to use for decorating our houses at Christmas time.

But other than increasing your chances of getting a Christmas kiss, what else do we know about this mysterious plant?

Fancy a kiss under a parasite? Without wishing to take away the romance of a kiss under the mistletoe this Christmas, mistletoe is actually a semi-parasitic plant, so relies on a host to stay alive. One of its favoured trees is apples trees, so nationally, where there is a high density of orchards there tends to be a high density of mistletoe, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire are particular hotspots. Here at Cotehele the orchards date back to 1731.

The sticky berries are consumed by birds and deposited on branches where they stick and germinate. Its root system spreads under the bark of the host tree and ‘borrows’ some of the essential nutrition from the tree.

Mistletoe has an ecosystem of its own and a number of species dependant on it for their life cycle, without it they would not survive. From bugs that suck on its sap to the mistletoe marble moth and the mistletoe beetle. It is one of the few native plants with white berries, so its berries are often overlooked by many birds as a food source as they focus on more brightly coloured berries. As a result it attracts specialist feeders such as the Mistle Thrush and Blackcap.

Because of it’s value to conservation mistletoe should be managed and harvested sensitively to ensure that it can remain at a density low enough as to not affect the vigour of it’s host but sufficient enough to sustain these species. Some of these species have been recorded at the Old Orchard at Cotehele, and are amongst one of the few recording this far west in the country.

Druids have long held the Mistletoe in high regard and would pay mid-winter worship to it, perhaps because of its close association with the mid-winter solstice. Very rarely mistletoe will find an oak tree as a host and there is a tradition of Druidic ceremonies to harvest it from these sacred groves.

Chris Groves, Orchard Officer for the National Trust at Cotehele said: ‘The mistletoe at Cotehele plays a really important role at the property. Following its harvest in early December, the mistletoe goes on sale at the Cotehele shop from the 3rd December.  All the funds raised from this annual sale goes towards the protection and ongoing maintenance of the orchards at the property.  We also have an annual Wassail when visitors are encouraged to come along, wearing bright clothing and be prepared to help make a lot of noise all which helps to scare away the evil spirits from the orchard, ensuring we have a good harvest of both apples and mistletoe next year’.

Cotehele’s Wassail takes place on Saturday the 17th December, 11.30am.

help us use 30,000 dried flowers to create a 60ft garland

National Trust staff, volunteers and for the first time, members of the public at Cotehele in Cornwall, are just starting the painstaking process of creating the longest Christmas garland at any Trust property in the country.

30,000 flowers have been grown, picked and dried in the garden at Cotehele and will now be added one by one to create a stunning 60ft garland –  which forms an integral part of the Christmas display at the property.

Every November, the historic house opens to the public so visitors can watch staff and volunteers putting the garland together from flowers such as Ornamental Grasses, Everlasting Sand Flower, Straw Flower, Paper Daisy, Paper rose and Statice. It takes the team at Cotehele over 600 hours to pick all 30,000 flowers required.

Constructed during November by a team of staff and volunteers, the spectacular result can be seen daily through December, except 25 and 26 December.

Dave Bouch, Head Gardener at Cotehele, says, ‘Each year the Garland is different, depending on which of the specially grown flowers have done well during our summer. What will also be different this year is that we will be encouraging members of the public to help us create this magnificent garland. This year, as always has been a very difficult growing year growing but for different reasons, with a cold dry start to the year we did not start picking our flowers until late June and in previous year we have started to pick on the 1st April. So as you can imagine a small amount of worry from the garden team.

‘I am very pleased with this year’s crop and really excited to start work on this project, if you have not seen the Garland at Cotehele you must. It should be on every ones ‘Christmas list for a visit’, he added.

Elsewhere in the hall, traditional decorations include conifer and Mahonia around the door ways perhaps highlighted with some native berries from the garden. We also hang Beech and hazel branches from the wall.