Every Christmas since 1956, volunteers have devoted two weeks to making a garland from flowers that have been sown, grown, harvested and dried (in the roof above the kitchen) at the National Trust’s Cotehele in Cornwall. The stems are individually threaded into a rope of fresh pittosporum. For this year’s diamond anniversary garland, head gardener David Bouch has grown a selection of blue and white blooms.
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How the garland is made
The first garland was made to decorate a private party at Cotehele, according to David Bouch. It was such a success that they decided to make another the following Christmas. And another and another. It’s no easy task.
Making the garland from start to finish is, says David, equivalent to one full time job, although the work is done by 30 volunteers. The task starts in April when the seeds are sown. The seedlings are nurtured until ready to pick, hung to dry and then hand threaded to make the garland.
The base of the garland is constructed from fresh green pittosporum tied into densely packed bunches using potato sack wire ties (available at Amazon).
The cutting and drying goes on until the end of September.
Once fully dried, the flowers are then threaded, one stem at a time, into the dense greenery which easily holds the stems in place. It takes up to 35,000 stems to make the 60-foot garland and the work is done over a fortnight by between three and six volunteers working all day every day.
Another 5,000-10,000 stems are used to make the shorter swag that is hung over the doorway of the half-timbered hall.
Find out how to grow a flower cutting garden
Acroclinium ‘Giant Double Mix’
Start off under glass for best results. Tall stems and classic yellow-centred daisies.
An easy-to-grow half-hardy annual. Sow directly into borders in warmer weather. Blue and yellow used here – also comes in white, pink and purple.
Helipterum roseum ‘Pierrot’
Paper-white flowers with striking black centres. Sow indoors and plant out in May.
Hare's tail Grass
Half-hardy annual grass with soft, fluffy ‘tails’. May be hardy in mild areas.
Probably the best everlasting flower of all with shiny papery petals. Comes in a wide range of colours. Start off indoors.
Another type of statice with long, pink pipe-cleaner flowers. Low-maintenance plant that does well in seaside gardens.
Buy Cotehele Garland Seed Mix from the National Trust, £3.
How to dry flowers
Dried flowers can look stunning in arrangements, and they last a lot longer then fresh flowers. Happily, preparing them is simple.
1. Pick the flowers when they are dry, ensuring the sun is up and the blooms are fully open.
2. Remove all leaves so that they don’t hold in moisture.
3. Hang flowers in bunches of 20 upside down, well spaced, in a warm dark place.
4. It is important to dry them in the dark as this will ensure they keep their colour. Heat and good air circulation is key.
5. The drying process normally takes about two weeks. The flowers will usually last for 12 months.
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