Cotehele House, the National Trust estate on the Tamar estuary, is famous for its Christmas Garland; a 60-foot long flower-filled decoration they hang in the Hall each year. The dried flowers used are all grown in the estate garden, where there is also, as I’ve probably mentioned before, a large colony of mistletoe in the apple orchard. Mistletoe is fairly rare in this part of the south-west, so the mistletoe is significant. The orchard is valuable too – extended 10 years ago to include a new ‘Mother Orchard’ of historic local fruit varieties, conserving that genetic resource.
The garland takes over a week to make, and today was the last preparation day, ending with it being hung for display to visitors over the next few weeks. And, as we happened to be in the area, we called in to have a look…
This year is special – as the garland tradition is 60 years-old. By the time we got there today it was completed and in the air, with just some final adjustments from a scaffold tower. Chris Groves, NT’s senior gardener at Cotehele (and orchard guru), had just cut one of the finishing touches – a ball of mistletoe from the orchard, to be hung over the door at the end of the garland. This year’s theme is white – so fits particularly well with the mistletoe. Or will do when the berries are fully ripe and white – the berries on today’s bunch were still a little green, but Chris will be replacing the mistletoe with fresh, riper-berried, material in the run-up to Christmas.
Afterwards we had a quick look around the orchards – the established one in the main garden, where there is a lot of mistletoe, and the newer Mother Orchard adjoining it. There was more mistletoe than I remember from my last visit – but Chris is keeping it under control. He cuts the berried (female) plants to sell in the Cotehele shop each Christmas and manages the unberried (male) plants when doing annual tree pruning. Here are some pics of the old orchard, with its mistletoe:
Some bird-sown mistletoe plants have been appearing in a few of the Mother Orchard trees, but he is pruning that out entirely, at least for now, as those are still fairly small trees. Some, on MM106 rootstock, will stay small-ish but others, on M25 rootstock, will grow to standard tree size and be very suitable for mistletoe. That’s in the long-term of course – but it does mean that the mistletoe colony at Cotehele looks set to survive well into the future, along with the local apple varieties too. Some pics of the new orchard below:
PS for my niece Harriet, if she's reading this, apols for not calling in, all a bit last-minute and anyway you wouldn't want to catch our colds...
More Mistletoe Matters – links to mistletoey things to read, buy or do
Grow-Your-Own Mistletoe – kits and gift cards from the English Mistletoe Shop
A Little Book About Mistletoe – printed and Kindle versions
Mistletoe Matters Consultancy – all about mistletoe in Britain
The Mistletoe Pages – even more about mistletoe
Mistletoe Surveys – seeking your input…
Mistletoe Matters on Facebook
Mistletoe Matters on Twitter