A visit and maybe a future inspiration?

A few weeks ago I read with great interest Jessica at Rustyduck’s account of visiting Cotehele to see the annual swag being prepared for the Great Hall; I remember commenting that I would love to see it.

Imagine my surprise and pleasure when the friend I was visiting in North Devon suggested that we could visit Cotehele as it was only about an hour away from her.


Cotehele, near Saltash, Cornwall

Cotehele, near Saltash, Cornwall

The forecast wasn’t great and the previous day had been horrible, so bad we had said that if the weather continued as it was we wouldn’t go.  But we were lucky and the morning was cloudy but not raining and the wind had dropped completely.

As we arrived the light levels improved and we were able to enjoy the amazing colours of the dried flowers.  I hadn’t expected the flowers to still be so vibrant.

I was lucky with the light

I was lucky with the light

The pink flower was attracting a lot of interest, it is Limonium suworowii 'Pink Poker'

The pink flower was attracting a lot of interest, it is Limonium suworowii ‘Pink Poker’

I wanted images from every angle

I wanted images from every angle

A door was also delightfully swagged

A door was also delightfully swagged

The pack of seeds didn't include the same flowers

The pack of seeds disappointingly didn’t include the same flowers as in the swag

After noticing the pack of seeds for sale and the charmingly arranged flowers in vases with the names carefully written I was inspired to think that next year I could create my own swag to either hang from the ceiling (who says I have crazy ideas of grandeur) or more realistically to hang around the door or the large mantle shelf in the kitchen.  We visited the cuttings garden where it was said all the flowers where grown; I know I shouldn’t doubt the National Trust but really the space seemed very small.  Anyway I am resolved to devote one of the smaller cuttings beds to growing the flowers, so we will see……….

Neatly arranged, all the flowers included in the swag

Neatly arranged, all the flowers included in the swag

A section of the swag, I really hadn't expected such vibrant colours

A section of the swag, I really hadn’t expected such vibrant colours

So colourful!

So colourful!

Do you have crazy ideas, inspired by what you see in larger gardens or houses?  What are the results?  Have you ever grown everlasting flowers?

Thank you Linda for thinking of such a lovely visit.

43 thoughts on “A visit and maybe a future inspiration?

  1. It is really amazing isn’t it Christina, I’m so glad you were able to see it and I’m not surprised that you have been inspired! I shall look forward to seeing your swag next year!

    • I’ve just been ordering seed but strangely the names so clearly marked on the vases are often the same as each other when I look them up, so I’m a bit confused, but I will still try to have enough flowers for at least a small swag.

  2. Those swags do look lovely and very English in an Elizabethan sort of way so I’m guessing everlasting flowers have a historic history. But are those on the swags all everlasting flowers recently cropped or have they preserved some other varieties from the summer?

    • I think they are all Everlasting varieties, at least when I started looking them up to make an order, that’s what they were. But how the colours are so vibrant I don’t know, I was surprised as I said. The tradition for this swag only dates back to the 1950’s so I’m not sure it rally is an Elizabethan tradition at all but maybe just our idea of one!

  3. I used to grow an everlasting Helichrysum and believe they are now Xerochrysum – another new name. They seem to have gone out of fashion but many years ago I sold the dried flowers at craft fairs, in the days when pressed flower pictures were popular. I would dearly like to visit Cotehele next year, the swags are so beautiful Christina, I can imagine your delight at the visit.

    • I forgot to mention that almost every afternoon there is a choir singing in the Great hall to add to the Christmas spirit; the day we were there the choir were really good; it certainly put me in the mood for Christmas. Were the everlasting flowers easy to grow? What kind of a crop did you get from them?

      • Really, really easy to grow, sown directly to the soil, on a south west facing garden and masses of flower heads, they were a tall plant on strong stems, so no staking and have just gone out of fashion here. Seeing your post, I shall grow some more next year, I had forgotten how lovely they were. I think you will enjoy growing them very much Christina, especially for your lovely vases.

  4. Yes! My most recent copycat exploit was a cake decorated like the one on the cover of (Great British Bakeoff) Richard Burr’s cookbook. My results weren’t as good, but my friends were amply impressed. (Recently posted on my blog.) Several years ago, I visited a garden in Scotland called Priorwood which was developed for the production of hundreds of varieties of dried flowers. I wonder if they might offer additional info? I can’t wait to see what you do!

  5. Christina, so glad you were able to fit in a visit to see these amazing creations. So beautiful and you got some great pictures. My garden mentor (my mother’s older cousin) always used to grow what she called everlasting, but sadly I can’t quite picture it now. I have seen the straw flowers (Xerochrysum) Julie mentioned used in dried flower projects and bouquets.

    • I was pleased with the photographs as there was very little light in the Hall, and in December in Cornwall the sun is very low in the sky at the best of times and there wasn’t much sun at all when I was there.

  6. Bravo Christina! Yes, it really is difficult to get good photos in that level of light but you’ve certainly cracked it. And I’m so glad you got a chance to see the garland. Like you I wrote down all the names of the blooms with the intention of growing some from seed and drying them. I thought a modest swag over the inglenook beam might be a good place to start! And if you were able to get as far as the cutting garden you did a lot better than me for weather. Many thanks for the link.

  7. That swag is impressive! I remember seeing earlier it in Jessica’s post and I’m amazed it still looks so good. Even a mantle version would be a feat, Christina. I always have grandiose plans for decorating during the holidays but that energy doesn’t go far – time is always lacking.

  8. I have one little everlasting straw flower, Cape Snow, white with a deep red centre.
    But just a few flowers, which I wouldn’t pick.
    I’d be a little daunted at growing enough to make swags.
    Look forward to seeing yours next year.

    That fashion for using straw flowers as a long lasting vase has been overwhelmed by silk flowers in South Africa. (Not in my home …)

  9. I love it. I would have never thought I would be as impressed by a swag of dried flowers but this takes it to a new level and I’m looking forward to seeing your take on it! Did you get the mechanics behind the construction? I see foliage but I’m sure there’s some kind of more solid base. Also the tall pink strands… I can’t make out any of the labels but would be interested to know what this one is.
    Really nice photos. I wouldn’t even suspect that you were fighting low light on the visit. I’m glad you made it out there!

  10. I used to be fascinated with everlasting flowers as a child. In Scotland, then, it was popular to decorate things with special little chrysanthemums. I only thought there were two types of flowers you could do this with! Such an interesting post. Amelia

  11. Wow…I love this swag and the use of dried flowers. I used to decorate my fence and outdoor garden with red bows and lots of evergreen garlands….now I don’t in this garden….but oh I can’t wait to see the results of your endeavor next year.

  12. Christina, when you said “swag” I was thinking evergreen. Wow! these flower swags blew me away! I say, go for grandeur. Even a small one over a door would look wonderful. I am wishing you a blessed and very Merry Christmas!

  13. They are gorgeous and such vibrant colours. I grew loads of these flowers in a cutting garden in my previous garden. I dried them on the rack over the aga and made great swags with them. It was a lot of work but well worth it. I should give it a try, it’ s great fun.

  14. That swag is magnificent but it looks a bit beyond me. I never seem to have flowers in that kind of abundance. I will be happy if my little cutting garden just keeps me in enough flowers for weekly vases.
    Any chance you could add a plug-in to allow us to get email notifications each time you post? I’m afraid I have been missing some, which I hate to do.

    • Hi, I just looked and when you leave a comment, below that box you are asked if you would like to receive new posts via email. Just tick the box and complete your details. I’m so glad you would like to follow.

  15. Oh those swags are fabulous Christina. I came across limonium suworowii growing in a seaside location in France a couple of years ago but didn’t know what it was. By chance a magazine article solved the mystery and I sowed seeds this year unfortunately with no joy. Will be having another go. Good luck with your plans to grow flowers to make your own swag swag next

  16. The swags look beautiful and in your climate I would think everlasting flowers would do very well. I grew them one year on my allotment -statice and helichrysum- and found them very easy. They produced masses of cutting material which was easy to dry and kept brilliantly. I gave away many bunches so I imagine you could easily grow enough to make a modest swag. Good luck. And Happy New Year.

    • Thanks for the encouragement; my first attempt at ordering seeds failed, I must try again or I’ll miss the window of opportunity for sowing them. My best wishes for 2016 to you too.

  17. Pingback: In a Vase on Monday – Not quite Cotehele! – Creating my own garden of the Hesperides

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