If there's ever a place to get kitchen garden envy, it's got to be at Chatsworth House. First off, it's huge. Secondly, there are three full-time gardeners. A stream runs through it, good enough to bottle and sell (and they do), more greenhouses than you can shake a stick at and oh, there's the view...
This bench, at the top of the west-facing sloping kitchen garden, has a good view of the two and a half acres, the top of Chatsworth House and the stable block and the Capability Brown landscape on the other side of the River Derwent. But I didn't think to take a photo of all that, you've just got to take my word for it.
(By the way, my most hated combination of colours is pink, yellow and turquoise, but somehow it seems to work here.)
Like all good kitchen gardens, there are a lot of flowers, grown principally for cutting. Some are also grown as companion plants for the fruit and vegetables. These Sweet William were at their peak in late June (the season seems to be a couple of weeks behind SW London).
The Delphiniums were perfect, no slug damage and no stakes. I think Delphiniums are at their most striking just before the flower buds open completely.
I had never considered Foxgloves as possible cut flowers, but why not? Plus, the bees love them, great for helping to pollinate the fruit and veg.
And I've never seen such amazing Peonies in such huge quantities before. These look like Buckeye Belle and Felix Crousse, completely OTT and perfect for midsummer.
Around the edge of the kitchen garden there were stone walls, Yew hedges and odd wildflower invaders, like this Dog Rose. You wouldn't weed this out would you?
The heart of the kitchen garden though is the fruit and vegetable area. All the produce goes straight to the house. The large greenhouses keep the house supplied with grapes, melons, lemons and even fresh ginger. The cold frames ensure salads have an early start.
And of course it wouldn't be a kitchen garden without the head gardener's bothy. This one has been preserved from WWII, complete with a copy of Dig for Victory, an old stove, terracotta pots and string. All gardeners need string.
The herb garden is extensive and contains interesting varieties like banana mint which tastes nothing like banana or mint. This Thyme was nice though.
Did I mention the Delphiums were good?
So, I know you're dying to know how the tea and cake were. Frankly, your best bet is to buy the cake from the Chatsworth Farm Shop (and the rest of your picnic as well - I can recommend the filled rolls and the Scotch Eggs deserve a special mention) and take a flask of your own tea. The garden is huge (we were there for four hours and didn't see it all). The Farm Shop stuff is much better (and cheaper) than anything they sell at the house, and the queues are shorter.
Next month - That trout stream - did Dan Pearson's Chelsea garden do it justice?
Chatsworth House - http://www.chatsworth.org/
The visit to Chatsworth House was at the end of a fab weekend with Desna, Rob, Sarah and Logan the dog.