It is so good to discover that I am not the only person who has this sad addiction for preparing rows of preserves and fruit tainted alcohol! A few weeks ago we chanced upon a sign luring us to an ‘open garden’ and on following the seductive signs we suddenly recognised where they were leading us – Kentchurch Court. We had only seen this amazing house in the depths of winter when Jan showed us round while telling us ‘the stories’ of the house. She has said that the gardens were worth seeing in the summer, but nothing prepared us for such an amazing treat. We took a path that lead through wooded walks. The camera was kept busy capturing the detail – a bumble bee on gold by the stream. One of my favourite flowers – Dierama – I have struggled for years to get a clump of these dainties growing – now happily I have one thriving by the seaside! What better than a border filled with hot sunshine – such inspired planting. Charles positively striding out, perhaps because Beetle is pulling! Something that we were not expecting – deer leaping across a meadow on the other side of the HAHA! Percy – what a colour! Now to the subject of the title! We had Charles’s sister with us for a couple of days and knowing that she loves visiting gardens we decided, on the spur of the moment, to go to Kentchurch Court. We were stupid enough – well I take the blame – not to check whether it was open or not – we had noticed an ‘honesty box’ on our previous visit so knew that we could drop a fiver each into the box if no-one was around. Jan greeted us with: ‘can’t stop – I have to buy vinegar – I have 11 guests – have a coffee when you have seen the garden’ Well the garden was just as delightful as we had anticipated it would be. The flowers were fading and transforming into the glorious muted colours of their swan-song – many still trumpeting colour like the Michaelmas daisies and adorned with butterflies – small copper, whites, red admiral and so many honey bees. Look at those colours – I can see velvet rich brown tinged with red/gold and swathes of that delicious pink and muted grey. The squirrelling After a very pleasant hour wandering around in lovely warm sunshine we went to the house to bid our farewells. Jan greeted us and tried to tell us that she was overwhelmingly busy – no problem – we will away. Oh come in, but you will have to prick damsons. ‘Do you have a silver needle’ I ask for I know about pricking damsons. I feel comfortable – I like to ‘do things’. In fact the whole atmosphere of the kitchen made me feel ‘at home’ – the wonderful chaos of a busy person who still prepares preserves for winter – this is just like home because despite my day job making frocks there is a sad addiction to prepare for winter. Rows of jars of chutney, jam, pickle, vodka with cherries, sloe gin – you name it – I am obliged to follow my programming from an earlier life. Thinking of another addiction that we share – on the floor is a large box filled with bulbs to plant – thousands of them – I did that last year – the mice ate the crocuses – so Jan’s suggestion of paprika into the holes will be my solution this year. I will try not to look at the catalogue otherwise I will be tempted to buy thousands again and then regret it when it comes to planting them out. It is a strange hunger that cannot be controlled because the memory of the backache cannot override the fantasy of seeing all those fabulous bulbs glowing in the grass. We used to show the collection in Paris in September and as soon as we got back home, my feet firmly planted on the ground – I would gather and preserve. This year has provided us with a phenomenal amount of produce – the freezer is full, the jars lined up in the pantry, huge marrows turning orange/gold and for the first time in many years – walnuts. Now my final pictures are of Jan’s kitchen garden – which gave me as much pleasure as the fabulous flowers and shrubs and walkways – just go and see for yourself – details on the website of when it is open – you are in for a treat and you can stay too – I would if it were just that little bit further away from our doorstep. So thank you ‘fellow sister in chaos’ – that made me feel better about my chaotic life. I still want to know what variety of corn you plant that provides many branches on each plant – or what secret ingredient you use to persuade them to branch out! A fine regiment of silver/blue leeks. Now isn’t that a perfect autumn picture.