q & a

In the garden

With August Bernstein

What inspired you to get into gardening?

I really was from a generation who thought vegetables came from the supermarket. My mum worked hard and ready meals were a part of our everyday life. I don’t ever remember growing food at home so the connection came much later in life for me. I had been an air hostess for 20 years and had NO interest in plants, I sometimes think if I could have a chat with myself 5 years ago and show how deeply in love I am with gardening now, my younger self would have laughed me straight down the aisle and out the emergency exits!

When we moved to a new cottage it had a large garden and a greenhouse, I HATED the greenhouse and longed to get rid of it until I had the idea to turn it into an outdoor dining room. Little did I know then, that this greenhouse would become the heart and soul of my garden and literally turn my life upside down from air to ground.

I sowed my first seed with my two girls Posie and Winnie just 5 years ago and literally watched it grow with the enthusiasm of a child. We thought it was the most magical moment when that seed popped its head through the canopy of the soil! Then don’t even get me started about how excited we were when we actually got to PICK our homegrown treasures for tea… we were hooked! All of the epic garden fails resulted in a constant need to learn why everything had gone so horribly wrong and slowly we taught ourselves how to grow a colourful array of food.

My life flipped when I stumbled into the gardens of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and fell in love. I had never seen a vegetable garden so beautiful. Raymond Blancs vision of a Potager rolling before my eyes, I knew I had to be a part of it. That week as if by magic I searched gardening jobs and the first one that came up was a Kitchen Gardener Job at Le Manoir. It was meant to be.

Over the last 4 years I have studied hard and worked tirelessly to achieve my goal of becoming the Head tutor of the Raymond Blanc Gardening School at Le Manoir. I am so thankful to be able to share my knowledge and passion with our guests on a daily basis and always strive to learn more about all aspects of gardening to share and hopefully entice more people into the wonderful world of gardening.

How do you recommend getting your kids involved?

We are a team, they are there at every part of the process from sowing, planting, picking and cooking. I try to grow colourful veg to engage their imagination. From purple potatoes to bright red corn that looks like strawberries. Always remember it's fun and don't be too precious with your patch. There are no straight lines in our garden, we are much more higgledy piggledy gardeners. I leave the perfection for work.

how would you advise someone just starting out?

Use your failures as a throttle not a break, each and every failure is where you will learn the most. If you fail, find out why, go down that garden book rabbit hole and the next year you grow you wont make the same mistake again.

what time of year do you enjoy gardening most?

I often move into the garden in the summer months, we pop up our big stripy bell tent and sleep in the meadow. There is nothing quite like weeding when the sun rises and everyone else is asleep. The ground still damp with morning dew and the weeds just slip out unnoticed.

What's your favourite thing to grow?

Potatoes are a firm family favourite. Super easy to plant and our yearly potato harvest is like a giant treasure hunt. Scrabbling around in the soil to find the biggest spud. We also enjoy making unicorn mash potato with our pink and purple spuds.