The Prodigal Daughter’s Potager Garden

Rachel Priestley is an international chef extraordinaire, so naturally, her garden combines her love of cooking with the culinary cultivation of her piece of paradise. On a property of 1095m2, the garden spaces adjacent to the house are cleverly thought out and there is very little lawn to mow.

9a Cologne Street

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The moment Rachel bought her property her vision formed – get rid of the overgrown mature trees fighting for space and design garden rooms to remind her of her extensive travels, introducing French and Italian herbs and vegetables to intermingle with fruit trees and flowers.

The front garden is filled with herbs, aromatics, and dwarf fruit trees, the small space retaining existing plantings now brought back into line. A common theme you will find is artichokes planted wherever there is space. This speaks to the scattered artichoke plants Rachel remembers growing in her large childhood garden, with their silver minty foliage adding complementary aesthetics to their edible value.

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Established lemon and orange trees watch over newly planted dwarf citrus, while hazelnuts and olive trees have been pruned to allow light and air to circulate. Several overgrown olives, silver birch and other mature trees have gone – Rachel kept what worked and was ruthless with the rest! Most of this transformation has occurred since June 2021; it has been almost a full-time endeavour for Rachel and her friends, and the care and the thoughtfulness shows.

The garden and the kitchen go both ways. Rachel loves always having something to pick and eat in her garden and also loves giving back to the garden from the kitchen: coffee grounds get fed to the citrus, banana skins get turned into a natural liquid potassium compost to feed to flowering and fruiting plants, rhubarb leaves are boiled to create a liquid spray for citrus bugs.

You’ll see lots of companion planting, including natural insect deterrents such as marigold and basil with tomatoes. Moon planting principles are also employed in this multi-faceted edible garden.

If you‘re lucky, you’ll get in quick for Rachel’s “Baguette and Bubbles” to start your tour, or a bite for lunch. Rachel’s mum will also be selling strawberries to pop into your drinks as a fundraiser for Wairarapa Women’s Refuge.