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Shelley in the garden harvesting organic produce

Meet our Organic Gardener, Shelley Pryor

Meet Shelley, the woman responsible for our thriving organic gardens here at Gwinganna. Shelley grew up in the Gippsland region of Victoria and lived in a self-sufficient environment where her mother grew their own fruit, vegetables and herbs and her father hunted and farmed their meat.

Her natural upbringing sparked her long-standing passion for gardening and food. Her professional career began in fine dining restaurants where she worked as a Sous Chef before moving into the health retreat industry. She came to Gwinganna 15 years ago when we first opened our doors and remains an integral part of our team to this day. 

“There are so many things I am grateful for with my role. I get to work with a talented and generous team who constantly inspire me and I also am fortunate to meet and help our guests each week. Their stories give me new ideas and they often tell me about the changes they make once they leave. When they return it is wonderful to hear their updates on what they have done as far as gardening and herbs.”

With her 23 years of experience as a chef, Shelley was certainly qualified for her new role in our kitchens. However, when our original gardener departed, two years later, Shelley was ready for her next opportunity - in the gardens. Having been a chef at Gwinganna for two years and her self-sufficient environment upbringing, she knew so much about what was needed for the kitchen and was able to develop an ideal plan for the future.

“I work closely together with the chefs and having been a chef in the very same kitchen really helps me understand their needs and design the garden plan to provide what they need most. My understanding of the style of cuisine is also very strong which helps us deliver beautiful nutritious meals for guests every day. I often help some of the chefs who may not be as familiar with the more interesting and less well-known ingredients too.”

avocado chilled soup with colourful garnish

Her main responsibilities include managing the development, production and maintenance of our extensive organic fruit, vegetable and herb gardens (the largest organic gardens of any retreat in Australasia) plus overseeing our orchard and harvesting the honey from our beehive.

Not only does Shelley manage all of our organic gardens, but she is also a regular speaker, presenting each week. Once referred to as having “the magnetism of Mary Poppins” by a US-based Organic Spa magazine, Shelley’s incredibly dynamic presentations will leave you in awe with the amount of knowledge she is so eager to share. The presentations she offers vary from private gardening classes to group walks in the gardens and demonstrations on how to make aloe vera juice. 

“We have steadily increased the presentations that I do so more guests can learn about using and protecting the environment, understand more about natural solutions for ailments and the importance of organic processes without harmful chemicals or fertilisers.”

Shelley is also the facilitator of a three-day specialty retreat called ‘Organic Living’, where she holds daily sessions for guests on elements of gardening and cooking. If you’re interested in Shelley’s retreat, we’ve just announced a new date - 21st October to 24th October 2021. Enquire today to secure your spot. 

To give you a little taste of what you can expect to learn from Shelley’s Organic Living retreat here’s just a few of her top gardening tips:

  • For a worm farm, don’t put in citrus fruit, salty food, dog poo or green grass clippings. Dog hair is okay, as are eggshells, toilet rolls, coffee, tea and dry grass clippings.
  • Make sure veggies, potting mix and anything else that says it’s organic is certified.
  • Nasturtiums, marigolds and calendulas are edible and good for bringing ‘good’ insects to the garden, such as predatory wasps and ladybirds.
  • Put beer in a jar on an angle the night before you plant your seedlings and slugs will drink it and drown.

Come and immerse yourself in Shelley’s wonderful world of Organic Living at Gwinganna.