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nancy gardiner

A Tribute To A Legend – Nancy Gardiner

nancy gardiner
Nancy Gardiner at her home in Hilton in 2007

Very sadly, a very long-time gardening friend, Nancy Gardiner, passed away during the last week of December 2020.

Many of you would have seen our Facebook post about this legendary gardener; for those of you who did not, please indulge me as I share with you a few of my fondest memories of Nancy.

Of course, everyone in the gardening world knew the name Nancy Gardiner. While I was still a young seedling in the gardening world, working at Dunrobin Garden Centre in Botha’s Hill, KwaZulu-Natal, Nancy would often visit the nursery.

This was a BIG deal for me: a celebrity gardener, author of books and photographer in our own garden centre! Well, needless to say, I stuck to her like glue, asking questions, helping move plants where I could – I was probably a real pain, but that’s what happens when you are star-struck!

I will always remember her dark green Honda Ballade, which would scream into our parking lot trailing a cloud of dust – she was a wild driver! In fact, at the age of 98 she was still driving herself to garden club events! Wicked, I know!

Anyway, the car was always covered in mud or dust from one of her previous adventures, as she would have no problem getting in her car and driving from Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal, to Barkly East, Bloemfontein or even Pofadder, all on her own. If there was even the whiff of a great garden story, she was on it.

I admired her courage, independence and, most of all, her vast knowledge on plants and gardening. An image that is indelibly etched on my mind is of Nancy and her huge Hasselblad camera and tripod. This thing was heavy, and I would often try to help her carry it around. But of course, being a strong, determined, independent woman, she would hear nothing of the sort!

So when the going got a bit tough on really hot days, she would whip a collapsible pram from her boot (you know the old ones with the hood and all four wheels the same size – yes, one of those!), and in went all the camera equipment and, of course, a few plants that she just could not resist along the way!

Nancy was above all a gardener, just like you and me, and her love of plants and nature made such an impression on me. I know that it established my own path and guided me along the way. I will never forget taking tea in her garden, on the beautiful lawn under the maple tree, with only proper teacups and saucers, and always a biscuit and Earl Grey – I loved it!

Nancy inducted into the SAGIC Honours Roll in 2013.
Photo: Kay Montgomery

And her perfume, I will never forget – a mix of blossoms and heady roses. Nancy, rest well my friend, and garden up a storm in your new paradise. We love you, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all that you did for gardening. I thank you for teaching me and inspiring me to be better.

Written by Tanya Visser