The task of writing a tribute to my Granny, Nancy Gardiner, is a daunting one. How do you sum up 99 years of a woman who lived every day to its fullest?
Much has been written about Nancy’s many achievements. She wrote prolifically for Garden and Home magazine and later for Country Life magazine, too. Somewhere in between, she found the time to write 13 books as well. There were plants and even a spider named after her!
In spite of all of this, I will simply remember her as my Gran. To so many people she was a mother, a granny, a great-granny, a friend and person who was always ready to wrap you up in her arms with the most heartfelt hug (even if she had no idea who you were).
Nancy and my Grandpa Ian moved from Durban to Hilton in the 1960s with their five boys – Alan, Martin, Paul, Keith and John. Nancy always said she was amazed by the incredible change in seasons that one experiences in Hilton. Apparently the editors at Garden and Home magazine didn’t believe that her article on the beautiful autumn colours in the Midlands could be real. They were based in Durban, so autumn was a bit of a foreign concept!
Nancy had always enjoyed gardening but when she realised the amazing plants you could grow in Hilton she grew even more passionate. Nancy loved all plants -- she found wonder and beauty in every aspect of nature -- but I will always remember her garden for being a real “English Country Garden.” Roses, irises, poppies, hydrangeas, foxgloves, azaleas and her prize camellia were enjoyed by numerous visitors to their ever-expanding garden on their dream property. I remember how she would show me with delight the latest lot of pansies she had planted – “just look at their little faces,” she would say. She taught me to literally stop and smell the roses, collect the seeds, feed the birds and jump around in the autumn leaves.
My Granny was immensely kind, extremely generous, abundantly loving and amazingly humble. She was funny and silly but so clever, too. Every child should have a granny like her. Trips to the grocery store when I was a child were very tedious because EVERYBODY knew Nancy – she would stop to talk to everyone who greeted her (and EVERYONE greeted her). Looking back, I realise that was one of the things that made her so special – she really did have time for everyone. She could mingle with the most beautifully dressed Garden Club ladies or converse in her rough Zulu with the petrol pump attendant. Everyone mattered to her.
Nancy will be sorely missed by her family (which now includes 13 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren). She will be missed by her friends. Hilton won’t be quite the same without that 90-something-year-old lady whizzing around in her little Ford Ikon.
Written by Angela Webster - Nancy Gardiner's granddaughter.
Pictured above and below; Nancy Gardiner shortly before her death in 2020 and below, Nancy in her 30s, flanked by beautiful blooms taken in her garden at home.