Hilton's acclaimed botanical author and photographer, Nancy Gardiner (97), received recognition for her enormous contribution to the botany society at The Witness Garden Show Awards last week.
Speaking to The Witness on Monday, Gardiner said the acknowledgement came as a wonderful surprise to her after so many years.
Gardiner said she was born into a family of gardeners as both her parents were professional gardeners.
“We had a huge plot of open land at our farm in Hillary, near Durban, and my siblings and I were all given a portion of the garden to manage and if you weren’t doing a good job, my dad would take the plot back,” she said.
Gardiner said, while studying at Durban Girls’ High School, she excelled in botany studies. That was what led her to study towards a botany and zoology degree at the University of Natal, now known as the University KwaZulu-Natal, here in Pietermaritzburg. She later abandoned her studies and went back to Durban where she joined a writing and journalism school owned by author Faye Goldie. “That’s where it all began. I started writing about the Zulu people and the Shembe Church. Faye suggested I get a camera and my late husband taught me how to use it. I absolutely loved what I was doing,” she said.
Gardiner moved to the Midlands with her husband, Ian Gardiner, and her five children in the 1960s.
“I always joked around that gardening was my calling since I married a man with a Gardiner surname. The I in the surname is for my husband’s name, Ian,” laughed Gardiner.
After moving to the Midlands, Gardiner started doing work for the Azalea Gardens. “I was fascinated by so many beautiful gardens in the Midlands. I went back to writing and continued with my photography and started writing books with the help of many other people in the botany industry,” she said.
After writing more than a dozen books, Gardiner has retired but is still very involved in the horticultural fraternity as she still visits local gardens often and is part of several gardening societies. She also gives talks on gardening and plant life and keeps her very own garden at home blossoming.
“Whenever I give my talks I always tell people that they should always take time to wonder, enjoy the wonderful things and never forget to give thanks for the beauty and wonder of plants. We should all take time out and sit in our gardens and just wonder.”