On Thursday 7 June 2012, a month before her 100th birthday, Una van der Spuy became the latest addition to the SAGIC Honour's Roll at the SAGIC 2012 Banquet @ the Castle in Cape Town. Una's son David van der Spuy accepted the Award on her behalf, and read out a note from Una. After an amazing evening at the Castle, a perfect ending to our exciting 2012 Convention, I was on a high! Of course we ended up going to bed at three in the morning, celebrating a successful Convention. On Friday I set off with my wife Gillian to visit the legend Una van der Spuy at her historic homestead in the Jonkerhoek Valley.
What flowers do you get a lady who has written 12 gardening books and whose garden is the only private garden in South Africa to have been designated a National Monument? We settled on a beautiful bunch of Iris and Casablanca lilies, and made our way to Old Nectar. Una was waiting for us when we arrived at her beautiful home."The flowers are lovely! I approve. They will last three weeks." And then she immediately set of to the kitchen in order to put the flowers in water.
Over the next 90 minutes, we were enthralled by the interesting stories Una relayed, living alone at home while her husband was away at war...no electricity or bathrooms, and young children. The "mountain" in front of her home was transformed in to a garden with spades. Not listening to our objections, Una decided we had to go for a walk in the garden, even though it was drizzling. Her only comment...."I'll just walk faster".
In the garden Una pointed out some beautiful flowers & trees, and showed us where she recently planted a new tree. Yes, she is still planting trees in her 70 odd year old garden! And when she ran out of space, she started planting trees on her neighbors garden. Una walks around sprightly in her garden, pointing out where we must be careful not to fall over a pipe. It is an experience to be shown the different aspects of the historic garden. "When selecting new plants at the nursery, you must rather like the foliage than the flowers, as that is what you will see for most of the time."
Back in the house, some of her comments included:
Why do nurseries sell such a small variety of plants?
Why are the flower exhibitions disappearing? Stellenbosch used to have a lovely Rose Show!
Her health and old age is as result of her passion for gardening.
People started gardening less with the introduction of televisions in the country!
You have to consider the four regions in the country separately when compiling the Invasive Species list.
Paging through her new book on her iPad, she asks me to read the final paragraph of her Foreword. "Read it out loud!" I won't reveal it now, but the words are inspiring.
It was a privilege to meet and visit with Una. Una van der Spuy is an inspiration. I feel even more motivated to promote gardening in South Africa after this visit.
Who would have thought that after the incredible Banquet last night, and several highlights over the past few days at the SAGIC Convention, my highlight of this Cape Town visit would be 90 minutes spent with a 99 year young lady, a true legend?