Una van der Spuy

Una van der Spuy

After Sima there was Una. Una van der Spuy was still living at her historic homestead, still gardening until a few days before her hundredth birthday. La grande dame of South African gardening passed away on 17 July 2012.

In 2009 she published her last book, an homage to her garden of almost 70 years. Cultivating the same piece of land for seven decades - that pleasure and privilege, surely, must belong to few in the world.

A garden writer of ten books on gardening, equallly ubiquitous to those of Sima Eliovson (and many written concurrently - but never a mention of the other), presents the mémoires of her endeavours ever since 1942 in the same garden in the (and I don't say this lightly) picturesque Jonkershoek Valley - you'd think there'd be excitement?

No reviews of the book appeared (including the one I wrote for the protectionist Afrikaans press).

Those who visited her garden would not easily forget it. Here are happy sunny photographs of such a pleasurable visit. My brother was one of the fortunate to receive a guided tour by Una - never too busy for those ready to be delighted. Her gardening advice: heavy annual pruning to maintain youthful vigour.

When I saw that she had published her mémoires, I was equal parts delighted and dismayed.

Delighted, why, of course. Dismayed, because I have never been to her garden which has for many years been open for the public during spring. I did write her an e-mail some years ago, and received a reply (in English; I had always assumed she was Afrikaans) to the effect of which I can't remember. But enough to always give me a pang when I think of her and her garden, glistening in the sun...

And I don't say ‘glistening’ lightly: look at the photo below of their homestead, Old Nectar, on the cover of Una van der Spuy's husband Kenneth's book. And then look at the flat photo on the newest book's cover. >>