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Living Memories, Nina's Story

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

I wanted to continue with the living memories theme because I know that a lot of gardeners become so due to a friend or family member being a passionate gardener.

One such person, whom I have a great respect and admiration for, is my friend Nina.

I asked Nina if she would share with us the story of her Nana's tree as it touched my heart when I heard the connection it gave her to gardening.


Sometimes it takes a minuscule whiff of a scent, sight of a silhouette or the meditative flit of a bird in a tree to transport you to another time in your life.

For me apricot kernel oil reminds me of my Nana Linda’s face cream and

Dwarf Flowering Almond Bush (Prunus Glandulosa Alba Plena) has a special place in my heart because of my grandma, Annie Kanara Williams.

From humble beginnings and a dozen children, whangai grandchildren and any lost soul found wandering, my grandmother welcomed them all with open arms.

She lived on the straights of the Hauraki Plains in a small house in Waitakaruru, where we would spend most of our School holidays.

Besides us, her other true love was gardening.

I think I got my love of flowers from her, and my mum (also a keen gardener). When I left school and got on with my life, I still tried to visit as often as I could… She would try to give me money she couldn’t afford to gift, toys for my children and always a cutting or slip of her latest favorite plant. This was done by means of a retired butchers

knife… The best tool for a flower gardener, she would say. Forks and spades were for garden changes, but the knife did it all otherwise.

My grandma Annie’s story was a romantic one on paper, she met grandad Joe when they were teenagers, married and lived a rich and meaningful life with kindness being at the core. When grandad Joe passed in his early 70’s (he never had a birth certificate, so we’re not sure when he was born) my grandma was left grief stricken.

I visited her several times in the passing months and each time she looked more withdrawn and the sparkle had gone from her eyes. Heartbreaking to witness but completely understandable.

On one such occasion I saw a beautiful double blossom shrub and commented that when I drove in the driveway that it took my breath away. A glimmer of sparkle

came to her eyes and we wandered around her beautiful flower garden. She quickly whipped out her knife and gave me a piece with roots attached. She told me it was a double May tree, which later turned out to be not quite right.

But in my home it became known as Grandma Williams.

As it turned out, two weeks later she was in hospital and not long after passed, most probably of a broken heart.

The sense of grief that I felt and the denial of her departure, rocked me to my core.

I didn’t attend her funeral, I didn’t want to let her go, instead I worked through my loss as I nurtured the last piece of sparkle she had gifted me.

It’s season starts in winter, as a small shrub of bare sticks, only to transform early spring into the most breathtaking

mass of white double blossoms. Then the leaves appear in early summer, only to return to sticks again in Autumn.

With each changing season I reconnect with my Grandma, telling her what’s changed in that year and that I miss her terribly.

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