MORE than 60 years after he first started gardening, an elderly man from Schauderville is using his talent to not only share the beauty of his garden with the community, but also mentor young men from the area to become gardening experts.
Douglas de Doncker (73), or “Uncle Dougie” as he is lovingly referred to by members of the community, has let his creativity flow in his garden in Roos Street.
It is never a difficult task to find Uncle Dougie’s house because of the vibrant colours of different flowers and artworks in the yard, all planted and created by Uncle Dougie himself.
He not only has flowers and plants, ranging from mini-cacti to marigolds and sunflowers, but next to the heartleaf plant, there is also a huge artwork of a fish with a baby on her back.
“It took me three weeks to finish building this fish and one week to complete the artwork of the baby.
“The idea just came to me and after I completed the big fish, I just knew that she could not swim alone – she needed a baby,” Uncle Dougie said, as he looked at the duo with a smile on his face.
“Excuse me,” he said as he turned around and waved at a man on a bicycle, who greeted him and wanted to know how he was doing. “That’s my cousin. He always rides past my house on that bike,” he added, before turning back to the two fish.
“Do you know what materials I used to make the two fish? Do you see those fibre cables that are being installed in some areas? These are the cut-offs that I use. Whenever I walk around the area, I pick up materials from different dumping sites for my artwork.
“That means that all my work is made from recycled material,” Uncle Dougie said, proudly.
He pointed at the white wall behind the artwork where the words, “Fishy Fashions” are written in red.
“People love that name because I know how they used to enjoy the show, Fishy Fêshuns, when it was still on TV,” he laughed.
Uncle Dougie said that this garden had been his saving grace ever since his wife, Maureen, died three months ago. “All these years, I had dedicated this garden to her and now that she is gone, it has become even more special to me.”
He sat down on the wall next to the fish and carefully touched the leaves of the heartleaf plant. “Maureen used to love this plant so much because of its leaves that look like hearts.
“She used to see love in everything,” he added with a faraway look in his eyes. “Even the sunflowers remind me of her because they were also a favourite.”
According to Uncle Dougie, a multi-skilled worker, gardening is in his genes, as he started at the tender age of 10 and he is grateful for the opportunity to pass on his years of knowledge to the youth.
“My dad was an ardent gardener and as children, we had our orders to take care of the garden. That is where my passion started. I have had three apprentices so far and I’m extremely happy to see that they are now able to make a living out of gardening,” he said.
“I’m not here to blow my own horn, but I believe that Jesus gives us strength for the day to do something constructive and I would just like to share the beauty of nature with my community.”
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