THE President of the UK-based Friends of Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, Andy Jackson, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to conservation.
In 1983, aged 19, Andy joined the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew as a student in the world- renowned Kew Diploma in Horticulture.
During this period he became inspired by Kew’s work on plants from Africa, particularly those which people rely for their basic needs and for survival in times of drought and famine.
During an expedition to Cameroun in 1985, he saw the importance of wild plants to the quality of human life. This experience led him to a career in conservation. In 1986, he returned to West Africa collecting crop wild relatives for the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture programme.
In 1987, Andy won a scholarship from the UK Friends of Jerusalem Botanical Gardens to study and work in their gardens for eight months. Whilst on field trips, he encountered the wild relatives of wheat, barley and lentils.
Returning the UK he completed a Master of Science Degree that trained graduates to run and develop seed banks. The training included a return to Israel in 1988 to collect seeds of crop wild relatives.
Upon returning to Kew, he used this knowledge to help conserve some of the most endangered species on the planet including some being grown at Kew that were already extinct in the wild.
A beautiful Iris (Iris regis-uzziae) that he collected in Israel’s Negev desert in 1987 with Dr Michael Avishai, then the Director of the Jerusalem Botanic Garden is still flourishing at Kew.
Recalling this achievement Michael Dr Avishai former Director of Jerusalem Botanic Garden said: “To see the perfect beauty of this 28-year-old sample of collaboration in conservation preserved in Kew’s collection is a tremendous, even, I dare say, exhilarating feat of horticultural craftsman ship by Kew’s remarkable staff.”
His experiences at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens continued to be influential throughout Andy’s career at Kew. In 1989 he became the Conservation and Woodland Manager at Wakehurst Place and in 2003, he was promoted to be its first-ever Director.
From 2006 to 2008 Andy was also responsible for one of Kew’s, and, indeed, the world’s greatest botanical assets – The Millennium Seed Bank, located at Wakehurst, which is home to the largest plant conservation programme in the world.
In 2014, when Andy became President of the Friends of Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, he said “The scholarship that I enjoyed in Jerusalem almost 30 years ago has remained one of the most influential times in my professional life. The Friends continue to raise funds to provide internships/scholarships to the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens and to support multi-cultural events and education in the Gardens. The Friends have an active and interesting programme of events in the UK and I am proud to help this important charity to continue its remarkable achievements.”
As beautiful as snow is, its effects have decimated the Botanical Gardens (December 2013). Reported to be the heaviest since 1953 and responsible for bringing down power and phone lines in Northern Israel, lofty Jerusalem has been particularly badly affected. At the Botanical Gardens the repair teams are working flat out repairing the roof of the nursery which collapsed under the weight of the snow. Outside classrooms have also been damaged. Sadly there will be gaps in the landscape as specimen trees have been brought down and others are missing branches.
We are pleased to announce that Renee Laub has agreed to become a Trustee of the Friends and look forward to her ongoing input and assistance. We would welcome applications from other interested people who would like to be involved in guiding and assisting with the Friends' future plans. Attendance at a small number of formal meetings will be required but if you believe you have ideas, contacts and/or skills to help the Friends move forward, we would be very pleased to hear from you. No financial reward is given for this position.