Initially trained with the Royal Horticultural Society, and in management with Brunel University, some years later he emerged from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the world’s foremost botanic garden, qualified in curation, horticultural estate management, soft landscape design, horticultural and botanical sciences.
In 1982 Kew awarded Jerry a scholarship to study the flora of Western Australia. Photographing plants never photographed before and discovering Darwinia polychroma, a new and critically endangered species, changed his life. Captivated by the people, plants and places, he decided to emigrate. “The greatest impact was realising that bushland I visited had been pretty much unspoiled by industry – something that no European can ever experience in their native lands”.
Post-graduate work included management of both public and private sector horticultural enterprises in Britain and Australia: production nurseries, London’s largest public tree service, heritage inner city parks and gardens, running a major garden centre, and helping to establish Sydney’s Mt Annan Botanic Garden, a Bicentenary project.
Jerry has been the horticultural consultant for Queensland Conservation’s first ‘National Food policy’ and Queensland’s ‘Grey Water policy’, he drafted the proposed management of bushland weeds policy for Lord Howe Island, and also consulted for several Sydney city garden renovation projects, including Darling Park, Victoria Park, the Conservatorium of Music, Macquarie Square, the NSW Police Memorial, Central Station, St Mary’s Cathedral, First Fleet Park, East Circular Quay and the Sydney International Airport.
For over eleven years, Jerry managed the botanical estate at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, (Sydney Gardens) Australia’s oldest scientific organisation and the arboretum at Government House, and the Sydney Domain.
His greatest gardening challenge was grooming the Sydney Gardens (1999 – 2000) in readiness for hosting some of the Olympic Games. Janet Holmes à Court commended the gardens for looking the best ever in thirty years she had known them.
Jerry supported the creation of major educational gardens such as the Sydney Fernery (1993), Herb Garden (1995), Oriental Garden (1998) and the First Encounters Garden (2000). His plan of management for the Pesticide Facility and shift towards organic pest management have been adopted by the Brisbane Mt Coot-tha and Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.
Managing the ‘Rare and Threatened Plants Garden’ from concept to completion (1996 – 1998) was a personal high point in Jerry’s years at the Sydney Gardens. “It identifies which specific human activities are responsible for species losses and how ordinary people can help avert damage to our society and our quality of life“. Jerry will always treasure preparing and planting the world’s first Wollemi Pine at the launch.
During 2001, Jerry was seconded to be the horticultural consultant for the inaugural ‘ABC Gardening Australia Live’ expo at Homebush, NSW. This public/ private project was the first successful major gardening expo ever held in Sydney city with exhibits from commercial gardening shows, including ‘Better Homes and Gardens‘ (Channel 7) and ‘Backyard Blitz‘ (Channel 9), international exhibitors from Fiji and the UK, and the largest show garden of native plants from the Northern Territory ever seen in Australia. Over 42,000 people attended and 98% of exhibitors re-booked for the following year before the show ended – a Sydney record.
Jerry is always busy sharing his knowledge of gardening through his public Facebook Page, this website, and by writing for the ‘Gardening Australia’ and ‘The Organic Gardener’ magazines. He was Horticultural Editor of ‘The Organic Gardener‘ magazine 2005 – 13, and a consultant and writer for the illustrated dictionary of garden plants, ‘Flora’.
He has been a presenter on our only national television gardening show, ‘Gardening Australia’ since 2000. He has been a regular guest on talk back radio gardening shows such as ABC 2BL 702 (since 1995) and ABC New England North West (since 2005). Jerry presented a weekly radio show ‘Talking Gardening‘ with Fairfax’s 4BC Radio (Brisbane, Rockhampton, Mackay and Cairns). The programme, which had run for over thirty years, achieved its peak audiences during the period Jerry was presenting from 2014-15.
Jerry is in regular demand as a public speaker and horticultural judge to a multitude of gardening societies from Cairns to Melbourne.
A selection of conference papers presented by Jerry:
‘Sustainable Turfculture’, illustrating how turf can be an environmental asset at the Queensland School Officers Conference, 2019;
‘Putting Sustainable Food Production in Context’, illustrating how food security is being impacted by the genetic erosion of crops, the loss of knowledge of traditional cropping systems and by methane-driven global warming at the Meetings of the conferences of the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions in Geneva, 2017;
‘Sustainable Food Production’, illustrating how modern science and traditional production systems can be more productive – and less expensive – than industrial farming at the Rotterdam Convention conference, Rarotonga, August 2016;
‘Direct Action Against Global Warming‘ at the University of Southern Queensland (‘Celebrating Our Environment Expo’, 2014);
‘The Future of Gardening‘ (Blue Mountains and Townsville, 2013);
‘Acclimatisation’ for the Australian Garden History Society (2011);
‘Non-Chemical Pest Control’ for HACCP Australia (2010);
‘Low Carbon Gardening’, illustrating how horticulture can reduce Australia’s national Greenhouse Gas emissions for the CSIRO’s annual conference (2009);
‘Conservation of Indigenous Herbs and Medicinal Plants Through Cultivation’. Jerry represented Australia at the South Pacific Herbs Forum (Vanuatu) (2002);
‘The Victory Garden’, the Australian Institute of Horticulture’s National Conference, Homebush (2002);
‘Charismatic Plants and Plantings’; the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects National Conference, Sydney (2002).
Jerry emigrated from Sydney to Brisbane in November 2003 and established ‘Bellis’, a model, affordable, sustainable house and garden, a project which became a government experiment. Having ‘talked the talk’ he intended to ‘walk the walk’, and he planted a collection of charismatic plants. Bellis first opened for Solar House Day, then Sustainable House Day before being invited to open through Open Gardens Australia in 2007. OGA did a great job promoting Bellis. The garden became Queensland’s most popular open garden with 3,000 people attending weekend open days until OGA ceased operating in 2015.
In 2006, Jerry presented talks and conversations on pioneering sustainability for the Queensland Museum and Bank Australia. From these sessions the topic ‘The 21st Century Cottage Garden’ has been evolving as the garden and its household responded to extreme weather challenges.
“Gardening in a Continually Surprising Climate” has involved navigating a garden through some outstanding subtropical weather – heatwaves, cold shocks, extended drought, flooding rain, high humidity, cyclonic winds, etc. Feeding a household in our continually surprising climate in an increasingly diverse garden has fuelled many a presentation to gardeners and conservationists.
In 2012-13 Jerry discovered two new, undescribed species of parasitoid wasp (one of which is a curious hyperparasite) at Bellis. Since 2003, 540 species of animal have been documented as living at or visiting Bellis, with new records being added to the Atlas of Living Australia.
In 2011, Jerry was awarded an HMAA Television Laurel Award for his segment filmed at Bellis on ‘How to Create Your Own Plant Cultivar’ (Technical Gardening). In 2009, Bellis won the prestigious National Save Water Award in the Built Environment category, and in 2017 Bellis was a finalist in the Banksia Sustainability Awards (Food for Thought).
In 2015, Jerry started botanical gardening classes at the Yen Tu Botanical Garden for Medicinal Plants, near Hanoi, and provided consultations for market gardens near Hue and Hanoi (Vietnam) and a private orchid collection in Bali (Indonesia, 2016).
Also in 2015, Jerry began escorting gardening tours with The Adventure Traveller, touring Singapore, the Singapore Garden Festival, Vietnam (2015 and 2019), Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Jerry lead a tour of Svalbard and Norway in 2018.
Jerry remains a ‘horticultural schizophrenic’ equally at home sipping tea in a high Victorian conservatory or manuring an allotment.
One of the few successful conservation campaigns he has been involved with is the protection and conservation of the Mary River, its valley and its community. Let the Mary River run free.
“Anyone who loves English plants, landscapes and weather, should be utterly besotted with their Australian counterparts”.