British Friends

30 Dec


Based in the UK, the Friends organization was established by gardening enthusiast Mrs Jose Dent in 1980. Now assisted by Friends administrator Barbara Sherling (nee Steinberg), Jose Dent has worked tirelessly to publicize the work of the JBG in Britain and beyond, and to raise funds.  The Friends is an exclusive group for whom the importance of plants, the environment, cultural teamwork and lifelong learning are all crucial. Through membership fees, private garden visits, social events, donations and legacies, the Friends raises funds to provide scholarships to horticultural graduates from all over the world to study and work at the JBG. Not only do our scholars benefit by gaining horticultural experience and contacts, they learn management skills and experience the cultural co-operation and respect practiced by the Gardens' staff.

The Friends organize visits to gardens all over the UK, from prestigious botanical gardens and estates to small, private gardens. Thanks to their excellent contacts in the horticultural industry, they can promise behind-the-scenes talks and tours with some of the country's leading gardeners – many of them ex-JBG scholars!   We welcome like-minded individuals to our group. There is a small annual membership fee and you receive regular email updates, preferential rates at our events and reduced entry to the JBG. Please email us (address below).

Scholarships:The UK Friends focus on supporting the JBG by providing scholarships to send talented young horticulture students and workers to the JBG for periods of five weeks to 12 months.  Over the years, scores of young people have passed through the Gardens on this scheme and, thanks to Jose's annual reunions, contacts are maintained. Many former scholars now hold key positions in the botanical/horticultural world, becoming ambassadors of goodwill for the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens. If you are interested in applying for a 6-12 month scholarship, please contact the office.  Applications must be submitted by 30 May each year.  Interviews are held in NW London in July and the scholarship usually starts in September or October. Barbara Sherling, the UK Friends administrator, can be contacted at or by telephone on 020 8238 2779.

On-going professional development:  In recent years there has been an upturn in interest from qualified and experienced gardeners who wish to continue their lifelong learning.  We can arrange programmes to suit, but cannot offer 100% scholarships.  So far, participants on this scheme have self-funded or been sponsored by their employer. If you are interested, please ring or email Barbara for a more detailed discussion.


New scholars

Two outstanding young horticulturalists from North America have been chosen for the 2013-2014 scholarships. Jordan Wood has just finished a one year internship at the prestigious Longwood Gardens, near Philadelphia. Sara Perzley has been studying at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in Scotland. She was chosen as Scotland’s Young Horticulturalist
of 2013 by the Institute of Horticulturalists.

….and news from previous scholars

Our 2012 scholar Katy Elton, from the UK , went to Jerusalem after completing a traineeship at the Cambridge Botanical Gardens, where another former scholar, Dr Tim Upson, is now curator.  After returning to England, she won a fixed-term contract at the Sissinghurst Castle Garden, and was recently chosen to join the Royal Household as a gardener at Windsor Castle, the Queen's favorite weekend home. During her stint in Jerusalem, Katy wrote: 

'Bomb shelters, mountain treks and plants galore – what an incredible couple of months it has been so far.  Since arriving in Jerusalem back in October, I have had the privilege to experience this wonderful city and the wider country of Israel from many perspectives and in varying states of calm and unrest. Certainly the most exciting horticultural training a girl from Bolton could ever have imagined!

First and foremost, working in the nursery within the Gardens has been, and is continuing to be, the most enjoyable and rewarding job I think I’ve had. Managing the bulb collection and the Israeli rare plants is incredibly interesting, and involves all of the parts of horticulture I am most keen to learn about. It combines the opportunity to become familiar with a wide range of plants with all aspects of propagation. It has been fascinating to see how seed sowing, cuttings, stratification, transplanting etc. is done here (to great success), and the differences with the UK in what time of year these are carried out.  Having an experience and understanding of horticulture in a different climate was one of the main things that drew me to the JBG scholarship, and it is certainly delivering on that.

The staff at the Gardens have been very, very welcoming, and I feel as though I’ve made some true friends. Much effort is put in to ensuring that scholars here have the opportunity to learn as much as possible and have as wide-ranging an experience as they can. Whether it’s being invited on botanising tours around the country (so far I have been to the Carmel Mountain range, and Alexander and Taninim rivers), taken to look at different gardens, introduced to the university herbarium, or invited to lectures and tours within the Gardens, we certainly never feel forgotten! In fact I feel quite spoiled with the amount of interesting things offered to me.

Not only limited to the workplace, people’s kindness extends far beyond the call of duty. I have been lent a bike and taken on a cycle tour of the city, driven (very early!) to watch the sunrise from Mt Scopus, been on my first ever horse riding trek, invited to countless homes for dinner, and been taken to museums, hummous joints, and even a nightclub.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have been given this once in a lifetime opportunity.  It is turning out to be so enjoyable. Thank you to all of the Friends for enabling this scholarship to take place.  It really is life and career changing for someone starting out in horticulture, and I know that the Gardens really appreciate the extra help that we can offer too."

At the beginning of November 2012, Katy was joined by Toby Bull who iwas in Jerusalem on a special ongoing professional development programme.   Toby wrote:

'My first job on arriving at the Gardens was to assist in the removal of some of the more unusual and rare tropical plants from the Dworsky Conservatory in preparation for the extensive renovation and expansion works that are due to commence early in 2013. The plants will be kept in 'quarantine' until the works are complete and the Conservatory is ready for replanting.

Once the majority of the clearing of the Dworsky conservatory was completed, my next job was to start mapping the South African section of the Gardens. This is a much lengthier job and is something that I won't get to complete before I leave at the end of January. It is, however, extremely satisfying as I get to know one part of the Gardens in detail and become more familiar with the flora of South Africa. An unexpected bonus is that the job requires me to look at some of the historical records.

The new experiences aren’t of course limited to the Gardens. To spend any time in Jerusalem is bound to be memorable, but to spend 3 months getting to know the city and the country is extraordinary. Already  we have toured Mount Scopus with Dr. Avishai; taken a dawn tour of the city having watched the sun come up over the Judean desert and been on a plant hunting trip to the Sharon streams and Alexander and Taninim Rivers. And in the coming weeks we will be visiting the old port of Jaffa and intriguingly the old municipal rubbish tip of Tel Aviv which is due to be turned into the city's newest parkland.

The following 6 weeks will no doubt go more quickly than the last. But in anticipation of this I fully intend to make as much of the remaining time as possible, both in the Gardens and in Israel. Returning to London in February will be the least of my concerns!"

Ryan Guillou, (a 2010-11 scholar) has been appointed Nursery Manager at Jordan’s Royal Botanic Garden. He writes: “My time in Jerusalem made me very qualified for the position and I have the JBG and the Friends of JBG to thank for that opportunity. It truly paved the way for me to receive this position, which will no doubt be a pivotal point in my career.”

A former Kew Diploma Travel Scholar, Felix Merklinger, having completed his MSc, is working in Kew's Herbarium. He has been employed to conduct vegetation surveys in West Africa, mostly for environmental impact assessments for the extraction sector. He describes it as an 'Interesting job'.

Our very first scholar, Peter Clarke, rather romantically met his wife on a Working Holiday when he decided to visit Israel again some 20 years after his scholarship.  Peter and his family are now living in Haslemere, Surrey where he has set up Cracking Gardens.  He told us "I am going to specialise in being a roving head gardener providing professional garden care and garden rejuvenation.  Cracking Gardens will refresh, revive, re-invent and re- invigorate people's gardens and suggest on-going projects for sustaining garden development."

An unexpected phone call brought us an update from Theo Gillick,our 1994-95 scholar, now a successful sculptor.  We were delighted to discover on the homepage of his website that he acknowledges our scholarship as the starting point of his artistic journey as Jerusalem is where a friend and painter introduced him to sculpture.

Working Holidays

The Friends also organize working holidays to the JBG. These bring together professional and amateur gardeners from all over the world for a two-week trip to Israel. Participants – from head gardeners of major estates to Sunday afternoon home gardeners – join the gardening team at JBG, getting 'time off' for a series of fascinating tours. They work for 9 days in the Gardens, have two free days and two days of organised tours.  Many participants have such a good time that they come back again and again!  The next  Working Holiday will be from March  6-16, 2014, with a seven-day option too. Contact the office for more information.

Barbara Sherling, the UK Friends administrator, can be contacted at or by telephone on 020 8238 2779.

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