Congratulations to Jenny Simons from Southern Highlands Australian Plants Society (SHAPS) group who was awarded Life Membership at the APS NSW AGM, held on 20th May 2023 .This summary is based on the nomination from Southern Highlands Group, with added detail. APS Southern Highlands are delighted to have Jenny as a continuing member of our group and we very much value her contribution. She is worthy of Life Membership both for her promotion of the aims of the society and her practical contribution to the governance of the Australian Plants Society.
Jenny Simons raised her family in Turramurra, Sydney and in 1971, she became the first student from Macquarie University to graduate with a First Class Honours Masters Degree in Education. She had an impressive career as an early childhood educator. The recipient of a Churchill fellowship, she taught in a number of schools before becoming the Director of the Institute of Early Childhood Studies. Having already written Learning to Read: Parents Can Help in 1981, she followed up with a textbook intended for directors of early childhood services: Administering Early Childhood Services. It was published in 1986 and sold well. As early as 1966 Jenny was interested in native plants. Spurred on by Maloney Walker’s Designing Bush Gardens she decided to convert her Turramurra small front garden to an Australia bush garden. When she retired to the Southern Highlands she plunged into community life with the same enthusiasm as she had displayed in her professional life. She joined many local groups and societies with a diversity of activities, including walking and gardening groups. She established three new garden clubs in the area: at Mittagong, Moss Vale and Robertson. Everywhere she went she made new friends.
Serving the Australian Plants Society
In her own Burradoo garden she began growing natives in among the roses, camellias and maples of the already established garden. Over time the natives proliferated. When Australian Plant Society opened a Southern Highlands branch, she joined immediately and with in a few years she became our President.
For over 20 years she has worked tirelessly as a bush regenerator volunteering on Mt Gibraltar, restoring the weed-infested mountain to its former natural bushland. In 2010 she received an OAM for her services to bush regeneration. She was a contributing author to The Gib, 2007, a book about the natural attributes and history of Mt Gibraltar. Jenny has opened her garden to visitors over nearly 30 years. She has been involved in botanical field trips, overseeing identification and collection of plants endemic to the local area. The collection is now housed at the Janet Cosh Herbarium in Wollongong University. Until Covid disrupted everything in 2021, she along with a fellow SHAPS member, Jane Pye, ran U3A courses on growing native plants. They proved extremely popular.
Supporting the Australian Flora
Throughout the years, Jenny has consistently maintained her dedicated involvement with Landcare. She was a founding member of the Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens, which she also continues to actively support, fund-raising by collecting and packaging open pollinated seeds for sale to members.
In its early years she gifted 10 Eucalyptus macarthurii trees to the Gardens. These magnificent trees, endemic to our Southern Highlands Shale Woodlands, 90% of which have been cleared, are now endangered. Her trees, planted as they are on a cold-climate floodplain to which they are well suited with their frost resistance and propensity for moist soil, continue to withstand the slings and arrows of recent weather events.
Contributions to the APS Community.
At 94, Jenny continues to be an active member of SHAPS, attending walks and talks regularly, inspiring newer members to ‘go native’ and disseminating her lifetime’s knowledge among us all. She still propagates native species and writes articles for our newsletter. She recently put out an SOS for donations of native seeds, taking care to explain when and how to harvest them, how to treat them and what botanical information, such as name, size and growing conditions, to provide in order that she might successfully propagate them.
Jenny Simons has been a leading light in the world of Southern Highlands gardens since she came to the area in 1990 and a great advocate for growing native plants. We in SHAPS are all indebted to her for enriching our understanding of how to recognise and care for our natural heritage here in the Highlands, so much of which has been swept aside in recent years for development.