OBITUARY: Much-respected pioneer of UK’s Horticultural Industry Jeffrey Bernhard OBE dies peacefully aged 100

“Coming from a very troubled childhood in war-torn Europe, he began his adult life completely alone. He had only memories and aspirations to keep him going”
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Iconic and much-respected Rugby businessman Jeffrey Bernhard OBE has died aged 100.

He celebrated his milestone birthday on August 7 and passed away quietly in his sleep on August 24.

Jeffrey is perhaps best known for opening the doors of Rugby Garden Centre. The other larger enterprises were Bernhard Landscapes, Bernhard Nurseries and Bernhard Sports Surfaces.

Jeffrey Bernhard.Jeffrey Bernhard.
Jeffrey Bernhard.

Some years ago, the garden centre was franchised to Blooms. They morphed into Wyevale who then sold out to Dobbies, the current operator on the family land at Blue Boar at the end of the Straight Mile.

Son Stephen paid tribute to his father, saying he was a ‘mover and shaker in the horticultural industry’. He stated: “Jeff lived a full life and was thinking and planning to the very end. Having achieved one final milestone in his remarkable time with us, his 100th birthday on August 7th, he passed away quietly in his sleep and is resting peacefully at last.”

Jeffrey leaves behind an extraordinary legacy in the wider Horticultural industry. Many well-known industry bodies including HTA, GCA, IGCA, BALI, BGL and ELCA have been significantly influenced by his energetic contributions, his vision and determination.

Other organisations have also benefited from his engagement, enthusiasm, and leadership. These include Round Table, Rotary, Masonic Lodge and The Worshipful Company of Gardeners, a renowned City Livery Company. He was recognised for his significant influence in the horticultural industry, being awarded an OBE by our late Queen Elizabeth II.

Jeffrey as Horticultural Trades Association President in 1979. He was aside to serve two terms as President.Jeffrey as Horticultural Trades Association President in 1979. He was aside to serve two terms as President.
Jeffrey as Horticultural Trades Association President in 1979. He was aside to serve two terms as President.

Many other impressive awards have been steeped upon him.

Stephen said: “Jeffrey was an iconic individual as a father, family man and a grandfather, and latterly, as a great grandfather. Coming from a very troubled childhood in war-torn Europe, he began his adult life completely alone. He had only memories and aspirations to keep him going.

"He was utterly determined and focused on success throughout his life. While this may have created the man we know today, naturally it conflicted with family life and culture as we assume it normally should be. As he aged, success followed, and he was able to focus much more on his grandchildren.

"He was a terrific granddad, providing meticulously for their future benefits in creative ways. In recent years, Jeffrey has been devoted to building strong relationships with his wider family who are spread around the globe. He’s been a role model in that regard for many of today’s generation of family. We’re fortunate to have had such a generous and kind man in our lives. There’s a universal sense of appreciation of that love and we feel a huge loss throughout the whole family.

“We'll all have interesting and fond memories of Jeffrey. He was symbolic of that generation who lived between the 1900's and 1970's. He, his siblings, and cousins experienced the chaos and misery left over from the second world war and they transitioned to the excitement of the sixties and seventies when a new generation was born.

" Jeff's generation looked back on fear, suffering, and loss, while looking forward with optimism, building a new world of growth and opportunity for us. We are the ones fortunate to have benefited from their vision drive and energy.

"Landscaping was the first and formative part of his business interests. The nursery operations followed, becoming one of the top ten such operations in the UK. Later Sports Surfaces were added, constructing many famous all-weather pitches around the country.”

Private schools were significant clients which included Rugby School who invested in one of the first set of all-weather pitches regionally.Jeffrey is survived by two sons, Stephen and Mark and five grandchildren – Alex, James, Daniel, Johanna and Alistair.