Tribute to Wakefield horticulturalist James Akers

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One of Wakefield’s best-known horticulturalists has died aged 85.

James Akers MBE was born November 4, 1937 and died November 1, 2023.

His daughter-in-law Anne Akers shared a tribute with the Express:

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James, from Wrenthorpe, was one of the leading growers, breeders and showers of the rare English Florist Tulips as well as being an expert in the cultivation of daffodils.

Wakefield horticulturalist James Akers has diedWakefield horticulturalist James Akers has died
Wakefield horticulturalist James Akers has died

Originally from Normanton, James learned about the rare tulips from his father Jim, who was also a prize chrysanthemum grower.

He had to balance his interest with his work in IT, which took him around the world, but once he retired, he was able to dedicate much more time to tulips, daffodils and many other flowers which he loved.

Wakefield has been the focus of interest for the English Florist Tulips, which are smaller and less colourful than their Dutch cousins.

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They are not generally available or commonly grown and it was only because of the work of the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society in general and James in particular that these tulips continue to be preserved.

Mr Akers was awarded the MBE.Mr Akers was awarded the MBE.
Mr Akers was awarded the MBE.

It was for this work that James was awarded the MBE in 2008.

At the World Tulip Summit, in Ottawa in 2017, he was presented with the Order of the Tulip which recognises individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the promotion of the tulip as a symbol of world friendship.

James and his wife Wendy, who died in 2017, travelled widely in Europe to see and record tulips and daffodils, which are both mountain flowers.

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He discovered and named a new daffodil (bulbocodium akersianus) and had grown, bred and named new daffodils and English Florist Tulips.

He was the author of two publications – Flames and Feathers: English Florist Tulips (2012) and, with Celia Fisher, Old Flames: English Florists'.

He was a member of the Northern Group of the Daffodil Society and Royal Horticultural Society Daffodil and Tulip Committee, a frequent judge at flower shows throughout the country and edited several horticultural publications.

In recent years he was involved with the Wrenthorpe Environmental Society (Wrens), helping to plant bulbs, flowers and trees in the village, including a small orchard in memory of Wendy, to whom he was married for more than 60 years.

The two also sang with the village choir.

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In his younger days he was a keen (and rather good) footballer and swimmer. He loved music and he loved to entertain friends and family, which he did often.

He was generous, kind, knowledgeable, interesting and an excellent raconteur.

An only child, he leaves five children, Noel, Sarah, Kate, Charlotte and Daniel, 14 grandchildren and several great grandchildren.

His funeral will be held November 24.

Each May, some of the finest tulips are put on display at the Wakefield & North of England Tulip Society Show.

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Exhibitors and visitors come from all over the UK and Europe to take part and witness this tradition which dates back more than 180 years.

Today, the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society has around 230 members, including some from as far away as Russia, Sweden and the United States.

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