A year and a week ago we were touring summer gardens in England. We started in Suffolk again because that is where Charles and Gill Notcutt live. Today we heard that Charles has died.
On that last trip, Charles met us at Beth Chatto’s garden for lunch. While he was much more a tree man than a flower and garden man, I still recall his great pleasure at the delight and inspiration Mark and I felt in the dry garden there. He then said “follow me” and drove off in his Audi while we climbed into our very modest little rental car. What followed was an alarming pursuit through the back roads of Suffolk as we tried to keep Charles’ car in view because we had no idea where we were going. It was to Rupert and Sara Eley’s “A Place for Plants”. From there we went to Charles and Gill’s home where they hosted a dinner party in our honour.
The next day he took us to Blooms of Bressingham, we had lunch at a Suffolk pub which served the best hot chips Mark and I had ever eaten (nobody, we discovered, can do chips as well as some English pubs) and then went on to The Old Vicarage Garden in Norfolk. The next morning we said goodbye and headed north to Yorkshire.
These are such lovely memories to have and even at the time, we knew it may be the last time we would see Charles. Others will record his contribution to British horticulture through Notcutts’ nurseries and garden centres and various trade and professional bodies. It was how we first met him in the early nineties. He was also extremely active in contributing to his local community of Woodbridge, even serving as mayor in recent times.
It is Charles the man that we remember. He had an exceptional zest for life, such wide ranging interests – a modern Renaissance Man – underpinned by great kindness. We held him in the highest regard and felt privileged to have him as a friend in our lives.
RIP Charles. Our lives were made richer for having known you.