Friends Remember Patrick

Patrick Nutt forever changed botanical gardens and an industry, while mentoring many. Team Pat is just a few of those he strongly influenced along the way. Help us carry on his legacy in hopes that even more can know him as the special individual he was. With your support, this endowed scholarship will continue the work he started, for generations to come.  ~ Paula Biles, Kelly Billing & Zac deGarmeaux

Patrick A. Nutt 


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It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that Patrick Nutt is no longer with us. He was a lover of plants, a hybridizer, a gentleman’s gentleman but most of all, the perpetual teacher. He thrived in it and glowed in the glory of sharing anything and everything he knew of his aquatic plant passion. If you lived in his lifetime and had the pleasure of crossing his path I’m sure he taught you something of his broad knowledge of water gardening.

Patrick contacted me often to share how beautiful something was at Longwood and if we had the opportunity we should hop in the car and come see it. His thoughtfulness was immeasurable and his enthusiasm was evident in his voice, on paper or jotted on a post card. It didn’t matter if it was the Victoria’s, the aquatic plant pools, the wetland meadow or the Christmas display. If it was at its peak he invited you to be a part of it. He was such a spirited man with seemingly endless energy. He was always anxious for you to delight in the beauty of all things and to have an intimate understanding, as he did. I will truly miss hearing from him.

Patrick had many notable accomplishments but words seem insufficient to describe ‘who’ he was. He touched “millions”, he was “an Icon” and “We are all better for having met him.” I invite you to add to these comments and share your stories of Patrick so that, like him, you may inspire and touch the lives of many in his honor.

There is comfort in knowing that everyone who knew him was changed because of him.

Kelly Billing


Paula Biles & Patrick Nutt on the Amazon (2007)

If it weren’t for Patrick Nutt, millions of people couldn’t have enjoyed the aquatic plant displays he created in the 1950s at Longwood Gardens. Thanks to him, even millions more were awed at international botanical gardens by the giant waterlily Pat hybridized in 1960. And additional thousands were able to grow this ‘Longwood hybrid’ in large backyard ponds.

Patrick also impacted thousands of gardening nuts (he loved puns) by teaching them everything he knew about aquatic and other plants. He enthusiastically shared his knowledge in lectures, articles, demonstrations, phone calls, folders full of his legendary photocopies, in-pond show-n’-tells, and on trips to the Amazon and other faraway aquatic paradises.

Pat inspired and encouraged both students and professionals to learn about aquatic plants. His modesty, constantly dirty hands, and infectious grin hid Pat’s many accomplishments. He was a true leader — one in a gazillion—who will be missed by hundreds of admirers, colleagues, and cohorts around the world. We are blessed to have the knowledge he conveyed, the endless support he gave, and memories of many fun times.

Paula Biles

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Tim Jennings with Patrick Nutt

It is sad, we all have so many happy memories of him to share. He certainly changed my life with his positive way of looking at just about everything.

I think I can talk for us all when I say that, “We are all better for having met him.” Tim Jennings

Longwood Chimes

Tim and Pat, the early years

The following was provided to Lora Lee Gelles for publishing in Pond Trade Magazine 6/17/2015 By Timothy Jennings, Senior Gardener, Longwood Gardens

Patrick A. Nutt 1930-2015     Lessons Learned:  A Life Well Lived

I am sorry to inform you that Patrick A. Nutt, 85, of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his family on Thursday, June 4, 2015, after a brief illness.

In 1986, I first met Patrick as a student in Longwood Gardens Professional Gardener Training Program, a two year training program that combines both academic and hands on training. My very first work rotation was in the water lily display.  Little did I know then that a simple question to Patrick about Nelumbo would lead to a lifelong friendship?  Over the years one of the most significant influences he had on me was the way he conducted his life around three basic values; thankfulness, generosity, and his sharing of knowledge.

Thankfulness:  He truly understood this value and was sincerely grateful for the efforts of others; thankfulness was deeply embedded in his lifestyle.  My first introduction to this value after I started employment happened when I received my first paycheck from Patrick; he made sure that he personally handed out our paychecks, giving him the perfect opportunity to acknowledge our efforts made during that period.  Surprisingly these acts weren’t always big accomplishments; in fact, many times it was the simple acts that caught his attention. This trait continued during his entire career at the gardens.  He truly understood that his success was a direct reflection of his staff’s success and took great pride in acknowledging the efforts of others. Today at Longwood we continue Patrick’s tradition in the form of “Victories,” which simply put is a venue for us to acknowledge the efforts of those working with us on a regular basis.  It has become an important part of our internal culture.

Generosity:  This value must be something that gardeners adopt early on in their careers,  most of us understand and are taught early on that we must share what we have especially our plants if we are going to be able to share our passion with future generations.  He believed that it was far more rewarding to give than to receive, knowing that acts of generosity today would someday be recouped in the efforts of like-minded institutions.  His acts of generosity would prove invaluable as other gardens and institutions began making explorations, and collecting plants.  Today Longwood is frequently invited to participate and share in the findings of others due in part to the generosity that Patrick showed to others during his career.

Sharing of knowledge:  Patrick believed that knowledge was one of the most powerful tools we have, and it was our responsibility to pass this along to future generations.   He did this not so much to show how much he knew, but to give others the opportunity to expand upon the knowledge of previous generations.  He was a master at creating inquisitiveness.  Back to when I was student after I asked that first question about Nelumbo, the next day in my student mail box I found two more articles from Patrick about what we had talked about. Then a few weeks would pass and another article would show up, then a few years and I would get a phone call at home form Patrick about a TV program about that initial conversation we had about Nelumbo. To this day I am not sure how he kept all this together because I know many others experienced this same phenomenon.

Patrick was truly a man ahead of his time; his successes reach further than his personal achievements but also in the accomplishments of all who had the pleasure to know him.  He took great pride in mentoring, teaching, and watching others succeed.  If you had Patrick as a friend, you had an ally for life.  His knowledge combined with his enthusiasm for sharing have  created a model for future generations to follow.

Tim Jennings

San Angelo 13

Tim Jennings, Patrick Nutt, Ken Landon & Mike Swize

(December 3, 2007) Tribute To An Icon

I have had the distinct pleasure of knowing and working with Patrick Nutt for some thirty plus years. His invaluable work at Longwood Gardens and elsewhere concerning the Botanical Sciences is of the Highest Merit. His dedicated efforts with regard to the genus Nymphaea and Victoria are legendary. He is the originator of Victoria Longwood which has come to be one of the finest plants to have ever graced the planet. I salute him with Tribute, Honor and Respect. He is indeed an icon.

Ken Landon

I met Pat in the summer of 1977, fresh out of college and with a new job at Lilypons. Charles Thomas made an appt. for me to meet Pat and see the waterlily collection. Pat met me at the gate and spent hours with me sharing his incredible wealth of knowledge and patiently answering my many question. What a kind and generous soul! It was the start of a long friendship, many visits to Longwood, including one with Gordon Ledbetter where we were afforded the high honor of walking the catwalks high in the main conservatories; guess we knew the right person.

A trip I will always treasure happened just a few years ago. Pat and Tim Jennings flew in to Houston, saw NWG and then with Wayne and Mike we drove to San Angelo to see Pats longtime friend Ken Landon. Ken’s collection was primo and he and Pat and Tim talked excitedly about every aspect of waterlilies for hours. It was an amazing day and you could see and feel the mutual respect and friendship of these giants of the waterlily world. We also introduced Pat to some incredible Texas BBQ in Llano which he mentioned every time I saw him thereafter. Pleasant memories.

A kind generous gentleman was Pat Nutt and he will be missed, but he has left such a wonderful legacy that will live on.

Rolf Nelson

Bob Burns, Patrick Nutt, Rich Sacher, Kevin Joyce

Thanks for letting me know that Pat is gone. I will miss him, and his quiet, smiling English sense of humor.

When I was a junior in college, I got to spend the summer living on the grounds at Longwood Gardens, as one of 10 work/study students. We were supposed to work with a different section head each week, but I managed to get a second week working with Pat on the water lilies. I was already an avid hobbyist, and it was a real treat to work with him for two whole weeks. I was happy to trade my week in the vegetable garden with a fellow student, so I could work a second week with Pat.

For many years, Pat managed to send me Victoria Longwood seeds, so I could grow one for our botanic garden pond.

On the first symposium to England, I watched Pat’s surprise, pride and delight to see his V. Longwood at Kew, grown to a size that none of us have seen before or since.

During the second Denver symposium, we traded complaints about the difficulty of jogging every morning in that mile high city, and that it seemed harder to breathe than the last time. Pat reminded me that the previous Denver symposium had been ten years earlier! The air wasn’t thinner…we were just older!

The trip on the Amazon with Pat was wonderful…he was like a kid, seeing all the Victorias in the wild, and working with their spiny seed pods after every evening’s collection. It was on that trip that Pat told me that our group of summer students in 1967 had bonded together like no other…and that we were memorable for the way hung together…we went to the Pine Barrens on one of our weekends off. On another weekend, into New York City, which some students had never visited…and another trip to the Jersey Shore. Pat said our group’s communal meals every evening at the Red Lion Inn, a defunct kitchen/dining room just off the public area of Longwood, were legendary. I had no idea!

(We would invite Pat, and other section heads to dinner, where pilfered vegetables and purloined flowers graced the table (We were all poor, starving college kids, remember!) Some staff members began dropping hints that they would love to be invited to dinner…)

Pat also mentioned that right after our summer of ’67, Longwood installed a plant shredding machine…to prevent all the pilfering we did from their trash pile in the experimental greenhouse! (They would throw out perfectly good, blooming orchids…how could we resist rescuing them?)

Many fond and happy memories of your kindnesses, Pat Nutt…rest in peace, with all the most fragrant and beautiful water lilies you could ever imagine.

Richard Sacher


To have known Pat was a privilege. I met Pat the very first day I came over from England. He was there at Longwood Gardens to greet me. We stayed together in the garden until 10pm so that I could photograph the night bloomers. It was a totally unforgettable experience standing with bare legs amongst the huge spiky leaves of the Longwood Hybrid with Pat telling me the story of its creation. I was enchanted by the waterlilies and Pat’s educational anecdotes and wonderful sense of humor. The following morning I arrived at his house, uninvited, and instead of being chastised for the intrusion, was informed by Anne that Pat was out running and that I should come in for breakfast! Pat arrived shortly afterwards – not panting at all – and as their kindness and warmth went on and on I knew at once that this was indeed a wonderful country. The experience accelerated my desire to get on and write my first book on water gardening. Pat will indeed be missed by many.

Anthony Archer-Wills

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Patrick Nutt with Longwood’s first Victoria (1957)

We benefited enormously from an invaluable adviser, Patrick Nutt, a much loved and respected waterlily expert, hybridizer and horticulture manager at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania USA. Patrick had trained under Pring. In addition to his ongoing benevolence to aspiring water gardeners, he kindly assumed a stewardship of the Pring waterlilies.

Joseph V. Tomocik
Reference – WGI Spotlight on Denver Botanic Gardens

Patrick Nutt was an amazing man. To spend just one afternoon with him was more than a treat. I met Pat at his home in Kennett Square in 2010, it was an honor to do so and will be forever remember as one of the most kind and detailed educators in my lifetime. Patrick was meticulous when referencing subject matter with historical facts or descriptions. Documented paperwork and book citations were involved in most all his responses to my questions. He was very open to any new information on subject matter and did literally run up the steps probably two dozen times during my visit to get me a papers or copy reference material regarding question I brought for him.

In subsequent years Pat graciously helped share his knowledge of many Pring hybrids over the phone while Ken Landon, Tim Davis, & I discussed and filmed the plants across the country in San Angelo where Ken was growing them each summer at the International Waterlily Collection. Patrick was very much an important and special person sharing an interest and passion for the plants. He will be greatly missed.

Zac deGarmeaux

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Patrick Nutt and John Wayne Jackson

I have a number of stories of interacting with Pat. Very charming and, as you say, humble. He actually called me to inform me of the placement of my gift of a water lily sculpture. Each time he moved the piece he would let me know…”thought you’d like to know where your master piece is now…” Wonderful man!

John Wayne Jackson


Very sorry to hear of Pat’s passing. I chatted to him at some of the symposia, such as Tennessee back in 2001, and he keenly passed on his knowledge of plants and was always helpful and encouraging. As a fellow Brit, he had an interest in how things were going in horticulture on this side of the pond. Much sympathy to his family in their loss.

James Allison

My sympathies also; it was a great pleasure to meet Pat at one of the  seminars a number of  years ago. I will always remember his willingness to share his knowledge about waterlilies.

Sincerely, Roger Bagley

Thank you for notifying me regarding the loss of Pat. He touched the hearts of many. He will be missed!

Randall Tate, CEO, The Water Garden LLC


If you have photos, comments or a story you’d like to share about Patrick please email us and we will gladly add it to the page.