Patrick A. Nutt: A Life Well Lived

Published on June 18, 2015

By Timothy Jennings, Longwood Gardens

Pat doing one of his famous in-pond demonstrations at the IWGS Symposium in 2005. (2005)
Pat doing one of his famous in-pond demonstrations at the IWGS Symposium in 2005. (Click Image to Expand)

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.


Patrick 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.

>> The official Memorial page for Patrick Nutt

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.


Pat Nutt with a guide on Amazon River hunting for giant Victoria waterlilies. (approx 1998)
Pat Nutt with a guide on Amazon River hunting for giant Victoria waterlilies, approximately 1998. (Click Image to Expand)

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.

Patrick 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

Australian botanical gardens 150th anniversary expedition to Guyana. (2005)
Australian botanical gardens 150th anniversary expedition to Guyana. in 2005.

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 from 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.

Ultra Balance
 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. Patrick 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.

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