Notcutts Woodbridge celebrates past, present and future

To mark the occasion, company chairman Charles Notcutt cut a celebratory cake and raised a glass of champagne to toast customers and staff, past and present. Special guests at the ceremony were a dozen former members of staff, including Mrs Isobel Wilton and Mrs Sally Pearson who had both been managers, one after the other, of the then floristry department within the garden centre in the 1960s. They were fittingly presented with bouquets.
“Back in 1958, the year I joined the company full time, we relocated our seed and florist shop business from the town to Notcutts in Ipswich Road, Woodbridge one of the first purpose built garden centres in the country. This expanded the whole gardening range available to the public,” recalled Charles Notcutt, whose grandfather established the family nursery business back in 1897. The company now has 13 garden centres throughout the south, east and the Midlands, making it one of the largest privately owned garden centre chains in the country.
“We soon added bare root plants laid in soil beds that people could take home creating the term planteria, the first in the country, which many people have copied since,” continued Charles. “Developments over the years, such as containerised plants in the 1960s, meant people could buy plants over a much longer season and then expanding the retail operation through the seasons and Christmas with other product ranges enabled us to give customers wider choice throughout the year.
“Nowadays, we all take it for granted that we can pop into a garden centre like Notcutts at any time of year and browse a whole range of products, have a cup of tea and a meal and even buy gifts and garden furniture, but it is interesting to reflect that it was all so different not that long ago!”
Notcutts Woodbridge has certainly moved with the times. A new solar heating system has been installed at its Beech Tree Restaurant. The system is now supplying hot water to the restaurant, as a working demonstration of the equipment, which can be bought at the garden centre from East Green Energy.
The equipment has been supplied and installed by East Green, one of East Anglia’s leading suppliers of solar hot water systems. They calculate that up to 70 per cent of a household’s total hot water requirements can be generated from solar energy. 
“Our thoughts for the restaurant here at Woodbridge include incorporating a ground source heat pump and rainwater harvesting systems,” says Notcutts retail director, Michael Cole. “Currently, the new system supplies hot water to the restaurant and the toilets, but we are keen to expand this in the future.”
Established in 2006 by former Suffolk pig farmer Robbie Gawthrop, East Green Energy supply and install a range of quality renewable energy systems, including Solar Hot Water Systems, Rainwater Harvesters and Ground & Air Source Heat Pumps.
And looking ahead, the site of the Woodbridge Garden Centre and surrounding land owned by Notcutts has in the past few years been the subject of much discussion within the town as to its future role. As a result, part of the Notcutts land adjoining the centre has been used to build a new medical centre for the town and retirement housing is also currently being built. There are then plans for the redevelopment of the Garden Centre to provide a modern facility. So from being one of the very first, it will be transformed to serve its customers into the future.