The Beccles and Redisham communities have lost "a lovely man" with the sudden death of a gardening expert and popular greengrocer.

Described by his family as a "kind and gentle soul" who loved his garden passionately, John Foster ran a greengrocer's shop in Beccles alongside his wife Brenda for many years.

He would also open his garden to the public each spring to show his stunning display of snowdrops growing - becoming known as a snowdrop expert throughout the country.

The 83-year-old was active in Beccles and his home village of Redisham, having been a founding member of the Beccles Traders Association.

Former Beccles Business and Tourism Association chair Christine Pinsent said his greengrocers business was one of the independent shops Beccles prided itself on.

She said: "John did a lot of good for the town, being a founder of the traders association, as well as running the Christmas street fairs.

"When I started my business he gave me some good, inspiring tips and was always very helpful and I really appreciated that.

"I can't thank him enough and I am sure others would say the same. He was a lovely man."

Paying tribute, a spokesperson for Mr Foster's family said: "He was a source of support and full of advice to help others, but he didn't like, or want to be in, the limelight.

"He was modest and hated anything ostentatious, extravagant or commercial.

"He was calm, patient and level-headed. He liked his routine and was always right.

"He had a twinkle in his eyes, a quick wit and sense of humour."

Born in Enfield, London, during the early years of the Second World War, he was evacuated to Cambridge with his brother David.

He returned to London, and went to agricultural college after leaving school.

Following National Service in the RAF, he worked on a dairy farm before moving to the Waveney Valley with the farmer.

He met his wife after joining the Young Farmers Club, and they lived in Redisham throughout their 56 years of marriage after tying the knot in 1965.

He began developing his one-acre garden early on, and everything standing there today, including a garage, greenhouses and summerhouse, were all created and planted by him, all while raising the couple's four children.

After beginning to collect snowdrops in the 1970s, Mr Foster continued his love for them at his home, spending hours in the greenhouse 'twin scaling', as well as naming one of his creations after his wife.

Snowdrop 'masters' began visiting Redisham, and he also gave talks and advice to gardening groups and societies and other organisations.

For five years he also worked as a gardener for former government minister Lord Prior at Brampton Hall.

In December 1977, the couple opened JA & BR Fosters Flower, Fruit and Vegetable shop - one of the first to sell exotic fruit such as kumquats, lychees and avocados in the town.

That same year, they opened their gardens to the public to raise funds for the National Garden Scheme, going on to raise £45,000 over the years.

His gardening exploits made him a cup winner at Beccles flower and vegetable shows, plant festivals and other events.

He also served on Redisham Parish Council, was a member of the church group, and helped with the organisation of village fetes, as well as being vice-chairman of the Norfolk group of the Alpine Garden Society.

A member of Pride in Beccles, Mr Foster cared for the gardens in the town, including at Beccles Library, as well as planting daffodils throughout the banks in Puddingmoor with the Beccles Horticultural Society.

An open-air funeral service will be held for him at St Peter's Church, in Redisham, on Wednesday, August 4, with donations to the church welcomed in his memory.

These can be sent to Woolnough's Funeral Care, The Cemetery Chapel, Holton Road, Halesworth, IP19 8HD.

Cheques should be made payable to PCC of Redisham Parish.