By Angus White - founder of Architectural Plants.
I started this business in a fit of pique. I was furious and perplexed that I couldn't buy the plants that I'd fallen in love with and was determined to do something about it. To my mind, these plants all had something in common - they were highly sculptural and tremendously green. To quote from our first catalogue : In the jargon of horticulture, these are known as 'architectural plants'. Not because they belong in buildings but because the plants themselves have their own 'architecture' - strong, sometimes spectacular, shapes which bring a distinctive year round presence to a garden.
In the spring of 1990 we launched ourselves onto an unsuspecting and bemused British public, without the faintest idea as to whether anyone else shared our passion for these peculiar plants.
The Office - Nuthurst.
The Jetty - Nuthurst.
The Loo - Nuthurst.
Since then we've discovered, to our relief, that we weren't the only ones. The business has prospered and we've learned an awful lot about the plants, how to use them, who buys them and why.
Being new to the industry (previously, I designed and made furniture) I was soon questioning the fundamental premise behind running a nursery. Does the accepted business model actually work? Not really. I'd noticed how customers would say - "I bought some plants off you a year ago and they've all done well so I'm coming back to buy more". Jolly nice of them but I feared a misunderstanding. They thought the reason the plants had done well was because we're a fine nursery selling fine plants. Yes indeed but the main reason for the plants' success is the skill of the gardener. They were the right plants in the right place and they were treated well . It wasn't a giant step to realise the reverse was likely. "None of the plants I bought have done well, I'm not going back there again". Wrong conclusion again. Wrong plants in the wrong place, poorly treated.
So with the traditional business model, one is in danger of not being in control of one's reputation and that's a problem that had to be addressed. How? We decided to attack on two fronts:
We became bossy. Nice bossy, entertaining bossy, amusing bossy. Not bitter, twisted and rancorous bossy. Oh no. Can you force a customer to listen to your advice when they're quite obviously determined not to? We used to think not - but we were wrong. With confidence, emphasis, humour and intelligence we discovered we could.
Here's my favourite story on the subject : Five years ago I issued an edict to all sales staff - "Please be extremely circumspect about selling Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) - they're very high maintenance and have prima donna-ish tendencies and customers must be warned". Three years ago a chap came in and was clearly unhappy about the performance of the two trees that he'd bought since I'd issued the edict. I launched into my standard rant on the subject, issuing warnings about all their evil ways and on completion I asked : "But surely you were told all that when you bought them?" His reply was wonderful, revealing and incredibly helpful :
Yes. But not like that. Ah! Be very confident, be very emphatic, be a little bit mad. It works.
We set up a new side of the business where we do it for you - design your garden, build your garden and, if necessary, maintain your garden too. In this - the most heavily revamped catalogue for 20 years - you'll find an enormous emphasis on this side of our business. 'Doing it for you' allows us to create a closer relationship with our customers which is good. The garden will be more successful, the plants will be happier, we will be happier and most importantly, you the customer will be happier.
We're now next to the Brinsbury campus of Chichester College, situated on the west-side of the A29, 2.7 miles north of Pulborough and 2.4 miles south of Billingshurst. Postcode RH20 1DJ. Our Nuthurst nursery is now closed.