The Story So Far


The Past

A fit of pique drove Angus to start this business in the spring of 1990. He was furious and perplexed that he couldn’t buy the plants that he had 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”.

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.

Since then we’ve discovered, to our relief, that we weren’t the only ones. The business has prospered and we’ve learned a great deal about the plants, how to use them, who buys them and why.

The Old Office at Nuthurst

Our Early Success

“The early success of the business was helped – enormously – by the amount of press coverage we used to get. Suddenly, we were famous. Stupidly, I thought fame was a self-perpetuating process. It wasn’t. Having established our exotic, maverick and thoroughly peculiar approach I sensed that some thought we had settled, quite satisfied with this classification. However, the 21st century beckoned and we still had plans to expand. Having the nursery where it was (partly near Horsham and partly near Chichester) wasn’t working and I was looking for a new site where we could really spread our wings”.

In 2004, Chichester College took over the running of Brinsbury Horticultural College between Pulborough and Billingshurst. They heard I was looking for land and offered me over 30 acres next door. Right on the main A29 road, nice level land and slap bang next to West Sussex’s only horticultural seat of learning.

Was this too good to be true? Apparently not. In February 2015, we moved the whole business to the new site. By then, after 10 years of battling with bureaucrats and 10 years older, I was looking for a succession plan and the remarkable Guy Watts hove into view.

Guy had worked for me from the age of 14 in his school holidays, then his university holidays and then full time until he decided to row across the Indian Ocean (?!). He then started his very own horticultural charity in London called Streetscape. After 5 years, he forsook his own business to come back to run Architectural Plants in 2016 and that’s where the renaissance began”. ~ Angus White.

Guy hunting for plants in Spain
The Liner House
Taking Phillyrea latifolia cuttings in the production field

The Present

Today, with Guy in charge as M.D. and owner, the underlying ethos remains; we want to produce more of the plants that we love so much. We want to remain – primarily – a grower of remarkable plants and import less. We have the room to grow, most recently expanding the number of our greenhouse tunnels from eight to eleven to shelter our most prized delights; extending outside to thirteen for our more hardy and mature specimens. Beyond this, out into the open fields we are cultivating more of our favourite trees, blobs, pillows and Niwaki. You will see our new propagation houses, Acer house and relocated delivery depot.

“Fundamentally we are attempting to become self-sustainable through developing amazing facilities like our fog and liner houses and our laboratory. We have a team of experts already doing this but we also invest in new and young nursery members who will develop into fantastic growers. I want to create a legacy of knowledge that will inform how we train our plants from propagation right through to mature specimens. Our recent expansion enables us to do this.”

Of course, the more plants and trees we grow the more space we will need. So our development of the nursery remains an ongoing project as does our investment in our younger trainees.”

The Future

Students of Collyer’s College

Intrinsic to our growth is the desire to share our ambition and collaborate with others to expand our communal field of influence. The garden design and construction, the sculpture, the courses, the talks, the markets and the events are all part of this but we have a greater task than any of this: to get through to bright young people that a career in the horticultural industry is as diverse, dynamic, stressful and rewarding as any other industry. Recruitment of the right people is everything. We can accomplish nothing without them and everything with them.

“I want to inspire young people about gardening and being outdoors. For most of my twenties I ran a charity that helped young people find careers in horticulture and I am now bringing that ethos and my experience to the company. Over the last couple of years, we have invited a greater number of students from local colleges to complete work experience placements with us and work for us on Saturdays – and we will continue to do so. ” ~ Guy Watts

This year we enrolled our first apprentice, Dan, who we have now taken on as a full member of our nursery team. Dan will now work towards mentoring our next apprentice.

James clipping Cupressus sempervirens
Dan ‘tea-cupping’ Agave americana variegata
Zac laying out Amy’s design

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.

Planting by us

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