Inspiring partnership of working nursery and college

Angus White in front of some phyllyrea latifolia (evergeen green olive trees)
Angus White in front of some phyllyrea latifolia (evergeen green olive trees)

An inspiring partnership between Architectural Plants of Nuthurst and the Brinsbury campus of Chichester College will create a 35-acre nursery for unusual trees.

The Pulborough site will bring on everything from hardy palms and Japanese topiary to a range of rare evergreen varieties that are propagated in this country by the prestigious Nuthurst company.

The project has been in the making for ten years, dogged by obstacles and intricacies of planning - but it now set to open on part of the vast site before the end of this year.

The man behind the project is Angus White, originally a cabinet maker of Nuthurst, near Horsham, who became frustrated when he could not buy a willow podocarp in this country, despite seeing one flourish at nearby South Lodge Hotel.

“When I went to a garden centre they had never heard of it. It comes from Chile and does well in our maritime climate - like so many other strikingly different trees.”

That was 22 years ago, leading to Angus founding Architectural Plants, which has become renowned as the place to go for gardeners who want to transform their jaded winter gardens with striking evergreens, trained and shaped to bring out their character all the year round.


The Brinsbury project sees curriculum involvement by students, which Angus predicts will involve ‘jolly good tuition’ and break the current trend in this country of students opting to become garden designers, without knowing how to care for trees and plants.

Guy Watts, founder of the famous landscaping garden business Streetscape, which helps 18 to 25-year-olds to fulfil their dreams, will be involved in the tuition.

“This will become a horticultural seat of learning alongside a commercial working nursery, which is appropriate for the only horticultural college in West Sussex,” said Angus.

It will also be a propagation base for exotic trees and plants, eliminating the need for so many to imported from abroad.

“We will be growing on all of the 35 acres eventually when this site is completely finished, but we will be open for business here before the year is out, when a section of the site completed,” he said,

He added: “ It was brave of Brinsbury to come into partnership on this, but the educational element is a major part of it. There are not enough gardeners in this country today and we will be training the students not only about the trees and plants and how to look after them, but also the importance of doing things properly and keeping everything looking nice.”

Angus believes in attention to detail and says the way things look is important. He has already trimmed as much of the boundary hedge beside the A29 as possible, and when planning permission is secured for the main entrance, it will sweep in from the A29 up an elegant boulevard to the top of the site.

College Principal Shelagh Legrave said: “We are delighted to be working with Architectural Plants on the next phase of the project, which will see staff and students from Brinsbury Horticulture working with the Architectural Plants team. There will be opportunities for work experience and lessons linked to growing plants, propagation, retail and innovative planting.”


A key feature is a reservoir, excavated aesthetically to resemble a lake, already well-filled with water, which will be a key feature in irrigating the site and providing water to the plants and trees being brought on in pots under cover. There each tree will be attached its own feeder and waterer.

Small trees will be planted on a field part of the site when all the levels have been completed.

“It is important to have it level so that water can be fed into it naturally from the lake. It would be totally unfeasible to expect to run a site of this size on main drainage water and we intend it to be self-sufficient in that respect,” he added.

The scheme has been hampered by the extremely wet weather this year, with work to flatten and level the ground and install drainage trenches on the clay being undertaken often in heavy mud.

The artist’s impression shows how it will all look in the end, but even when the first customers are admitted before the end of the year, the vision will be apparent, with immaculate attention to detail - and an exciting project for students to tackle.