This week we made the annual pilgrimage to Architectural Plants who have two nurseries in West Sussex - one at Nuthurst, near Horsham, and one at Chichester. We always go to the Nuthurst one because it seems closer, though I suspect the Chichester branch is bigger. AP is my idea of a really, really good nursery. They are incredibly helpful, and generous with advice. They provide loads of information. Their plants look fabulously healthy. They care passionately about their plants, to the extent of being extremely scathing about people who don't treat them properly. (Don't worry, they're far too nice to be scathing to your face: these criticisms are delivered in the form of rants posted on the walls of the coffee shop for you to enjoy while you sip your free cup of tea.) The office and the 'lav' are designed to look like jungle pavilions, so wandering around the nursery is an aesthetic pleasure in itself. It was Architectural Plants who first put me in touch with Jake Hobson, who runs Niwaki and who has now written a book on Japanese pruning techniques. (I wanted to find someone who was brave enough to prune Pinus montezumae, and show me how to do it too.)
There's just one problem with plants that are architectural. They tend to be big, or grow up to be big, so it's best to be extremely disciplined when you visit AP, or you'll end up suffering from eyes-bigger-than-your-garden syndrome. Make a list and measure your space before you go, because I defy you to come back empty-handed, especially if you're addicted to topiary. Finally, a note for dry-shade or problem-corner sufferers: if you're going to the website or the nursery, check out Hebe parviflora angustifolia. It will turn the dry shade or the problem corner into a gorgeous mound of feathery green foliage. It even has flowers.