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by Roger Linn


Gardeners’ world R


I’ve been a big fan and a regular customer of Rushfields Plant Centre for a long time now, so it was good to meet Director Adrian Hillman to talk about his flourishing business and how it has evolved and prospered over the years.


ushfields started as a small nursery in 1984 growing bedding plants and vegetables. Adrian explained that “the original plan was to serve the wholesale market.” Then he grinned, “that plan didn’t last long.”


Demand was such that Rushfields decided to enter the retail market and they embarked upon a programme of expansion which seems to have been going on ever since. But one thing hasn’t changed: Rushfields was then – and is now – an entirely independent, family-owned company. Adrian is joined in the business by his wife Kathryn, her brother Colin and his wife Pam. The fact that the family really do run the business in a hands-on, walking-the-shop-floor management style is probably one of the main reasons for its success.


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SUSSEX LIVING October 2011


As Kathryn says, “customers like to know that at least one of the owners is always on site, so we can offer help or advice, or sort out a problem. The business is our life after all, so we really care about our customers’ satisfaction.” As if to support that assertion, Adrian explained that all the staff – and there are some very experienced horticulturists among them – are trained so that if they’re asked a question which stumps them, instead of just saying ‘I don’t know’ they say ‘I don’t know, but I’ll go and find someone who does.’ As any good retailer will tell you, it’s the kind of response that keeps customers coming back.


And come back they do. I was talking to Adrian in Rushfields’ light, airy café and, although it was still early in the day, there was a pleasing buzz of conversation all round. Not


surprising perhaps because the café is a delightful spot for a little light refreshment. It is protected from the elements, whether you eat inside or outside in the plant area; lit by the sunlight streaming through the transparent roof and, of course, you’re surrounded by the scents and colours of thousands of plants and herbs. As for the food, there’s a wide choice of scones and cakes, crusty bread, homemade soups and pastries… you can believe it when they say ‘We don’t do fast food; we just do good food as fast as we can’.


The emphasis on ‘local’ is carried over into Rushfields’ most recent venture: the Farm Shop where, amongst lots of ‘goodies’, there is a wonderful selection of beef, lamb and pork. The beef and lamb comes from Grange Farm, directly across the road from the Plant Centre, and the beef is what is called ‘slow fed’ to indicate that the cows have been allowed to grow on natural grazing without any intensive, high protein feeds. The pork comes from Cootham and all the many varieties of sausages are hand-made on the premises by Rushfields’ own butcher. Adrian was keen to tell me about his ‘Sausage


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