Stewarts Office Plants

We supply many businesses across the South, from Sussex and Surrey, through Hampshire and Dorset to Wiltshire and Somerset. For more information about the services we offer visit our home page, or contact us here. In this blog you'll find news, interesting snippets, stories and pictures of our staff's adventures out on the road.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Would you like to work here?

Could you look after indoor plants all day? Does reading my blog about the antics at Stewarts fill you with envy or dread? If the former you could come and work for us!

We are in the extremely unusual position of having two positions to fill. Original ad here. There's still just time to apply for them (closes on Sunday)

As I've said before, we have very loyal staff, but one of our technicians is leaving to do something very different, and the other is off to have a third baby (as if two wasn't enough).

It's a job you either love or hate: it's physically harder than you may think and you spend as much time driving as looking after plants. But I've stuck it out for nineteen years (fifteen at Stewarts) so it can't be all bad.

If you apply, best of luck!


Thursday, March 09, 2017

A very belated merry Christmas!

Well, that was a ride!

As disgruntled regular readers will note, I haven't updated our blog since the end of October.

Why? Well, I'll be brutally honest and admit that I write entries on the blog when all the real work is under control, and due to the sheer volume of work Stewarts has had in the last four months or so, I simply haven't had the chance. We are temporarily quiet for a week or two now, but it's not going to last!

Put simply, we are busier now than at any time I can remember in my fifteen years working here, and Jan-Feb is usually our quiet time. That's right by the way: as of today I've worked at Stewarts Interior Landscaping for fifteen years (and have worked in this industry for nineteen).

In that time I've seen the industry change a lot. As I keep saying, it is far more about the containers than the plants nowadays, and the average pot is taller, with a shorter plant in it. I'm pleased to say that we still have a lot of the same clients as we did in 2002, and in many cases I'm still interacting with the same people as points of contact at those clients which is very satisfying.

Anyway, so about two and a half months late, here is my traditional picture of one of our Christmas trees with which I end the year. This beauty is (was) in a luxury car dealer in Salisbury. It's a ten foot artificial tree. As you can tell they are much better quality these days than in days gone by. In commercial applications I greatly prefer them to live trees; the average office is simply too hot for a live tree to last until after New Year.

Anyway, enough about Christmas, roll on Spring!


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What a place to be kept waiting

Five posts in a day, I'm on fire! Or, as happens from time to time, I have a gap in my schedule and am filing photos. 

This sequence of pics was taken the other day when we were waiting to be allowed onto Bournemouth Pier to collect the planters that we look after right at the end. Because they would take a beating over the winter we bring them in and return them before Easter. This client has featured twice before, once when the original install went very well, and again when the weather was less than calm

On a day like this, I don't mind sitting outside, especially when I think of some of the less than salubrious industrial estates I've spend my life sat in. 

So, we were kept waiting, as the pier doesn't open until 0830 on the dot (or sometimes five minutes late...) and we turn up before then to maximise the time we have to do a fairly tricky job. As you can see, like many mornings in this lovely dry Autumn, the sky was spectacular, and more than justified taking a few snaps. You can see Laura and Michelle waiting fairly patiently in the second image. 

And finally, I never miss out on the chance to add a funny sign picture. This sits outside the door of a nearby cafe, and is very accurate in fairness:

Enjoy the good weather while it lasts.

Another handy "how to" tip

Another in my occasional series of "how to" tips for those who wish to forge a path in the interior landscaping industry.

This strikes a very similar note to my famous "how to empty and old trough" post from way back in 2012.

On this occasion I can't credit one of my staff with discovering this labour-saving technique, though I should add that the method is broadly similar to my technician's in 2012. But I did this all on my own.

The polished black pebbles we use on almost all our planters are reassuringly expensive, retailing at about £1 a kilo.

If  - on returning from an installation with some left over - you have an excess that needs disposing of, for example by evenly distributing over the ground, grab the bag by one end, pick up somewhat quickly and simply allow the other end to burst open.

The crucial technique is to be turning away from the van as this happens for maximum spread.

There, that was easy, wasn't it?


Cuckoo plant!

I was doing some greenhouse maintenance this morning and I noticed this: we have a cuckoo in the nest!

We have about a dozen of these beautiful Philodendron Imperial Red languishing on a stock bench, they have been there for the best part of a year. They are very useful for event hires that require a lot of big bushy foliage (like this one) and were bought for just such an occasion. Sadly, they are not a lot of use in our maintenance contracts, hence the languishing.

However this one has had an unusual baby, can you see? Or perhaps has a cuckoo in the nest.

Out of its rootball has appeared a single leafed Alocasia Polly (or Amazonica as we used to call them). Now this is a plant that we emphatically don't use, as they are a Red Spider Mite magnet. They were fashionable about fifteen years ago, but not since.

So this plant must have come from a seed hidden in the rootball of the Philo, which has taken
nearly a year to manifest itself. I'll leave it there and see if any of my staff either notice it, or indeed read my blog. Here's a close up:

Bespoke colour plant pots

 As I have said more than once, as most of the plant pots we use are made to order, we can have them painted in any colour you like, be it a RAL colour, a Pantone, or in fact any other colour that has a number.

Or in fact any colour at all.

All you need to be able to do is provide us with a physical sample of what you wish to match and we can replicate it. And even better it costs no more than any other colour. We can even respray your existing pots in a new colour like this for 60% of the price of a new pot.

So in the example here, this client wanted their existing matt graphite pots respraying to match the green cushions they were putting on every chair in their office. As they had swatches of the fabric available (see image below), we were able to replicate the colour very precisely; the use of a matt lacquer made this even more effective, giving their office a fresh new look.

Incidentally this is the client that ordered the blobs for the Southampton office in the post below, and tomorrow we are delivering two Blobs to the very room shown in the above image.

Green Blobs? There's a plant pot for everyone...

Meet the Blob!

Loathe as I am to detect a trend in the interior landscaping industry, we seem to be getting a lot of interest in these Blob planters.

Clients these days tend to be very clued up on what's out there, and these have probably become all the rage in London (I don't go there often).

We installed this batch of six on what must have been the hottest day this summer; not an enjoyable experience. We left a can of water outside this window in Southampton and it was the temperature of bathwater in a few minutes.

Anyway, I digress. The Blob as you can see is a rather unusual and well-named pot. This is the 2nd smallest size and is already pretty big at about 90cm at it's longest. The tree here is 2.5m high, for scale.

That tree is a Ficus Benjamina 'open braid' or 'cylinder', beloved of this particular client: a commercial landlord.  Ficuses, as I've explained before in thispost about these very trees, pretty much all need a good level of light. So these will be very happy baking in the midday sun, unlike those of us who installed them.

We already have another five in the pipeline, three for a large shopping centre also in Southampton, and two for a the client in the 'colour matching' post which follows. There is a connection there, that client is actually the head office in Poole of the landlord of this Southampton site.

So do you like Blobs? They are the very definition of a Marmite pot in my view, and off the record, I'm still not sure I would choose them myself...


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Off to London!

Our core area of work is Dorset, Hampshire and surrounding areas, but we do deliveries outside that area from time to time, as we offer national coverage using our network of partner companies who we subcontract the maintenance to.

Tomorrow two of us are off on a nice jaunt all the way in to central London with these ten planters, that we have rented to an existing Fareham client for their new office up there.

I used to do interior landscaping in the West End years ago so I'm au fait with driving in London, but I am outside my old territory on the South Bank where these are going.

As for the plant displays, as you can see they are Towers, not our old favourite Matt Graphite, but a very similar flat grey, Pantone 433.  The plants are five matching pairs including the four rather fetching Dracaena White Jewels in the front row.

It'll be a nice change, but I'll be glad to pass under the M25 and be back on our home turf afterwards.


Monday, October 03, 2016

Feature plant - Ficus Ginseng

This month's feature plant is a very fashionable one at the moment, the Ficus Microcarpa Ginseng.

Known as the 'bonsai' Ficus, I'm not at all sure whether it's entitled to use that name, but it is certainly a very stunted version of the normal Ficus Microcarpa.

Usually found as a small specimen, like these on the left in these fantastic bright orange pots, with its stem contorted into a zigzag pattern during its growth, or as a tiny little desk-top plant like the one below.

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of these; I have a (little) one at home, and frequently recommend them to clients. They are an interior landscaper's dream, as they look very classy and exotic, but - keep this quiet - they are actually a very easy plant to care for.

Treat them like a normal Ficus, i.e. keep them in as light position as you can and don't let them get too dry. Ignore the label if it spouts that cliche "plenty of light but no direct sunlight", they love it.

The only real art comes in the pruning. The little ones are easy: just keep them to a little ball shape. The big ones need the individual clumps of foliage kept separate by pruning in between them, or over time the plant turns into a solid blob of foliage, thus losing its unique look.

You may struggle to find these for sale in anything but a garden centre that specialises in houseplants. If so, get in touch - being warned that the big ones are not cheap!


Friday, September 16, 2016

Well, Christmas is over...

Obviously not, but it is over in one key sense. Read on...

This post is occasioned by my taking this photo of the first of our Christmas trees for clients being decorated in the greenhouse.

In mid-September.

In 25 deg C heat.

What's happening to the world?

As you can tell, I'm not the hugest fan of this element of Stewarts' business, but I do my best to hide it.

However, what's even more surprising is that on the day (Sept 12) that I took this picture, we had already closed our order books for trees, as we have been so inundated with orders.

In other words, if you want a Christmas tree from Stewarts, order now for delivery in December... 2017!


Thursday, September 01, 2016

Autumn is here... evidenced by the misty morning Dorset scene I captured on my phone while driving between Blandford and Wimborne this morning.

I love Autumn - you can keep Summer as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, why am I telling you this?

Because now is the time to order your winter hanging baskets from Stewarts if you want them ready to go up in early October.

The ones on the right were big 18" once from a job we used to do in Portsmouth, but we do down to 14" ones, and also window troughs, plus planting up your beds with all the winter favourites like Pansies, Cyclamen etc.

These baskets will see you through to late May when Summer ones come out again, though we recommend new baskets in late February, especially if it's been a very wet or cold winter. Spring ones are my favourite!