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.

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!


Monday, August 15, 2016

Workplace safety

Here at Stewarts we take safety very seriously, and we obey our many clients' requests to obey their health & safety rules without complaint, even the ones that don't make a lot of sense. For example, don't get me started on having to wear a reflective jacket to water plants in an office...

So it's quite nice occasionally to see one of our clients doing something not only a bit unsafe, but funny too.

Obviously I am honour-bound not to divulge such things, unless the Wiltshire client in question cancels their contract with us and closes the building, in which case anything goes!

So here, for your entertainment, is a self-closing kitchen door (i.e. self-closing as a fire protection measure), held open with a loop of tinsel attached to a cupboard door opposite. It was in place for many months that I sporadically visited the site. If I remember rightly the door even had a sign saying "keep closed" on it.

In a way, you have to admire the creativity, but...


MY, how you've grown!

Four years ago I did a blog post I called "How you've grown!" which featured a couple of examples of big specimen plants that have really grown.

This time I'm calling it "MY, how you've grown" because these really have excelled themselves. Sadly, to a degree where we had to dig out and replace them, as they were in a narrow brick-built bed in a client's premises in Andover, and they were wedged in solid (and took quite a lot of digging out!). So they've been a victim of their own success, sadly.

So these were four Nolina or Beaucarnea Recurvata (which ever name is currently in fashion, I can't keep up) with their woody bulbs about 40cm wide. What's incredible here is that I planted these in 2002, when their rootballs fitted in 13cm pots, exactly like the empty pot I've placed in the photo. They looked like the ones on the left. 

But they've grown just a bit since then.

Want to know about Nolinas/Beaucarneas? They need lots of light, very little water, and will tolerate low temperature, so they are a perfect porch/conservatory plant. A word of advice though: they have a rough leaf edge and can give you a nasty 'paper cut' if you run your fingers down the leaves.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Bonus feature plant: Ficus Benjamina Open Braid

Yes, I know I only did a feature plant post yesterday, but I'm just prepping these Ficus Benjaminas for an upcoming installation in Southampton, so I thought I'd talk about them, as they are a little unusual in shape.

Ficus Benjamina is of course a very common plant (common name being Weeping Fig). Usual bit of care info: like most other Ficus, these need a decent level of light, to be kept moist at all times, and they really don't like draughts, thought they can tolerate a cooler (maybe 13-14 deg C?) spot than many indoor plants.

What makes these unusual is their 'open braid' or 'cylinder' trunk. This is formed by planting about six small plants and weaving them as they grow.

A particular client, who owns a number of office buildings, particularly likes these, so in this new site in Southampton's Ocean Village they are having nothing but these, just in different sizes. As you can see, they are available in as small a size as 1.5m. Though be warned:they cost more than four times as much as an ordinary Ficus Benj of the same height. Plant costs are largely determined by the speed of growth, and these clearly take a while.

They are also going in some rather unusual pots called, rather inauspiciously, 'Blobs'. I won't spoil the surprise yet, perhaps I'll post some pictures of the finished installation, and let my readers judge if the name is appropriate.

Naturally, if this shape of plant really grabs you, and you're ready for the price premium, get in touch. You'll struggle to find one for sale in a shop; we can get you one direct from Holland in at worst three weeks.


Monday, August 01, 2016

Look at our lovely summer hanging baskets

Now, I'm not sure I should be taking much credit for this, as I don't personally make up our hanging baskets, and like most of our basket clients, we just supply these; we don't look after them. But even so, I was so impressed with how good these looked that I had to take a picture.

I don't reveal the names of our clients, suffice to say it was a pub adjacent to a large ruined castle
between Swanage and Wareham...

In fact the baskets were so good this year that one was the victim of its own success, and had got so heavy that it had pulled its rather dilapidated bracket off the wall.

So my visit was to replace the bracket with this rather gorgeous hand-made bracket, once I'd drilled some holes into the extremely tough Purbeck Stone walls.

It is, of course, far too late to buy any summer baskets, in fact we will be taking orders for Autumn/Winter baskets (made by the same lady as made these) in a few weeks. If you are interested, get in touch.


Feature Plant: Philodendron Brasil

This month's feature plant is a rather lovely trailing plant called Philodendron Brasil, which is noted for its very striking and well defined two-tone green leaves.

Often mistaken for Scindapsis (Devil's Ivy), it is in fact a variegated version of the plain green Philodendron Scandens. None of which may mean anything to the casual reader. P. Brasil is odd for two reasons:

1. It is arguably a stronger plant than the plain green version. As plant lovers will know, variegated plants tend to need more light and be generally a bit less forgiving than the plain green 'vanilla' variety. Another that follows this pattern is Sansevieria (Mother-in-Law's Tongue), where the yellow variegated version (S. Laurentii) is generally agreed to be tougher than the plain green version (S. Zeylanica). I blogged recently about this plant..

2. Annoyingly, it's only available in the two sizes shown, i.e. a trailing plant or a 1.2m mosspole plants. The default specimen plant size is 1.5m; if I had a pound for every time one of my maintenance staff had tried to order a 1.5m P. Brasil, and I'd had to break it to them that they don't exist... I'd have at least enough for a round of drinks. I gave up understanding the vagaries of Dutch plant supply years ago, I just take what I can get.

Anyway, so assuming an internet search brought you here as ever, here's a little care advice. P. Brasil can tolerate middling to low light, does not enjoy getting cold, and can be pruned simply by cutting runners back to the soil or mosspole. One more tip: if replanting any mosspole plant out of its growing pot into a new container, be very careful. One of the common ways to damage such plants is to be a bit rough with the interface between the mosspole and the rootball, causing sudden death. For similar reasons, avoid carrying them by the pole; lift them by the pot.