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 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!


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.