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.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

One very excited Stewarts technician

Jo is our newest maintenance technician, and as yet our attempts to crush her spirit by employing her at Stewarts have failed. Give me time...

Over the weekend she sent me this fantastic photo of her visiting the Eden Project in Cornwall. She reported back that it was most enjoyable seeing all the plants we use in such a natural-looking environment.

I think my favourite image was this bank of enormous Calathea Triostar (below). We do use these but they really like a bit more humidity than we can provide, so they aren't the easiest plant to care for in an office.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fame at last

I am currently going through all our client files and adding a Streetview image of the buildings for the internal documents that our maintenance staff use to find sites.

While doing this site in Poole, I spotted one of our own vans double-parked outside.

Even funnier, it wasn't the regular driver but a holiday cover visit, and the driver was stood by me while I was looking and recalled the occasion she had been there.

Fame at last!


Friday, July 13, 2018

Watch this space!

Last September I posted an image of the steel frame of our new greenhouse being erected, commenting that we'd be moving in early next year (so about four to six months ago).

Sadly a combination of factors has delayed this a lot - like any building project - but I thought it was time to post some update pictures and describe the new building in a little more detail.

As you can see the outer shell is complete, and has been for some time. What has happened more recently is the fitting out of electrics and plumbing. One of the big jobs (and one source of delay) is the super-modern underfloor heating system. No more being deafened by our super-noisy oil boiler in the winter! Under the concrete floor is a maze of heating pipes, which we are told will also be very efficient.

Our department's area will comprise the right hand bay above for the day-to-day running of the department (i.e. where all the plants will be kept) and the middle bay will largely be used for storage of old containers and Christmas trees etc., so won't need to be heated the whole time.

The internal pic on the left shows what the inside of our main area looks like now; we have a side door that a small van can drive in through, so in theory my maintenance staff will be able to 'drive through' and load up in the morning. More importantly they will be able to pre-heat their vans in the winter, much more environmentally friendly than running the engine for 5-10 minutes like we do now.

My office will be behind the small window at the nearest corner of the top photo. Glancing up at my thermometer now (30 deg C), I am only too aware that I have been promised air conditioning in my office. Though at this rate I won't need it until summer 2019.


Don't get sunburnt!

As anyone reading this blog in the UK will have noticed, it's been a bit hot and sunny recently. In fact I don't think we've had sustained rain since the washout that was Easter. Anyway...

I occasionally get asked by people if they should move their plants outside in the summer and - with very rare exceptions - I say no. The problem is that (like humans) they get sunburnt if not allowed to acclimatise. Even the change from being in a conservatory to being in direct sun can be a shock. So generally it's safest just to not bother.

Also, unless you are bringing it in every night, even in summer night time temperatures can be too low for some more sensitive indoor plants, like most Dracaenas.

Now onto the related problem of sunburn indoors. In this picture of a Dracaena Janet Craig, shamelessly stolen from the internet, you can see that the plant is in an awful state. As it's in a conservatory, sunburn is the most likely problem (A Janet Craig is a low light plant). However, if it had been gradually introduced to a higher light spot it may have been ok. This looks like a relatively new plant, so I'm suspecting it's been bought from a garden centre and plonked right in a sunny window in the summer.

So the key here is first to choose an appropriate plant for the place you want it, and second to try and avoid sudden changes in the light that the plant receives.


Thursday, July 12, 2018

100 year old Aspidistra

I had last week off as annual leave. In further proof that I have interior plants in my blood, on visiting the museum in the small town in which I live, the only photo I took was the one above.

The label renders further explanation unnecessary but I'll do it anyway in case you can't read it: this is a divided part of an Aspidistra that was given to a local resident over one hundred years ago. I know Aspidistras are affectionately known as 'Cast Iron Plants' but that's just ridiculous!

For comparison, our maintenance prices assume plants will last three years on average.

As a side note, Aspidistras have gone from being deeply unfashionable (they are the archetypal Victorian plant, one of the few that will withstand proximity to smoky coal fires I'm told) to being very fashionable in the last few years. Though the rise in popularity of big bushy, broad-leaved plants (see my last post) seems to have displaced them somewhat.

Care advice? They will cope with almost any light level and like to be kept fairly dry. They are one of the few plants susceptible to Snow Scale; you'll see the stems turning white from the soil up, but it's easily controllable.

Finally, I thoroughly recommend Sturminster Newton Museum if you are in the town. It's only small (but then so is Stur!) but it's a mine of local information, particularly about the town's railway past and about the ruined 'castle', that most people don't even know lurks in the trees above the Stur Bridge traffic lights. And even better: admission is free!


Friday, June 29, 2018

Feature plant: Monstera Deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Plant)

This feature plant post is as much about the vagaries of fashion and plant names than the actual plant.

When I started in interior landscaping twenty years ago, Monstera Deliciosa (commonly the Swiss Cheese Plant) was already deeply unfashionable, being one of those indelibly 1970s plants, all wild and shaggy with a tendency to get enormous.

Some old-timers also referred to it by the latin name Philodendron Pertusem, much to us young pups' bafflement.

I had a big line of them to look after in Heathrow Airport (where I began my career) and I hated them, as they did not do well there. 

For the intervening two decades the fashion has very much been for 'architectural' plants, though I've never quite worked out what that means. Spiky seems like a good synonym. Offices are getting more and more tightly packed, so plants that stay narrow (e.g. Dracaenas) are very popular.

Then all of  sudden a couple of years ago, the more hipster/interior designer clients I interacted with started to want lots of little plants rather a few large ones, but also wanted big, tropical broad-leaved plants... like the Monstera.

Laypersons will also notice that all of a sudden everything patterned has Monstera leaves on it: wallpaper, tea-towels, plates, you name it.

There is an obvious side effect to this: the price of Monsteras has absolutely skyrocketed. Up until a couple of years ago you would have been able to order a big, bushy 1.5m specimen grown up a mosspole from me for about £50.00 + VAT.

Now it would cost you about twice as much and - as the wholesalers are so desperate for stock - they are being delivered with growth only about 1.0-1.1m up the mosspole, like the rather puny effort shown on the left.

The smart money, if you really want to be a fashion victim, is to get a 'bush' plant like the one above right. Not as big, but at least they look better from the off.

Care advice, as far as I can remember? They are a low-medium light, medium water plant. They like
a warm, ideally humid location, where they aren't brushed against too much; that's what used to do for my row at Heathrow.

If you really want to spend some money there is a rare variegated type (Monstera Variegatum), with gorgeous high-contrast white/green foliage. But prepare to spend a fortune; I have only ever ordered one 1.5m one about 15 years ago, and at today's prices it would be over £200.00. Incidentally: I know these are very hard to find, but I'm confident I can obtain one if you have stumbled on this post while searching in vain, so contact me at the address below if so.

Finally a postscript. As this post shows, everything comes round eventually. The price list I get sent by my Dutch supplier every week now refers to them as 'Philodendron Pertusem (Monstera)', so even the old name has come back in to fashion!


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Know about office plants? I wrote the book on them...

I try my best not to blow my own trumpet, but interior landscaping (office plants to you) is a small industry and I've been in it for a long time, so as per my whingy post from a few weeks ago, I know my stuff.

Last time I had a meeting with all my maintenance staff, one of the newer people suggested that it would be useful to have a definitive guide to all the plants that we use commercially, what conditions they like and what sizes are available.

I agreed that this would be very helpful, but that it would be a mammoth undertaking, as likely to happen as Stewarts buying me an air-conditioned van (sore point after a long traffic jam in Bristol yesterday). As things stand my staff are each given a copy of a small Dutch book which is very good for the Latin names, but not much else.

Shortly after that, I had a hospital appointment in Wincanton, so squarely in the middle of the day that (living nearer there than Stewarts Broomhill) it made no sense to come back to work, so I went home and for lack of anything else to do I sat down and wrote said book. In fact I ended up working on it for some hours after my allotted hours had finished.

On my return to work, I added images of each plant, ran it past a couple of key people, then pressed print on all FIFTY pages of it.

So far the reception has been very positive, and trust me: my staff would not hold back if they didn't like it.

So there you go: after twenty years in interior landscaping I actually have written the book on it. I have no intention of publishing it by the way, it's purely for internal use. Not sure how much market there is for it to be honest!


Friday, June 22, 2018

Heaven is...

... a well-stocked greenhouse.

We've just had a delivery so the main small plant bench is looking particularly lush. Just thought I'd drop a picture in.