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, August 18, 2020

I still love my scissors!

My trusty scissors and battered leather holster

Those of you with long memories will recall a post six years ago in which I rather bafflingly eulogised about my love for my then fifteen-year-old scissors that I use for maintenance. This post was occasioned by temporarily losing them. I still own and love them, or did until last week...

I thought I had lost them for good at a bar in Bournemouth (while working rather than partying, in case it needs spelling out). Bereft, I went as far as ordering some replacements, but as is the way in the modern world they are not as good as my originals. 

More troublingly it appears impossible to buy a scissor holster, certainly off Amazon; most are just a bit too narrow. 

Then yesterday, while working in our delivery Transit near Basingstoke they miraculously appeared from under the driver's seat, despite me having checked the Transit's interior carefully when I lost them. Oddly I am fairly sure I didn't lose them in the Transit. Still, full of joy as I was I treated my colleagues to coffees as we drove round Hampshire to celebrate my being reunited with my scissors.  

Why the level of love for some cheap florist's scissors? To quote my 2014 eulogy:

"...the combination of a short blade for precision, and a curved blade for strength means they can do what most of my staff need a separate pair of scissors and secateurs for."

Most of my staff carry straight bladed general scissors, which are great for trimming leaves, and secateurs for proper pruning. These do both. 

Anyway, a little consumer advice for you if you are looking for houseplant scissors: this twin pack is the best I have found:

The best I can currently find

Though the handles are rather flimsy and I suspect my pair will outlast them for that reason. The crucial thing to look for when hunting for a pair is that short, curved blade, as it grips what you are trying to cut, rather than sliding off.

But you can't have mine!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

One in, one out (with a Lockdown in-between)

Roger, giving his van a clean-out

My very last act before Stewarts heeded UK Government advice and closed until mid-May was to drive Roger (pictured above) home on the occasion of his retirement. Roger had worked for us since 2005, and for fifteen years prior to that at another firm that Stewarts then bought.
Despite his very sprightly appearance, he was 70 years old, a fact which surprised many of his clients when I told them. He will be greatly missed but is still keeping in touch with me. 

On March 30 his replacement Eleanor was meant to start with us, but that plan went out of the window! In all the chaos that has followed the Lockdown period it has only now been possible to bring her onboard. It takes four weeks to train up a new maintenance technician to a level where we can safely release them in to the wild on their own, so we were simply too busy to do that sooner, so we are very grateful to her for her patience. 

Just to add insult to injury, we made her help with a very arduous installation on her first day. Arduous because it took place in a very hot (30+ deg C) and humid indoor pool area at a five star hotel in the New Forest. While Michelle glowed delicately and I sweated like a pig, Eleanor seemed to positively love it, despite - as is expected now - wearing a facemask, which makes one feel even warmer. 

The plants, by the way are 3m high Caryota Mitis, aka Fishtail Palms. I discovered many years ago that these absolutely love the indoor swimming pool environment; surprisingly almost all other tropical plants don't do very well, for reasons that are quite beyond me. 

I am also a big fan of the pots - 'Polystone' Globes - though the job would have been a lot simpler if they were made properly waterproof... these had to be installed on a very tight time schedule for a promotional photoshoot, then removed to be properly lined... then reinstalled this week. 

Eleanor, rocking the Covid PPE look

Caryota Mitis

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Some more funny signs

Safety signs at their best
About time I injected some humour in to proceedings with a couple of funny signs seen recently on our clients' premises. I have form for this, for example here.
The one on the left is a very Covid-topical effort in the gents' loos in a very healthy-and-safety-obsessed client near Southampton. The rest of the cubicles had a fairly generic safety sign on; this one on first reading is similar, but gets sillier as you read down. 

The one below is from an office kitchen in Bristol. It really defies any rational description, I can only assume that an original announcement was doctored. It is a very geeky office, so it may be a science joke that goes over my head.


The cake is for real, apparently. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

World's happiest suitcase sighted in Surrey

Look at its happy face!
Just had to post this picture on here:

On the roof terrace of a lovely new building we were installing plants in yesterday (in that heat...) is a suite of garden furniture, the table of which is a suitcase.

Viewed from inside the building it looks like happiest suitcase in the world!

Apart from the temperature, the job itself was very enjoyable, as it was one of those buildings that just looked 'right' with the plants installed.

We don't quite go as far as Richmond in Surrey with our maintenance service but we have a network of trusted regional partners who we reciprocally subcontract the maintenance service to, so I know the plants will be in safe hands. So if you are a national company, we are able to help you.


Some plants in the building

Friday, June 12, 2020

Barrier planters (again)

Sansevieria Laurentii in a barrier planter
Now is a very good time to revisit a topic I touched upon three years ago: barrier planters.

There is suddenly a great interest in physically separating office workers' space from each other for some reason I won't relate.

I'm seeing a lot of offices with rather ugly ad hoc screens made of perspex and the like.

I certainly hope as time goes by and a bit more design thought goes in to it, companies will start to look at using planting as a barrier.

Dracaena Lemon Lime in a similar display
There are free-standing 'living wall' available, but I must say I prefer these barrier planters:a traditional floor trough, but a lot higher than normal. They look best planted in a uniform way like these but it's not mandatory. It's also not mandatory to have them in white. As with most of our products they are hand sprayed so can be any colour, matt or gloss that you can imagine. Being bespoke they can be precisely the size you want too. 

The catch is that compared to normal plant pots they are quite expensive initially, but if you rent them they suddenly become a much more affordable proposition. And much better looking than a sheet of perspex!


Has this pot leaked?!?

Sorry it's been so long since my last update; there's been this little pandemic going round which has rather disrupted our business and meant I was furloughed for two months and then spent a month frantically playing catch-up trying to bring our maintenance customers back on board.

It's only when you have to contact all 275 customers in a hurry (as we did on 24 March) that you find out how many obsolete contact email addresses you have.

Anyway, I digress. for the first few weeks after I was 'un-furled' I was madly dashing round as many of our clients as I could getting water on plants that hadn't been touched in two months (most survived just fine by the way). One of the first places I went was an insurance office in Bournemouth (this one), where I was confronted by the sight of a tall yellow planter, surrounded by a large yellow area on the otherwise grey carpet. See my traditionally dodgy photo to the right.

My first instinct was blind panic; one of my yellow pots had leaked its yellow all over the carpet.

On closer examination it appears that the company have - for Heaven knows what reason - decided to replace certain areas of their grey carpet with yellow/grey tiles, but only in patches. This was backed up when I found another area the same.

It's striking I suppose...


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Well, that was a different job!

Mitch, Julie and I at work
By and large, I try and avoid publishing posts that are just "look at the installation we just did" stories, as I expect to the casual reader they would all become rather samey.

This job we carried out last week in Poole was notable for several key reasons, and certainly quite memorable for all involved.

First it was a private house owned by a Dutch couple, whose other house - amusingly - is very close to where the plants and pots came from in Holland. Most of Stewarts' clients are businesses. In one of the pics you can see the dog, happily snoozing as we work round them.

Second, while we take photos of the finished product, rarely is the client snapping away as we work, meaning we have a great pictorial record of the work.

Lovely weather!

Third, as can be seen in the image to the left of Sandra and I working on the lovely balcony, the weather was somewhat against us!

Fourth, it was a four-storey house with no lift, so everything had to be carried in. For this balcony, the pots, plants and six large bags of compost had to be carried all the way to the top floor.

Fifth, as you can see the pots are very unusual. I go on about how most of our pots are made from fibreglass and painted in the colour of your choice. Not these "Mussel Shell" pots, which are formed from a mosaic of mother-of-pearl pieces glued onto a mould. They look fantastic, and at a not-unexpected price premium.

Sandra poses with her handiwork

Finally, as a consequence of all this complexity, it was a job that involved four of us in two vans, and consequently had a nice 'team effort' feeling to it. Though I think we all agreed we were a tired team at the end.

I put a lot of planning in to making it run smoothly, but it wouldn't have gone as well without the professionalism of Sandra, Mitch and Julie to help me out.

I'll let the rest of the pictures do the talking.


The whole team at the end!
Trying to take a photo in a gale!

The completed rubber plant
One of the floor bowls

Monday, February 24, 2020

Soil vs hydro roots, and getting watering right

Very interesting photograph stolen from a Facebook post by Dutch plant supplier Nieuwkoop showing the difference in the root structure of two plants of identical species and size when one is a soil plant and one is a hydroponic plant.

No prize for guessing which is which: hydro plants are grown in LECA clay granules and the secret to the plants' success is keeping the watering as consistent as possible, aided by a floating water level indicator. As you can see, it has fat main roots that have few fine side-roots, and all terminate at the level at which the water should be kept.

This being a Dracaena Marginata, the soil version would be kept fairly dry, hence the healthy profusion of roots in the rootball, all looking for any available moisture.

So what can we learn from this?     

1. As I said above, if you are one of those few people tasked with caring for hydro plants, consistent watering is vital. If you overwater them, this dry-loving plant would constantly have its roots in water, if you underwatered it, it would get none at all.

2. More interesting is that if you dig out a soil plant that has been kept too wet over a long period, its roots will look like hydro roots, i.e. not many of them and not very well branched.

What does this last point mean? Firstly, the plant has a much less healthy root structure (though on the plus side would be a lot easier to dig out of a container), but secondly if you started looking after a plant that someone else had kept too wet and started watering what you thought was correctly, the chances are it would die, as it simply wouldn't be able to take up a restricted diet of water.

So make any changes to an existing plants watering regime over a long period and let it adapt.