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, 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.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

A podcast about us!

For those of you with 45 minutes to kill, back in the Autumn my manager Rebecca and I were interviewed by a long-time-ago former colleague who now makes podcasts on the topic of gardening.

N.B. non-clickable link, see link below!
Link to the podcast on our website

It's a discussion about interior landscaping in general and Stewarts in particular.

I find it very odd listening to my voice (I sound so posh!), and Rebecca can't listen to it at all.



On Facebook... finally!

First, apologies for the lengthy absence since last posting... once again we have been kept busy by having a technician on long-term sick, so I'm out every day covering her work, or was... welcome back Sandra!

Anyway, at long last Stewarts Interior Landscaping have our own Facebook page!

As we are a small part of the Stewarts Garden Centre chain, we always came under their Facebook umbrella, but we decided that as our audience are rather different we should have our own page.

I am now the editor of said page. I will attempt to update it more regularly than I have managed with this blog.

At the time of writing there is no plan to stop contributing to this blog, fear not!


Thursday, October 10, 2019

This post is brought to you by the colour teal

Teal Linik trough planted with all white/green plants
I did a very similar post to this about six years ago, though in that case the colour was green.

In that case the colour was being requested by clients and I was only too happy to provide.

In these case I have suggested it as there were teal feature walls/furniture in the offices and I though similarly coloured pots would look good.

So I've done three jobs in the last year or so where I have used various Pantone teals, and all cases they have been matt.

Dracaena Arturo in a Smooth Egg pot
As I have explained before, our glass-fibre planters are available in any colour you can imagine and in matt or gloss shades. For a long time gloss was the default (and it is more durable) but matt looks miles better with some colours, and teal is one of those. Imagine any of these three images with a a shiny blue pot: exactly.

The trough above looked particularly effective as it was in front of a glass panel blocking off a corridor end, so it is in a natural focal point; I'm also quite keen on my current habit of planting 'cold coloured' troughs with all white/green variegated foliage like here. Warm colours look equally good with all lime green/yellow variegation in.

For those that care all these troughs are Pantone 321U (the 'U' stands for uncoated,. i.e. matt), interesting how different it looks in different photos.

Finally, and slightly politically incorrectly, I suspect I am one of a very small percentage of straight men that actually knows what colour 'teal' is.

Same pot as above in the client's office

I REALLY like Chamaedorea Metalica...

Chamaedorea Metalica

Five years ago, my first ever 'feature plant' post was on the Chamaedorea Metalica.

I really like them still (I have one at home) as they are the most flexible, tough plant we have access to. The one in my conservatory is exposed to bright sun, extreme heat and cold and it keeps on trucking. I also rather like the slight silvery sheen to the foliage (hence 'Metalica' I guess).

When I did that last post it was because we were looking for plants for an unheated link corridor in a client's office in Chandlers Ford, as pictured at the bottom; they've been very successful.

175 Chamaedorea Metalicas...
There's always a 'but'... they are very hard to buy as they are only available now and then. Something to do with the availability of the seed, I'm told.

It's a bit of a running joke with my Dutch plant supplier that I keep putting them on my order in the full knowledge that I won't get them. So when he rang me up last week and said "I can get some Chamaedorea Metalica if you want, how many would you like?", I thought on my feet and said "an entire Danish trolley's worth please!"

As depicted on the left, this turns out to be 175 plants... Still, they will most definitely get used, and unlike some plants they last perfectly well if we keep them for a year... until they are available next time!

In one of our clients' offices in brightly coloured troughs


Monday, September 23, 2019

Feature plant (family): succulents

Mixed succulents
Houseplants have suddenly become rather fashionable, and being an old hand at this kind of thing I'm suppressing the desire to say "I told you they were great!"

Having worked in an era where a few large statement plants were the thing, I am having to adapt to the fact that the aim suddenly appears to make your home (or heaven forbid: office) look like your gran's lounge did in the 1970s, i.e. lots of little plants everywhere.

Even those macrame hangers are back, though I still await the return of those glass globes my mother used to have hanging in them.

One thing that seems to have become super-popular is succulents, and I can understand why: certainly if getting in to house plants for the first time, something that needs very little watering is a winner.

The only issue I am having is that there seem to be quite an array of names and I'm just not that up on them. I need to know the Latin names of plants as we order them in Latin from Holland. In fact we order them in Latin with a little bit of English and Dutch thrown in.

Fear not! Holland sell trays of 'mixed succulents', like the picture top left so I don't need to, though I can tell you that there are two kinds of Crassulas and some Echeverias in there, though the two at the front I have no idea on.

One I do know is a rather delicate trailing succulent called a Rhipsalis, which comes in quite a variety of types. I mention it as we have a client in Bournemouth who has them hanging from the roof all over the place in macrame hangers. Not the one shown below; though I rather like these with their built-in water indicator and hope to sell some soon.


Rhipsalis (Cassutha, since you asked)
Planter in macrame hanger with built in water indicator

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Feature pest: Thrip

Thrips are a whole family of actually quite varied pests. They used to be very rare but seem to be becoming more common now. Including, sadly in the cafe at Stewarts Christchurch where we recently had an outbreak on our Kentia palms there.

The damage normally looks superficially like the classic pattern of Red Spider Mite damage, but the damage is in more discrete patches and in those patches much worse, where Red Spider is normally quite well distributed. A good plant to see this on is Schefflera Amate (Umbrella Plant). Red Spider will make whole leaves discolour, and on closer inspection be covered in brown spots. Thrip damage will be blobs of silvery spotty damage with healthy leaf in between.

Then the most obvious way of telling is if you turn the leaves over, where underneath thrips are large enough to be seen by the naked eye, appearing as a small insect like a long aphid. Quite often they will be gathered in little huddles together.

Red Spider Mite by contrast is a very small white (not red!) insect that appears like grit or dust on the leaf underside.

In both cases if you rub a wet cloth over the leaf underside it will stain with squished bugs.

In fact a thorough rubbing with a wet cloth (which you then throw away to avoid infecting other plants) is your first line of defence against Thrip; literally wiping them away. It won't eradicate them but it will control them.

Next line of defence is predator control. However, sadly there are different types of predators for different types of Thrip so success is not guaranteed. Amblyseius cucumeris is probably the most likely one to work, so try that first.

Without any sponsorship, a Google search brings up numerous online shopping results.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Rubber plant pruning - stopping the bleeding

Before pruning
Ever had to prune a rubber plant (Ficus Elastica or Robusta) or other large Ficuses and had them start 'bleeding' their sap everywhere? Here's a handy tip on how to prevent this.

My most experienced maintenance technician Ian showed me this technique many years ago and I still find it remarkably simple and yet effective.

On the left you have a burgundy rubber plant (Ficus Abidjan), a species I have often said on here that I like. Apologies that this one is very mucky; it's a long-term resident of the Stewarts Greenhouse, and they get water-marked through repeated watering with a hose.

As and when its day comes to go into a client's office it will scrub up lovely with the aid of our secret weapon (Pixie Sparkle!).

Anyway, let's assume that I need to prune the sideshoot shown in this image off back to the joint. As
Bleeding sap after pruning
you can see, it begins to 'bleed' a milky white sap, which makes nasty marks on lower leaves and indelible marks on the carpet. It's also an irritant so you don't want to get any on your skin.

The solution is surprisingly simple. Pinch a little bit of compost from the pot the rubber plant is in between your finger and thumb and press it onto the open wound.

You'll find it sticks to the wound quite easily as the sap is so sticky. This will stop the bleeding dead... with a bit of practice. Once the wound has healed and the sap dried, any excess compost will simply brush off.

Compost preventing further bleeding
Rubber plants benefit from pruning as otherwise they become longer and spindlier as time goes by, so pruning is to be encouraged as it leads to a more branched plant, though normally it's best done in spring/summer.