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.

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.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Feature pest: Snow Scale

Now and then I focus on a pest that appears on office plants.

I've done the most common ones (Red Spider Mite, Mealy Bug), so now I am choosing one that is close to my heart due to the fact I played a small part in its identification in the UK.

Snow Scale looks to the untrained eye like Mealy Bug. In fact Mealy Bug is a kind of Scale too, and I'll discuss the common Scale in the future I hope.

So for a long time people just assumed a new kind of Mealy Bug was attacking very specific office plants. I became suspicious that it wasn't the same thing, and having a good friend who is a horticultural entomologist of some note (plant bug expert in plain English) I sent him a sample. He consulted colleagues, identified it as Snow Scale, and told me I was one of the first people to identify it in the UK, and the first in our industry.

So what's it like? It attacks a narrow range of plants: Aspidistras, some Dracaenas and has a go at Sansevierias.
The bad news is it does catastrophic damage to the plants if left untreated; it stays down at the soil level or in the joints of the leaves and can be quite stubborn to clean out. On some Dracaenas in particular it can be deadly.
The good news is that it doesn't seem to travel to adjacent plants (i.e. it comes in on new plants) and does respond to repeat treatment with pesticides like Provado, where use of same is permitted. I have successfully eradicated it on plants of my own, for sure.


Funny office sign... descriptive though

Another in my long running series of random funny signs from our clients' offices. Rather reminiscent of this one from five years ago. In case the photo isn't clear, this is a plant that someone has seen fit to label 'SHRUBBERY'.

There are three possible explanations:

1. Someone in the office is a bit OCD and likes labelling everything.

2. The firm is a bit OCD and everything they own has to have a label on it.

3. It was misidentified as something else with regrettable consequences, and someone decided a descriptive label was prudent.

No. 2 is probably most likely. Though of course I'm not sure a Philodendron Scandens creeper growing up a mosspole support counts as 'shrubbery', but to the layman it probably sounds as right as our maintenance staff frequently being referred to as "the flower man/woman". We take it in our stride.

 It's lucky - assuming I'm right - that I'm not in charge of such a labelling programme. My anarchic streak would have me misidentifying obvious things to see if anyone noticed... or cared.


Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Giant round pots

As you can tell, I am going through a reasonably quiet patch, so have time to post a few snippets.

This pot was one of a matching pair we recently installed outside a very swanky (enough to have a uniformed concierge) hair salon in the posh end of Poole.

The client asked for big black pots, and whatever I suggested they came back with "bigger!"

So I ended up supplying them these two Luna Slice planters which are an amazing 1.2m (or 4 feet) in diameter. I had my misgivings but they have had a very positive reception, and there have been one or two tentative enquiries from passers-by.

They look really good planted with Chamaerops Humilis palms (an old favourite of mine) and Ivy Leaf Geranium (which will hopefully be thriving by now).

Be warned though: they took 20 bags of compost and LECA (the drainage material we use) EACH to fill. To put it another way, our large delivery van was fully loaded and rather down on its haunches when we had loaded up everything we needed just to install these two pots. Though smaller versions are available, and as usual can be had in any colour you like!


Feature plant: Spathiphyllum Sensation

A quick 'feature plant' post to move my preceding rant down the post order a bit...

One of my maintenance staff - still fairly new - has a habit of ordering not quite the plants she intended. Usually I pull her up on it, but I think I did the last plant order in my sleep, so she managed to order three Spathiphyllum Sensations, when what she wanted was the usual small Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily), which you may be more familiar with.

The normal Spath comes in a 12-17cm diameter pot and is at most a foot high.

The S. Sensation is an entirely different proposition, being about 1.2m high. As you can see in this photo with a 10 litre watering can for scale. 

The question remains: what am I going to do with these? They require quite a lot of room as they to get fatter with age. I'm happy to sell them to people in our area for £40.00! 

Finally, care notes as usual. Spaths are one of the thirstiest indoor plants. The foliage will begin to sag obviously the moment they dry out, but don't panic as it quickly bounces back when watered. In fact they seem to do best in the long term if allowed to get to the point of sagging before being watered again, but for that you'll need to monitor them regularly.  

Monday, June 04, 2018

Please let us do our job

Very occasionally via the medium of this blog I have a little whinge about my job, though the incident that finally catalysed this post is now a few week's old. Grumbling is a dish best served cold...

Pictured here is a plant display I recently installed for a private client near Chichester. It's the perfect plant for its environment, in a pot that perfectly complements its surroundings.

That's because I chose it, and though it's hard to avoid a little bigheadedness, I've been doing this for years and I'm really good at it.


As the years have gone by in which I've been selling plant displays for Stewarts, and with a pronounced up-swing in the last couple of years, the trend is for people to pretty much tell me what they want.

The customer, I hasten to add, is always right... but when you are telling a houseplant expert what plants you want and he says they will not live in your office, or you have a particular plant pot in mind and he tells you they are simply not suitable (for example they have whopping great holes in the bottom so you'll be watering your carpet), the best thing would be to pay heed. Or you may as well cut me out of the loop entirely, and just go buy your own plants and pots!

If I am going to point fingers, the younger, more internet-savvy clients, especially those in the design industry seem to be the worst culprits here. My guess at the reason is the exponential growth in the availability of pictures through Google Images/Instagram/Pinterest etc.. Type "lovely indoor plants" and up pop thousands of wildly inappropriate plants for your office.

But again, just because you've found a picture of a plant in a blogger's house in America you like the look of doesn't mean that it will live here, or even that it's commercially available in the UK.

I'm entirely happy to be asked for anything, but what I would dearly love is for people to take 'no' for an answer, whereas the trend now seems to be to assume that (for goodness knows what reason!) I am part of a sinister conspiracy to deprive people of all the nice plants. Whereas the real reason is that after all these years I know that if you put the wrong plant in the wrong place, it won't look great for a while then drop dead, it will start to deteriorate from day one and never do its job: to make your workplace look nice! Whereas a safer choice will develop and prosper before your eyes.

Whinge over.

Oh, except to say that the lady who bought the pot in the image above has used Stewarts in her four spectacular houses over the last 13 years and is a very exacting customer, but here's the thing: if I tell her something won't work she takes my word for it!


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Wooden herb planters

I've blogged about these Fat Leaf planters before (twice in fact). I really like them, but because they aren't very 'officy' I don't get to use them a lot.

They are made from Larch, which is naturally tough so doesn't need treating.

This installation was for a balcony in an office in Southampton, specifically a balcony off the canteen. So the client wanted planters full of mixed herbs that the chef could use in the kitchen. Job done!

I showed these to my partner with some trepidation as I feared that she would like them so much that she would want one on our terrace at home. So far I have got away with it!


Monday, April 16, 2018

Feature pest: Red Spider Mite

As you may be able to tell by the fact it's only a few days since my last post I'm going through a welcome quiet period, so I thought I'd add another feature pest post, and an appropriate one as the weather is (at last) about to turn nice, because this critter loves the sun!

On the right we have an image of a Red Spider Mite. Along with Mealy Bug (that I've already featured), the most common pest on office plants, and like Mealy bug very hard to control, let alone eradicate.

Thankfully this photo is not actual size! The mites are - just - visible to the naked eye. To the untrained eye they look like dust or powder.

Much more noticeable is the damage that they cause as they feed on the leaves.

This distinct pale spotting is classic Red Spider Mite damage. Later I'll blog about Thrips, whose damage looks similar, but they are much rarer, so assume it's Red Spider.In extreme cases you'll get fine spider webs in between the leaves but this is quite unusual.

As I mentioned in my preamble, they love sunny positions and need low humidity, so your best weapon is to keep the plant as damp as you can, and wet-wipe the leaves (in particular the undersides where they mostly live), being careful to thoroughly clean said wipe before going near another plant with it, or even better throwing it away. If you can get your hands on an oily leaf shine product this seems to keep it in check too.

There are predators available too - I've used them successfully on large trees.

Finally, as the leaf damage pattern is permanent, how can you tell if you are keeping the infestation under control? The mites have a distinct gritty feel to them as you rub a finger over the leaf underside, and they will turn a cloth slightly green if you rub it over them.


Friday, April 13, 2018

Feature plant: Dracaena Sunray

I'm going to give up apologising for the large gaps between posts, it's getting repetitive. As before, we are busy busy busy!

This (ahem)  month's feature plant is called Dracaena Sunray. Keen house plant enthusiasts will instantly recognise that it is a variegated D. Marginata, but instead of being a pale pink/green colour, it's got this striking dark green (almost black) edge with a yellow green centre, and still (as the close up below shows) the dark red margin that gives the common D. Marginata its name.

I'd seen a few small two-stem ones in Stewarts Garden Centre, but my trusty Dutch wholesaler managed to come up with these 1.1-1.2m three-stem ones which are a bit more useful in our maintenance clients.

Care tips: well, I assume it'll be like a normal 'Margi' in that it will need warmth and little water, but being a bright variegation I suspect it will need good light.

Incidentally, my plan is to use one where a previous unusual plant (Codieum Tamara) that I blogged about went at one of my clients in Gillingham. Sadly, for all that said plant made me say "wow", it was a rather difficult plant to care for, and is now looking rather sorry for itself. But there's the great advantage of having our maintenance service on your plants, when it dies we replace it, and pick up the bill.