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, December 23, 2008

Some random facts about Stewarts Office Plants

Just a few interesting (?) facts about Stewarts Office Plants before we break for Christmas:

- We have about 390 maintenance customers, stretching from Exeter to Chichester and Weybridge (see our coverage map) but mainly in Dorset and Hampshire, who had 67 Christmas Trees between them

- In total we look after almost 6,000 plants for those customers!

- Our ten vans do approximately 110,000 miles a year in total.

- The nine operational staff have 120 years' experience between us (I worked it out as 116, six months ago) .

- We can supply plant pots in approximately three hundred colours, in fact I have only used about fifty of those in my time here!

There you go. Merry Christmas, everybody!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Praise for our Christmas Trees

As Rebecca said below, we've now delivered all 67 Christmas Trees to our clients, plus a few swags, Poinsettas and Christmas-themed floral arrangements too.

This is a photo of our largest tree. Bear in mind that I'm the 6'6" chap in the middle; the tree is about 22 feet high! Now there's just the small matter of getting them all back, in three vans, in three working days. Luckily, most are more modestly sized!

Meanwhile, here's some of the emailed comments we've had about our trees this year:

“Can I say that we are delighted with the tree once again. It has been beautifully decorated and is a great shape.”
A Winchester client
“Lots of favourable comments received regarding the trees and decorations, so your teams are up to their usual high standard.”
A Bournemouth client
“We are delighted with it, it looks perfect and is just the right size and everyone, including visitors/customers etc. has commented on it.”
A Portsmouth client
“The tree looks really lovely!”
A Southampton client
"Very fine indeed."
A Bournemouth client

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The office plant team

The interior office plant team have now completed the delivery and installation of the decorated Christmas trees to your offices and receptions. We will be back after Christmas to remove and tidy up all the needles that will probably be deposited on your floors.

We would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas and best wishes for 2009. Thank you for your continued support and custom in our quest for making the UK a better place by having indoor plants.

For 2009 we are aiming to send regular newsletters to tell our customers what we are up to and what is available out there so if you would like to be added to our database to recieve our newsletter please let us know. There are so many benefits for having plants in the work place and home and this is just one of the topics that will be included within our regular newsletters.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

West Quay Shopping Centre

Stewarts Office Plants have just, effective November 08, taken on the plant maintenance at West Quay Shopping Centre and we are delighted! Stewarts Landscaping has taken over the grounds maintenance so all in all, the team are keeping busy.

The Interior Plants are looked after every week. We have a dedicated team of technicians who get up early and look after the plants before the shopping centre opens. This service of caring for plants includes watering indoor plants, cleaning, dusting, pruning, feeding and anything else the plant requires to help it flourish. It also includes free plant replacement for plants that become tired, tatty or fail to flourish. Every 4 weeks the team change all the flowering planted containers using something like Anthuriums which has a fairly long flowering period and can stand a bit of tough vandalism from time to time.

The Grounds Maintenance includes everything from grass cutting, weeding, leaf clearance, shrub and border tidying and pruning.

We plan to implement a few changes/improvements to the planting schemes over time, with West Quay's approval of course, but in the meantime, we look forward to a long and successful working relationship with Southampton's best known shopping centre.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Christmas begins!

Strictly speaking it began last week when we delivered four trees to a shopping centre, but the mass decoration of artificial trees starts today, so they will be ready for delivery from the end of November.

Because we are very tightly-staffed the rest of the year, we have recruited an extra Christmas tree decorator... for four weeks only!

Julie has not worked for Stewarts before, but she's well known to me: we've lived together for over ten years!

Debra, who runs the whole Christmas operation with ruthless efficiency, has still got room for a very few more orders, so email her if you want to know more about our Christmas tree service.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wood BMW Bournemouth

A shiny new showroom has opened at Wood BMW in Wallisdown, Bournemouth and Stewarts Office Plants have provided some truly gorgeous Ficus Nitida 'lollipop style' plants for it. The spec was that they all needed to be uniform and tightly rounded in appearance, which can be difficult with live specimens (cos nature tends to go its own way), but with some skilful snipping and shaping by Anna, one of our very capable technicians, we're confident we can keep these lovely plants looking great.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Giving a dragon some backbone

It's that time of year again when Stewarts help to decorate the display stand of locally-based play equipment company Hags at the Saltex trade show in Windsor. This year the centrepiece of the stand is a 22 tonne dragon's head (big enough for a tall chap like me to walk through the mouth!). A turfed mound was created to represent the dragon's body, and we put criss-crossed Phormiums along the crest to represent its spiky backbone.

As for the actual process of planting shrubs into a freshly-turfed and not-very-compacted mound of topsoil, don't ask....
Incidentally, the dragon's head is currently still for sale by Hags, if anyone is interested!!!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Re-use and Re-cycle

We do love to re-cycle at Stewarts. To this end, we offer some excellent deals on our re-cycled containers - see just a few in the photograph! They are just sitting waiting to be re-sprayed in some of our latest colour options (matt finishes, like expresso, bronze and silver make the containers look especially contemporary), filled with a lovely, fresh new plant and placed in a corner of your office for all to benefit from and enjoy.

Why not call or email me and I'll be happy to let you have an idea of cost. The containers in the photograph are not the only style available, by the way.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


As with all manual industries, Stewarts Office Plants creates a lot of waste. However, we're very proud of the fact we recycle almost everything, thanks to our purpose-built recycling facilities at our Broomhill base. Our green waste is separated into soil, woody waste and green waste, all of which is chipped/shredded & mixed up, then allowed to rot down, before being re-used as compost & mulch by our landscaping department. Among my less managerial duties is emptying the trailers of muck, but at least it means I can fulfil every boy's childhood dream of driving a tractor!

We also receive a lot of packaging with our plant consignments: the cellophane and cardboard is compacted and baled for recycling, and all the used plant pots are put in the 'pot exchange' in the garden centre car park. We even re-use the cardboard that our new pots come in on the next delivery!
Anecdotally, I don't believe any of our competitors can touch our level of recycling, so if this element of our business is important to you, then we're the company for you.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Just come back from a new house being built in Bournemouth, where Stewarts have installed a 3.5m Dracaena Song of India, and two groups of three Kentia Palms up to 3.5m in height in the open-plan living area. Here's a picture of my installation team posing by their handiwork (well done, guys). Filling these 1.8m diameter tree pits used over 100 of our 75 litre compost bags.

Makes my skinny 5ft plant & two bowls on the windowsill in my living room look a bit pathetic!

Monday, August 04, 2008

A challenging install goes like a dream

Remember how windy it was on Friday morning? We were up the end of Bournemouth pier at 07:30 installing nine Chamaerops Humilis palms in the al fresco seating area of the restaurant there, where it was windy enough to blow the palms off our trolleys, despite the fact we could barely lift them ourselves! That wasn't our only difficulty though:

1. The displays needed to be secured in position, but also removed for winter each year. Normally we bolt exterior pots through their bases, but this would have meant digging the plant out to undo the bolt - hardly ideal. So I came up with the idea of having some metal plates made (very quickly, by JP Design in Ferndown) that were bolted to the bottom of the pot in advance, and protruded out of the sides, enabling bolts to be fitted/removed without disturbing the plant. Complete success!

2. These required all sorts of drill bits, bolts, washers etc. to be used, on a windy day, on a surface that you could see the sea through the gaps in. I became careful to the point of paranoia about not dropping anything. On the other hand, sweeping up any spilled soil was a doddle - just sweep it through a gap!

3. Obviously there's no vehicle access to the end of the pier, so everything had to be trolleyed up (see comment above about the wind blowing things over), and the vehicle access to the end of the pier is only available until 10:00am. In the end, we left at 10:01, while a council employee stood patiently waiting to close the gate.

Despite all that, it went rather well, and the plants look great. Incidentally the pots are in two-tone gold on black, which we've never used before, but I suspect we will again as it looks rather nice. Good choice, Ruth.

You can see 'my' fixing plates sticking out of the sides if you look closely, but they're pretty discreet. The only issue now is whether we'll be able to lift the displays up when we collect them, as we planted them up in situ so we don't know how much the finished product actually weighs.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

No-one gets away from Stewarts!

A company in Poole asked us to give their beloved Bonsai Ficus Retusa some TLC last week, so I went and collected it from them.

Knowing that Christine, one of my recently retired (and much missed) employees, is a bonsai expert, I invited her back to perform the trickiest work for me. Payment was in the form of strong tea and a lemon slice from the garden centre's coffee shop (and I rewarded myself with a caramel slice for thinking of getting her to come in!).

We (well, she) removed it from its pot, cleaned all the tired old soil from it, then very cleverly tied it to the pot to make it more stable, and finally we replanted it in fresh bonsai compost, and it's now more or less ready to go.

Thanks Christine!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

116 years of experience!

A list of all my staff's employment start dates passed across my desk recently, and it set me thinking. I sat and worked out how many years experience of caring for office plants we had between us, and it adds up to one hundred and sixteen years!

This is of course meaningless without knowing how many of us there are doing the job: nine people, so that equates to an equally impressive (almost) thirteen years experience each! Added to which, none of us have spent less than six years in the industry at present. As far as I am aware, no other office plant company can come close to this average level of experience.

What does all this mean to potential and existing clients? Well, although our new starters (if I remember rightly...) receive a very thorough four weeks of training, caring for office plants is a job that can only be completely mastered by doing it for a few years, so this is one reason why the standard of our maintenance service is second to none.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Hanging basket time - don't delay!

We usually deliver our summer hanging baskets at the end of May. Now the weather has suddenly turned summery (it's 28 deg C already in my office in the greenhouse!) we expect the phone to start ringing as all our clients' thoughts turn to their workplaces' outdoor spaces at once...
The snag is that hanging baskets need a little time to 'grow on', in order that they are delivered with some flowers already in evidence, so if you want baskets for the end of the month, you need to order now.
Email me or ring the office, and we'll send you an order form. As a guide price, our most popular size of basket (16" diameter) retails at £29.00 + VAT, which includes delivery in our usual coverage area! You can specify colour, and plant mixture as required, and please note that we also provide and plant window troughs, summer bedding etc.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A new look for our coffee shop

The Stewarts Country Garden Centre (near Wimborne, where Stewarts Office Plants is based too) has just finished having their coffee shop enlarged and refurbished.
While the existing displays were very nice, the new colour scheme and much enlarged space meant we had to put something new in. Rebecca opted for a combination of matt graphite pots in the main area and the gorgeous pearl red in the new section, which is decorated in a dark red colour. For the planting she decided on - among other things - three large olive trees to sit in large square pots in the main area, where the great light conditions are ideal for olives.
We planted them in situ first thing this morning before the garden centre opened, and I have to admit they look great.

Notice also that Rebecca has hung some of our Wall Art range around the coffee shop. While my picture may paint a thousand words, why not come in to the Country Garden Centre, stop for a coffee, and take a closer look at our plants & pictures? If you’re a potential business customer in the Bournemouth/Poole area, what better way to see Stewarts Office Plants’ products in the flesh… and legitimately get out of the office for a couple of hours? You might even be able to claim the price of the coffees on expenses!


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jonathan takes an unexpected journey....

Stewarts look after the plants on a pair of passenger ferries called the Express & Vitesse, sailing out of Weymouth & Poole. Due to the somewhat erratic schedule we have to fit in with, these plants are looked after by yours truly, aided by Claire, my assistant.
I went to Weymouth this morning to look after the plants on Express, and found Vitesse there too. As I'm due to return on Tuesday after Easter (bank holiday weeks are busy enough for us with five days' work to complete in four) to do Vitesse, I wandered on board to see if I could get these plants done too. The boat was swarming with workmen, and no-one stopped me getting started, so imagine my surprise when I looked out of the window 30 minutes later to realise we were sailing out of the harbour.
This has happened to us before; the boat occasionally goes out to turn round or change berth, so I casually enquired of one of the other workmen (who seemed very relaxed): "Ermm, where are we off to?"
"Oh, just round the bay I think."
"Oh, that's a relief, I've nearly finished!", I replied.
"I think they're staying out for about four hours, mate", after which it became clear the rest of the workmen were there all day anyway so they didn't mind the trip out.

A short conversation with the crew confirmed this, so I gave the plants possibly the most thorough clean and prune they will ever get, and when we docked (happily a mere three hours later), I made a mental note always to double-check whether I was staying in port in future.

Needless to say I have endured a wide range of jokes at my expense in the office ('Have you brought us any Brie back?', 'How are your sea legs?' etc.), which I rather suspect I deserve.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Plants that improve your office's air quality

I often get asked to provide plants specifically to improve the air in a modern office. As you may be aware, the air in modern air-conditioned offices contains a lot of impurities, and the right kinds of plants really can make a difference by absorbing a lot of the nasties. A lot of offices with aircon have very dry air, so the increase in humidity is useful too. Believe it or not, it has been shown that a sufficient quantity of plants relative to staff numbers can actually pay for themselves by reducing the cost of absenteeism due to sickness!

Don't believe me? There's a mass of data available at the Plants for People website to back me up.

As for what plants work best, you need a lot of leaf area, so broad-leaved plants are best, and high humidity is encouraged by thirsty plants. So a broad-leaved Ficus, like the burgundy rubber plant I installed in Southampton last year is ideal.

Air-improving alternatives to the Ficus family include broad-leaved Dracaenas, Spathiphyllums and Aglaonemas. You'll find pictures of all of these on the main office plants website.

Friday, February 15, 2008

How many vans can we get in the greenhouse?

Ummm... that'll be one then. We're doing a one-day hire to a training event in Blandford Forum, Dorset on Monday. Plants need to be in place by 0830, so rather than load up in the morning, we've loaded on Friday afternoon and left the doors open. Obviously we have to park the van in the greenhouse as the plants (a mixture of Ficuses and Kentia palms) need to be kept above 15 deg C.

The trouble is we can't get out of the greenhouse now, so it looks like we're in here until Monday too! D'oh...

Edit. Monday morning: we did of course squeeze out on Friday and delivered the plants on time this morning, with the added benefit of a toasty warm van when every one else was scraping ice off their cars.

Friday, February 08, 2008

This is where we will look after office plants

I keep trying to describe our coverage area in previous posts, but it's quite wordy, as it consists of several part-counties (e.g. in Devon we'll go to Exeter, but no further; sorry, Plymouth!).

So I decided to use my extensive MS Paint skills to draw a coverage map and post it on the blog (acknowledgements to Streetmap!).
Note that this line is quite 'fuzzy' (it's not just your eyes!), in other words our key areas are Dorset and Hampshire); we get more choosy as we reach the red line. However if you're just outside the line and you're looking at quite a major project, then do contact us - we do make exceptions!

No danger of Stewarts running out of pots!

At the risk of repeating what I've said about our very affordable resprayed pot range, I thought I'd show potential office plants customers that there's plenty of options when it comes to reusing our second-hand pots.

This picture shows about half of them, the big line of our ever-popular Zenith range at back right consists of over a hundred alone, and all can be resprayed in any colour you can imagine.
This makes particular sense if you're buying a large number of plants for an office, as the saving on the initial outlay is significant, and as I've mentioned before the quality is as new.
So if you're in our coverage area (Bournemouth, Southampton, rest of Dorset & Hants, South Wiltshire etc.) and you're on a tight budget, get in touch. If you're fairly local to our base in Wimborne and you want an excuse to get out of the office for a while, I'd be happy to show you what's available.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What colour is 'Royal Blue'?

We were recently invited by a hotel chain to put plants in their soon-to-be-completed Southampton branch. The on-site contact was very amenable about what we suggested, but the containers must be 'Royal Blue', as this was the corporate colour.

As anyone who's bought plant pots from me will know I'm a paint code geek, but I really struggled to decide what constituted Royal Blue. A search of Wikipedia - if anything - muddied the waters, as it turns out 'old' Royal Blue was a very dark blue, whereas it is now considered to be a mid to light blue.

My paint supplier pointed out that on the old BS381C (middle of page), colour 106 is called Royal Blue, but that's almost black! Help! Eventually I narrowed the choice down to the more modern RAL (top of page) colours, and suggested RAL 5010. The client agreed (rather too readily) and I worried about it until yesterday when we put the pots in.

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending, as the client was delighted, and look at the colour match with the chair next to it: spot on!

(Incidentally, this display features one of our specialities for prominent places like receptions: three Anthuriums in different colours. You pay about twice as much per month as for an ordinary plant, but we change the plants when they stop flowering. It still works out a fraction of the price of fresh flowers.

So did I get it right? Is this Royal Blue in your opinion? Feel free to look at the colour chart and email me with your own nomination - release your inner 'paint code geek'!