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.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A new home for our old pots

As a purveyor of plant displays on a rental basis (and also a bunch of compulsive hoarders), we have a large stock of ex-rental pots in storage. I would estimate 4-500 in total!

There is a purpose to this hoarding, as they can be resprayed and reused if a new order for the same pot comes in, as they are as good as new when resprayed.

However, the bit of polytunnel in which they were stored was required by our sister nursery to expand their growing capacity, so we were asked to move all our pots to a new one they find less conducive to growing plants. All fine, except it took two of us a couple of days in all to move them all over (as the two polytunnels were a van drive apart).

This did provide me a golden opportunity to pander to my OCD by putting all the different pot ranges in nice neat lines. There are many different types and sizes of pot, some more or less indistinguishable; I hope I've rendered myself redundancy-proof by being the only person at Stewarts that can tell them all apart.

I was trying to instruct my helper Claire on the subtleties of design that differentiate a Kubis from a Cubis, a Smooth Cubis (old), a Smooth Cubis (new), or indeed a Bajazi, all of which look very similar to the layman. But I think she just thought I was making it up.

Then I started explaining the differences between Penangs, Malays, Zeniths and Bedouins, which also all look the same. I'm surprised she didn't leave me to move them on my own...


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas trees all delivered

Christmas Tree delivery period successfully completed. Having expected (what with the recession and all) that we would be having a quiet year, we didn't expect to have one of our busiest years yet. Seventy trees, and almost all delivered by Debra the Christmas co-ordinator and me!

Here's some statistics:

- A total of 520 feet in height of trees

- Of which 300 feet were decorated

- 1000 miles of driving to deliver them

- I estimate 4 barrels of biscuits, 5 chocolate bars and 70 cups of coffee.

The tree on the right is a large tree in blue and silver decorations that we thought looked particularly good.

I also thought I'd add some pics of the gestation of the biggest (18 foot) tree that we do:

First, the ever dignified Derek making a bow tie of a bow, not knowing Becca is adding her own contribution to the photo:

Becca was obviously in a festive mood, as she decided to decorate the safety cones we position round our work area:

Because this tree is larger than our biggest ladders, we actually have to decorate the top third while it's still on its side. It takes Debra's (working on tree) great decoration skills to know how to decorate a tree before she knows how it's going to hang once upright:

By the way, is it my imagination, or is Claire (red hair) checking Derek's manly frame out in the background?

Finally, the finished product, with from left to right: Claire, Derek, me and Debra.

If you're wondering whether I'm going to do a sales pitch for Christmas Trees, you've missed your chance this year, but for next year, please contact us next Autumn. Do not leave it until December, as it turns out we get very busy!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

'Recession? What recession?' - Part 2

I haven't posted in a while. Here's why: once again, despite the dire economic conditions, and the fact that office plant companies like Stewarts are a good weather vane of business confidence, we are having an extremely busy time fitting in deliveries to all the new customers and those existing ones that are expanding their business with us. Like the customer in Poole who have thrown caution to the wind and swapped their sensible, tasteful planters they had before, for the zany curvy pots shown above, among others.

In fact the role call of new contracts in the last month is as follows:

New customers:

Online retail firm in Portsmouth: 12 planters

Telecoms firm in Basingstoke: 20 planters

Engineering company near Stewarts: 7 refurbished planters

Insurance company in Poole: 12 planters

Financial customer in Bournemouth: 61 planters (!)

Existing customers:

Property company in Poole: 12 upgraded planters

Pharmaceutical company in Bournemouth: 13 extra planters

Oh, and one more. This built-in-bed in a new build house in Branksome:

These trees are 2.5-3m high, in case the pictures doesn't do them justice. Incidentally the stunning house around the plants is for sale - yours for £5m...

Now much as I'd love to kick back and enjoy a respite, we have (starting tomorrow at 0700) over 60 Christmas Trees to deliver, and already a backlog of new installations to carry out the moment they are out of the way.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Watering plants in the rain...

When we visit people's offices to carry out our maintenance service, we have to water any external plants whatever the weather, and if we're delivering new plants we have to water them especially heavily. Whatever the weather, as we won't be back for a couple of weeks. It's worth remembering that it would have to rain very heavily for several days without break to give an outdoor container plant the water it needs for a fortnight.

All this is in way of explanation for anyone that - while we were having yesterday's torrential rain storm - might have seen me thoroughly watering two new spiral Buxus plants outside an office in Poole, or my colleague Claire standing on the roof of an office watering their terrace plants with a hose for an hour. You don't have to be mad to work at Stewarts Interior Landscaping, but it helps, as the old saying goes.

One more thing, if we're watering your indoor plants and it's raining outside, you're not the first person to think of suggesting that we should simply move our plants outside. We will, however, try and appear amused by the suggestion!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

The biggest pot I've ever sold!

This picture doesn't really give a sense of how big it is: inside the wooden liner that the client had made is a 1.5m diameter and 90cm deep fibreglass liner, and the plant (my favourite Dracaena Surculosa - looks like a kind of spotty bamboo) is 2.5m high!

The quantity stats were pretty impressive too: 13 x 50l bags of the clay aggregate we use as drainage, plus 17 x 75l bags of compost, and to surround the main plant another 30 small plants of various species.

Nicer still, for once we were working only a couple of miles from our base at Stewarts Country Garden Centre in Wimborne, and in a lovely new office building. As loyal readers will know, we cover Dorset, Hampshire, Wiltshire and parts of Devon, Somerset, Sussex and Surrey. So a five minute commute is a refreshing change.

Even better, the client commented afterwards "Everyone has commented positively on the planters, thanks for being so efficient", so our efforts were appreciated.


Jonathan's best customer...

...which is deliberately ambiguous. They are my best customer because it's the Gainsborough Arms, the fantastic village pub at the end of my road, but - regrettably for my liver - I'm one of their best customers.

So I was very happy to be asked to provide hanging baskets, later some shrubs in pots to delineate their outside seating area, and finally some large pots with shrub roses in. I later recruited my next door neighbour (a talented gardener) to look after these roses - in return for beer.

Got to love village life! As the landlord & landlady: Denny and Mecky are following my basket care instructions closely, the baskets are now thriving like few others I have seen; they do the work and I get the credit.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Health benefits of plants in the news again

A colleague has brought in an article which appeared in the weekend paper in the 'Health' section about the benefits of plants in offices. We've known about this for a long time, but this particular study found that those who could see the most plants from their desks took the least sick leave. As well as the plants removing volatile organic compounds that can affect health, it is now thought that there may be a psychological explanation too, in that people believe plants are healthy, which leads them to evaluate their own health more optimistically.

So even if you don't have much space in your office, perhaps you might consider desk top bowls so that everyone can appreciate and benefit from a plant?

Let me know if you'd like to put the above studies to the test and we'll visit with some ideas.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

'Finishing Touch' floral displays

Stunning aren't they? This is a 'Finishing Touch', a stylish orchid arrangement which we leave on Reception for four weeks, when we replace it for a new one. The new one will use a different colour container, different colour orchids and new sculptural materials too.
When you consider that fresh flowers start at £20 a week, these last much longer and look as good when we take them away as they do when we deliver them (sometimes this can't be said of fresh flowers).
The large arrangement pictured would cost you £13.75 + VAT each week, but we have others which reduce costs down to as little as £5.50 + VAT each week.
Let me know if you'd like to try one and I'll bring a sample along to leave on your desk for a week or so - no obligation.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Special offers on planted containers

As ever, I'm back to tell you about our special offers. If you are concerned about the cost of interior plants, perhaps you aren't aware that you can have one of our stock containers, planted with a standard 1.5M specimen plant, on a 2 year rental, with fortnightly maintenance, for as little as £6.85 each plant per month? If you feel like committing for a little longer, a 3 year rental option is available for £5.90 per month per plant.
I think that's a pretty good deal. It still includes visits by our fully trained staff to water, feed, prune and clean the plants and plant replacements too, should any fail!
The catch? Only that this deal uses our second-hand stock containers (like those pictured), as we are keen to re-use them, so although these are in great condition, we wouldn't be able to offer you the wide range of colours that we normally do.


My plant needs repotting....

Another in my occasional series of tips on indoor plant care.

Maybe it's because I've potted so many (it must be multiple thousands by now) but I'm reluctant to re-pot plants unnecessarily.

One of the misconceptions I encounter frequently when people ask me for advice on their office plants or their houseplants at home, as that 'they need repotting'.

In some people's books this a cure all for a plants ills. I cannot emphasise enough how infrequently repotting is the answer to an ill plant's woes.

It is easy to think why it might help:

1. It gives the plant a dose of fresh soil. True, but the nutrients in fresh compost are used up in a matter of weeks or months. How often were you planning on repotting it?
2. It gives the roots room to grow. Again, true, but I've dug out perfectly healthy houseplants, showing no signs of ill health from being potbound, that have been in the same pot for decades, with roots going round and round the inside of the pot.

Now here's why you should restrain yourself.

1. Plants have delicate hairs all over their roots, which are very easily damaged. Pulling a plant out of its pot is like taking a pair of walking boots off with the laces done up. It's possible, but it won't do your toes much good.

2. Being a little bit potbound will inhibit a plant's growth. Think before you pot on whether you actually want your plant to get a lot bigger. If you don't then prune the plant (most of them love it) and keep the pot.

3. Houseplants will live in tiny pots in comparison to their size. I've seen it many, many times. As long as they get enough water and food, they'll live in terrible soil in a tiny pot (hydroponic plants live in gravel after all).

Here are the only reasons you should repot a plant, in my opinion:
1. It's in a pot with drainage and the roots are escaping.
2. It's easier to get the watering right in a bigger pot.
3. The pot looks too small. Indoor plants are there to make your home or office look nice. If the pot looks out of proportion, change it!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Recession? What recession?

After the expected busy few weeks I was kind of expecting things to slow down a bit, but here at Stewarts we seem to be busier than ever, with what seems like a new customer signing up for our maintenance service every day.

These new customers have come in all across our coverage area (Hampshire, Dorset and parts of surrounding counties); off the top of my head there are ones in Alton and Fareham in Hampshire, Bournemouth, and gratifyingly one just down the road in Wimborne, Dorset, where we are based, with another local one in the pipeline...

Also absolutely buzzing at the moment is our short-term hire service of plants (mainly topiary) for events such as weddings, office opening etc. So much so that I can hardly keep up.

Some recession!


Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Very busy few weeks coming for us

While the nation looks forward to two consecutive four-day weekends, service companies like Stewarts Landscaping have to fit their usual five days' work a week into four, then three, then four days. So apologies if I'm not so thrilled at all the days off...

We manage, but our maintenance service customers may get their plants watered by a different technician, and on a different day up to a week early or late. Sorry about that - but you will get the same number of visits in the end. If any regular customers read this, you're welcome to give us a call and I'll tell you when we're planning on coming in.

Stewarts are justifiably proud of the fact that we offer fortnightly service (while some of our competitors have quietly moved to three-weekly visits). If you are getting quotes for office plants - check the small print and see if the companies you've approached are all offering the same level of service.

Apart from over Christmas (when no one wants us anyway!) we will always come once a fortnight, even if - at busy times like this - we mangle the schedule a bit!


Friday, April 01, 2011

Lime green planters - now why is Jonathan so keen...?

We installed these fantastically garish planters the other day. They're RAL 6018, a bright lime green, and they really livened up the funky web design company's office that Ruth had sold them to. They serve as a useful reminder to the fact that because Stewarts use bespoke GRP planters from a trusted local supplier, we can provide you with pots in any colour you can imagine, and some that you probably don't yet know exist!

The question remains: why am I so drawn toward this particular colour, when I deliver so many different ones? Maybe it's something to do with the colour of my car, which is exactly the same understated, elegant shade of green?

And Stewarts trust me to advise customers on what colour pots to have....


Monday, March 21, 2011

How to prune indoor plants - beginner's guide

When I see office plants that people look after themselves (and often ones looked after by rival companies!) one thing that comes home to me again and again is that people don't prune enough.
So this is my potted guide to pruning indoor plants.

Now I have a bit of a reputation as a secateur-wielding brute, so what I say may not agree with what's in the books, but I'll say it anyway.

Indoor plants fall in to three categories, as below. How do you work out which is which? Simply, look at the way the plant grows. If in doubt cut a bit off and see how it responds.

1. Plants that can be shaped

The prime example of this would be the Ficus family, or any plant that has been pruned to a standard (lollipop) shape. Also the Crassula (Money Tree) can be treated this way. Basically, any plant that re-grows outwards when you cut something off the bdy of the plant.

Pruning has two stages and two purposes. The first is to keep the shape. To do this, simply cut off anything that sticks out where it shouldn't! The only problem is, pruning encourages growth where you make the cut, so this alone can make the problem worse. So the second stage is to occasionally make a 'strategic cut' and remove an entire branch back to well inside the bush. Otherwise all new growth will be on the outside and the middle will gradually become bare.

2. Plants that grow vertical 'canes'

The chief examples being Dracaenas (dragon trees) and Yuccas.

Let's face it, we've all seen one of these which is all wiggly stem with a handful of leaves on the end! As with the plants in the first group, these grow new shoots from where you cut them, so quite simply cut a stem back to where you want it to sprout from. If you look at the picture above/right, you can see the Y-shaped junctions where the plant has been pruned before. This is what you will achieve if you prune a head off. The problem is these types of plant tend to have just a handful of big heads, so you can only really cut one off at a time, so you need to prune progressively, i.e. cut one, wait until it sprouts a few leaves, then cut another when the plant can bear it. The bits you remove, by the way, are viable plants in their own right. Either repot in another container or simply plunge into the soil of the parent plant and gain another stem. Without any special measures you have a better-than-even chance of survival!

3. Plants that grow shots from the soil

This is the tricky one. Examples would mostly be the palms (like the Howea shown here), but also a lot of small houseplants.

The key thing they have in common (you can usually tell by looking at how they've grown) is that they won't regrow from a prune point if you cut a bit off. Instead new shoots appear from the soil, or from the very base of the plant.

The only way you can prune these is to thin them out: cut out leaves to reduce the overall size, selecting leaves which are damaged, or simply going in the wrong direction. In the case of the palms you'll find that the new leaves appear in the middle, so the oldest leaves are usually on the outside of the plant.

Unlike the first two groups this does not promote new growth, and does not really benefit the plant, it's purely to control the size if it's taking over the room.

When to prune?

The other question I often get asked is "When is the right time to prune my plant?"

The simple answer is "When it needs it!" Especially in offices, indoor plants grow all year round, albeit more slowly in the winter, so I recommend pruning little and often. If you need to do something drastic, spring/summer is probably best, to give the plant the best chance of re-sprouting. Follow up with a good feed for even better results.

So in summary: don't be scared. Not pruning at all is much worse than the most amateur pruning, and you'll be amazed how satisfying it is when your plant sprouts healthy new growth as a result of your efforts. Happy chopping!


Thursday, March 17, 2011


If you're still undecided as to whether some lovely plants would look good in your offices and be appreciated by staff and visitors, to help you decide, we have ready-planted containers which we'd be keen to offer you for a few weeks, provided we can find a suitable spot at your premises for them. Whilst they are with you, we come along and maintain them - that way you get an idea of the service we provide if you decide to go ahead and have your own plants. This loan and the service provided by Stewarts during the loan is free of charge and, includes fortnightly visits by our fully trained staff who water, prune, clean and feed the plants.
All you have to do is enjoy them.


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Welcome to our greenhouse

Just thought I'd post a picture of our greenhouse, as it's a lovely peaceful place to work. That's the door to my luxurious office on the left!
As we are expecting our fortnightly plant injection from Holland any time now, this is about as empty as it ever gets. When it's full you often have to push overhanging leaves out of the way to get down the aisles.

Research shows that plants make the workplace a healthier environment, so maybe this is why all the staff in the separate admin office have a cold, and I have resisted it so far.
If you visit the Wimborne Stewarts you can catch a glimpse of this green oasis through a door in the furniture department. If you're a current or potential interior landscaping customer, you're more than welcome to arrange to come in for a look round.

Friday, February 18, 2011

As one van door closes, another opens...

After five and a half happy years, Stewarts Interior Landscaping say goodbye to their trusty delivery Transit van (left) and hello to a brand spanking new one (right). It's more or less the same but with some great toys in the cabin; it's got some stuff my car doesn't!

We need a van this big to carry our six foot high ready-planted pots, our largest ladders, and it will take a fifteen foot Christmas Tree on its side. And we need the 140 bhp version because, erm, we, erm, just do, OK?

We leased the last one but we've bought this one, so I'm lavishing even more TLC on it than before (if that's possible) as it's "mine". Until you've done it, you've no idea how long it takes to polish and wax a van that big. Imagine getting to the middle of the roof! My arms were killing me.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Question: should I feed my plants in the winter?

Answer: Orthodox advice on interior plants (and orthodox advice to staff in our industry) is that all plants should be fed roughly monthly from Easter to October. We use proprietary powder feeds mixed in our watering cans.

However, some plants (particularly Ficuses, like Benjamina) start to suffer from feed deficiency (manifested by losing leaves in the case of Ficuses) by this time in the winter, so it has become our practice to give plants a gentle feed once or twice during the 'off season'.

Some of my staff in fact claim never to stop feeding completely, merely to cut down the strength and frequency employed. One particularly venerable technician has a very complicated schedule involving different brands of plant food in varying quantities throughout the year, which for the life of me I can't fathom out. But hey, it works for him.

So in short, yes, you probably should give the fast growing plants like Ficuses a little feed about now. Of course if you have office plants looked after by Stewarts, we do all this thinking and feeding for you!


Thursday, January 13, 2011


FACT: Indoor plants can reduce fatique, coughs, sore throats and other cold-related illnesses by more than 30%

Contact with plants and nature is a calming tonic for the body and soul. More and more scientific research is proving that being near plants is good for our mental and physical wellbeing.
Plants help reduce stress, make people happier, lower symptoms of discomfort and minor ailments, speed recovery from illness, improve concentration, productivity and creativity, save energy and create clean air in a green and natural way.

FACT: Hospital patients with plants in their room have less pain, anxiety, fatigue, take significantly less pain medication, have lower blood pressure and heart rates, and are happier with their recovery rooms than patients without plants

True? Houseplants spread germs in hospitals? FALSE! Houseplants actually clean the air removing impurities, not adding to them! The humble houseplant could contribute to savings to the NHS.

FACT: Plants make you happy! When houseplants are placed in a room, people's blood pressure becomes significiantly lower, and they find tasks less stressful

FACT: Plants take in CO2 and release oxygen. This is important to your health in general and also to your bone health

FACT: Plant-filled rooms contain 60-60% fewer airborne moulds and bacteria than rooms without plants

FACT: Plants can reduce dust in a room by a fifth and help reduce toxins in the home

True? Dont put houseplants in the bedroom as they use up all the ari! FALSE! Actually the opposite happens as plants naturally refresh the air by absorbing harmful CO2 and emitting oxygen. The best air purifying houseplants are Orchids, Bromeliads and Succulents. These plants conserve their energy during the day and refresh the air predominantly during the night, which means they will purfiy the air in your bedroom while you sleep!

FACT: For people who sit and work at a computer for more than 4 hours per day, a houseplant nearby has been proven to increase productivity.
FACT: Indoor air pollution, often referred to as indoor air quality (IAQ), contributes to 40% of absenteeism
FACT: Houseplants can reduce symptons of Sick Building Syndrome by a quarter, and the results have been found to be long-lasting
FACT: Houseplants can improve the health of office workers and attentiveness increases as much as 70% when plants are put in a classroom.
This information has been provided by Plants for Life, which aims to promote and recognise the real benefits of houseplants in the home, work, environment and to our personal health. Plants for Life is a 'not-for-profit organisation that collates and communicates independent academic research into the health and wellbeing that houseplants bring to our every day lives.

If you would like some more information on this report then please contact us.
There is more information on this report so if you would like a full copy then click on this link and then print