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, November 13, 2012

Curvy Pots and 'S' Planters

I am always interested when I look at the stats for this blog and see what search terms have brought people here.

There are a lot of references to different plant species (you should look here) and quite a few references to paint codes - as I keep talking about them.

Also a surprising number of people search for "curvy pots". Actually I say 'surprising' but these are very much the fashionable pot of choice. We supply a lot (they are a swine to deliver, as they are heavy when planted, and due to their shape the centre of gravity is off-centre, so they are easy to tip over in the van.

I also see them in buildings we don't have maintenance contracts with a lot, though our competitors tend to dot them about, whereas I find they look so much better in threes; either all one colour like the first picture, or a group of three related colours like the second. Both these jobs are in Poole.

The pot I see less of, and actually I think I prefer, is the 'S' planter, like the picture below. They are still curved but they are a hell of a lot more stable, and I think they look much better when standing individually than the curvy pots do. Not sure about the colour, though in the flesh it's darker than this. These pots are about to be delivered to a job in Hedge End in Southampton, who are having a mash up of this green, some light blue and ravishing burgundy coloured pots. Pass me my sunglasses!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Silly office signs part 4

Another silly office sign, in the style of the Lion King, seen in the kitchen of a company that we have a maintenance contract with on the outskirts of Basingstoke.

Now that I've put it on the internet, I hope they have run it past Disney's copyright lawyers!

This office is a satellite site of a company with rather more salubrious offices in arguably more desirable locations, like central London and Bournemouth. I don't know if this is a commentary on that? Basingstoke's not that bad!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

No job too small

If you're a small company looking for a very small number of interior plants for your office, and you're thinking that a contract office plant company like us won't be interested in supplying you, think again. We will supply any size of order.

If you think you'd be better off just going to your local DIY store and getting some plants and pots from them, think again. Not only does one of the most famous chains get us to supply their head office plants anyway, you'll struggle to get the right plant, the right coloured pot, properly planted in the correct soil and delivered to your office for less than we can do it for.

Equally, if you'd like your plants looking after for you and think we won't be bothered with a small potential contract like yours, definitely think again!

Maybe I'm biased, but nothing makes an office look less professional than a half-dead plant in reception that everyone is meant to look after, but no one does; whereas you could have a single plant kept in constant good health - maybe in a pot in your corporate colour - as the first thing potential clients see when they walk in the front door.

We have a very high density of contracts in our core area of Dorset and Hampshire, which means we probably have a job just round the corner from you already, meaning our travel costs are low. For example, we have thirteen whole days' work every fortnight in Poole, Bournemouth & Christchurch alone.

We actively encourage small clients to come to us, as we often find that they grow later, whereas some of our competitors have a minimum contract size that rules out many small businesses' needs.

I just did a quick survey of our client base: Out of just shy of four hundred contracts, we have twenty five with three planters, twenty five with only two and thirteen of them have just a single plant display! But we love them all equally, and they all get the same level of service as the clients with several hundred plants. Plus, bear in mind that you can rent them from us for as little as £7.00 a month each, so you won't be breaking the bank.

So if you'd like this few plant displays for your business premises, but want someone else to look after them, get in touch. If you're still not convinced, we will lend you some plant displays, with our full maintenance service, for a couple of months free of charge!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stewarts set world record for biggest Boston Fern...

...ok, so there isn't (to my knowledge) an official  "biggest Boston Fern" world record, and if there is then we haven't tried to win it. But we should do with this monster: the picture may not make it clear: it's about 5 feet high and four feet wide!

My obsession with Boston Ferns is well known, after I ordered a greenhouse full of them last January for a large event hire in Bournemouth.

This one, though, is in one of our maintenance customers's offices, near Havant in Hampshire. I'll admit that we actually inherited this plant we we won the contract from another firm, as this site own their plants (many of our clients rent). However, it seems to be getting bigger every time I see it. The regular technician for this site - Roger -  has a reputation for making plants get big and bushy.

The fern doesn't come without its problems: Boston Ferns tend to shed bits of leaves when you touch them, so maintenance of this one is a messy business. They are also very thirsty, normally not a problem, but this one has pushed its 'crown' (the lump in the middle the leaves come out of) the best part of a foot clear of the edge of the pot, so that prodigious supply of water once a fortnight has to be applied with a great deal of care!


Monday, October 15, 2012

Silly office signs part 3

Continuing my 'silly office signs' series (part 1 and part 2 here); though in fact this one has a very sensible purpose.

One of the crosses we have to bear in the interior landscaping industry is people putting the dregs of their hot drinks in the plant pots. I think some people are doing it in a misguided attempt to help the plant, and some people just don't care.

The tea or coffee itself is not a problem, but the milk and sugar are. As our pots are sealed the milk and sugar just sit in the pot until they decompose, and they become a breeding ground for little insects.

We have tried various humorous signs over the years but to date this is the first time a client (in Fareham in Hampshire) has taken it upon themselves to put one up.

I'm not sure if I get the reference to Bonsai trees, but if it works for the Fareham office, then great!


Tuesday, October 02, 2012

How you've grown!

Now I have a phone with a working camera and the ability to move the pictures to my work PC I am able to take photos when I'm out covering maintenance contracts. These two in particular grabbed me.

The first one has featured in its own blog post before, as the purple pots resolutely refuse to appear anything other than blue in photos.

To the left is what one of these 3m Yuccas looked like when they were installed:

This is what they looked like last time I looked, after two years in situ:

The next one is a children's centre in Andover - this time two 4m high Ficuses.

This is when we installed them in about 2009:

And this (rather iffy) photo was taken this summer:

Just look how much bigger the 'lollipop' heads are!

Once again I have to sing my staff's praises - it's so nice to walk in to one of my contracts and see big (i.e. expensive!) specimens doing so well.


Tuesday, August 07, 2012

"This blog is brought to you by the colour green"

Excuse me channelling Sesame Street briefly; couldn't think of a better title for a post which concerns the fact that the last 12 months seems to have been the year of bright green pots.

Last April I posted a blog about the first of this rash of lime green installations, in which I confessed to having form for liking the colour. Since then we've had a rush of orders for lime green pots.

More interesting to me, as a self-confessed colour code geek - I've admitted my problem, which is the first step on the road to recovery - is that it isn't the same lime green each time. In fact in the last year we've been supplied no less than four very similar colours by our favourite local manufacturer. Can you tell the difference?

First is our most popular - default, if you like - Lime Green: RAL 6018, shown off here in an installation we were particularly proud of in Bournemouth last year. Dunno why the pot on the left looks shorter than the rest; they say the camera never lies. Mine does apparently.

Second, a different client but in the same building in Bournemouth had an old BS4800 colour code: 12E53 (I said I was a paint nerd!). Not a complete coincidence, as the latter client looked at the former's plant pots and said "I want green ones but a bit lighter."

We also have samples of this lovely little curvy desktop trough (lighter still than the above); the colour of which is a match of another pot maker's green, which has no code. This is how far gone I am that that fact really bugs me! The little curvy bowl next to it is RAL 6018 like the first picture.

So far I've sold none of these lovely little troughs (only 50cm long x 20cm high) - who will be first - and I've only sold one curvy bowl (20 x 20cm). Shame, because they are lovely, and like all our GRP planters they are very high quality. The hard bit with GRP (i.e. fibreglass) is getting these really sharp corners right; when I look at stuff by some of the manufacturers I don't use, I can see the difference.

Finally, and most recently, we supplied these even lighter green pots to a community centre in Verwood, Dorset. This is a copy of a paint manufacturer's (who may or may not advertise themselves with a sheepdog...) colour called 'Lime Zest' which was on several feature walls in the building.

Because they are made to order each time, the supplier of Stewarts' pots can match any colour you wish. Whether it's the colour on your walls or the corporate colour in your logos, we can do it. Yes I know: I said this in the post above, but a lot of our competitors tend to favour a range of pots that come in a very limited range of colours - we don't. We can do metallic, BS, RAL and Pantone colours (on which note, if anyone knows where I can get a Pantone colour chart that doesn't cost the earth, do let me know!), and any other colour you can supply us with a picture or sample of. There really is no limit.

So which of these greens do you prefer, dear reader? Why not email me and tell me? Or send me a picture of your office and ask me what colour pots I'd recommend.


Thursday, August 02, 2012

A big project we completed recently

I have been meaning to blog about this large installation that we did in April since, erm, April, but that's when our busy period began. Hence the sudden rash of posts now we've quietened down again (in the so-called busy Olympic fortnight...).

An existing client in Bournemouth, whom we've had the interior and exterior maintenance contract with since the building opened about twenty years ago, asked us to completely refurbish/replace the plants that they had. Replacing all the specimen pots was easy, though planting them all up at once led to a very crowded greenhouse as the picture shows. 
What made this job complicated was the eight large 'quad' beds in the atrium. These are a complex job to maintain as they are on the first and third floors above reception, the top floor being 60 feet up with no safety rail. Therefore this is one of the jobs which we use safety harnesses and fall arresters for, as I previously talked about. But if maintenance is a challenge, completely replanting all eight was even worse. As a result, the whole install took a whopping 14 man days!

The picture above shows a detail of the planting we went for - very simple arrangement of massed Aglaonemas with a group of Schefflera Amatas in the corner. To give you an idea of the logistics, these beds consumed 40 bags of compost just to freshen the soil up, 480 of the Aglaonemas and 24 of the Scheffleras, all of which had to come up on trolleys in a lift.

Then the picture to the right shows the view looking down from the top level to the reception below. I really don't like heights so you can imagine how much I enjoyed this. 
The rest of the install was quite straightforward. Most of the pots were these Cylinders - very popular at the moment - in the company's corporate blue. This is a good time to remind my readers that as we mainly use locally-sourced hand made pots, we can supply any BS, RAL or Pantone colour you want us to, in fact we can match any colour you want. If you order 5+ pots this costs no more than any other normal colour.    
Incidentally this installation is where the ever cheerful Derek was eating his lunch when I snapped his farewell picture I posted earlier.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Another silly office sign...

Following on from the delightfully batty "what do we do with this wall?" sign that I saw this spring in a delightfully batty office, I've spotted another bizarre office sign, but this time in a quiet legal office in Winchester.

One can only speculate on what incident led to this sign being installed, and also what the patent application looks like.

If I see any more batty signs while doing maintenance or deliveries, I'll post them here.

Before I had a camera phone, I did once see a very elaborate illustrated notice instructing people on the use of the dishwasher, delivered in the style of the Emperor from 'Return of the Jedi', ending "Now witness the power of a fully armed and operational dishwasher!". No prize for guessing that was an IT office...


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

House plant advice forum

I was looking at the statistics for this blog last night  - having found I had the ability to - and was quite interested by the stats on how people had come to be here. Most had clicked through from Google unsurprisingly, but I didn't realise I could see what search terms they had used.

It's clear that many of you have come here looking for advice on houseplants, though very few have ended up clicking my email link at the bottom and asking for it. You probably think that as I have a business to help run that I won't reply, but I'd give it my best shot.

However, I feel I ought to link to a houseplants discussion forum for you to go to.

Try this one

I've also placed a link to it on the right so it'll always be there when you need it.

It's a US based forum, so talks about some products we don't have here, but they seem to be very good at ID'ing plants and there are some very knowledgeable posters on there. I am posting as StewartsJon to try and offer a bit of experience-based advice, as some learned advice I read on houseplants bears little relation to what I find happens in reality.

What made me decide to find a houseplants forum after all these years? Well, I seem to have become the semi-official houseplants expert on the Pistonheads car forum and I got a taste for it!


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Enjoy the hot weather while it lasts

Wow, it's 32 deg C in my office, and likely to be hotter tomorrow.

How quickly we British start to moan about the weather when it's what we've wanted for months! Though today I've been calling in on maintenance service customers with plants in an indoor swimming pool and a real sun trap of a roof garden so I've had my fill of it. Particular sympathy though for one of my staff who looks after the plants in a leisure centre in Bournemouth, ands spends five hours under glass by a 29 deg C swimming pool. She wears a kind of ice waistcoat thing that she puts in the freezer overnight beforehand. The things my staff do for their customers!

Anyway, I digress. I took this photo from Bournemouth Pier at the end of April, while walking up to our client at the end of the pier. Yes, the same client that we did a very challenging install for in August 2008.

This time we were delivering two artificial palm trees so big that they had to be assembled in situ down there; as you can tell - just like the last time - it was a bit breezy! That's a couple hundred feet's width of foam; look at the block of flats on the left background for scale.

I imagine the beach looks a little different today...  If anyone is sitting and melting in their offices, just think what it has been like recently.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Feature plant: Yucca Elmila

My favourite plant this week is this subtly variegated Yucca called Yucca Elmila.

Here's picture of one of the very few we have in a maintenance contract. This one's in Bournemouth.

Variegated Yuccas have previously been sporadically available - there used to be one with a yellow leaf rim called Yucca Puck - but usually just as I start promising them to potential clients they disappear off the market.

However, small (1.1m) branched versions of Yucca Elmila seem to be constantly available from Holland at present and not wildly expensive (£40.00 + VAT retail).

As I said, it's a very subtle variegation; just a slightly silvery streak up the middle, but I tend to prefer that to really in-your-face two-tone plants. See below for a close up shot.

What's more, the few plants we have put in have performed very well, so Elmila can be used wherever a normal Yucca can be: in other words a sunny spot, and temperature is not a factor. So these make an ideal conservatory plant.

The problem I have with new/rare plants is getting a momentum behind them. In other words I don't tend to supply them to clients if I don't have pictures of previous ones to show them. Likewise my maintenance technicians don't tend to order them in for use on their contracts if they don't know them. So last week I bought the one I took the close up of just to try and seed some interest in the species.

But now it's here I want to keep it!


Friday, July 06, 2012

Farewell to Derek

Apologies that there have been no new blog posts for so long. Since April we have been extremely busy, and such activities as updating the blog sadly take a back seat.

In May we reluctantly bid farewell to one of our technicians: Derek, who on the occasion of his 65th birthday was out of the door like a rabbit out of a trap, after ten years' service.

Those of our customers who were lucky enough to have him as an allotted technician will know that despite appearing to be the grumpiest sod on the planet (as this picture of him 'enjoying' a big lunch in one of our client's canteens shows), he was actually one of the funniest people I've ever met and really a bit of an old softie. By the time he left us I found almost everything he said and did funny.

He wasn't the most outstanding technician I have had working for me, but he was the archetypal 'safe pair of hands'; he could be left to get on with it and you knew it would get done, so gradually he ended up looking after our most prestigious maintenance contracts in the Bournemouth area. 

He was very popular with the clients as well. I walked in to one of his contracts once and the receptionist asked where he was. When I explained that I was only covering for him, she replied "Oh good, I wouldn't want to lose Derek, (voice drops an octave) he's very good with his hands..." To this day I've wondered exactly what she meant.

But it's not all bad news. We have started meeting up with him after work about once a month to keep in touch, so he can laugh at how busy/tired we all are, and we can gasp enviously at what an enjoyable retirement he is having.


Monday, April 16, 2012

What do we do with this wall?

Just did an installation for a marketing company in Bournemouth that have moved offices.

Their entire premises has been decorated in a very modern, funky style as you might imagine.

It includes such quirks as a chandelier made of old bottles and an open plan meeting area kitted out to look like a garden, complete with astroturf, picnic tables and a washing line. And of course some plants from Stewarts. We also planted these bright orange curvy planters in reception.

Anyway, you get the idea of the kind of place we're talking about. So I found this sign (on about the only blank wall in the building that hadn't been made quirky somehow) quite amusing:

Any ideas?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How to empty an old trough

Another in my occasional series of 'how to' guides to looking after interior plants.

There are a number of ways to remove stubbornly rooted plants from an old container.

A new method - as trialled by one of my staff today - is to drop it out of the side door of a Transit van, then simply sweep the compost and plants up where they land.

Not the neatest way, but you must admit it possesses a certain panache.

The nameless staff member was obviously not that thrilled by the results of her experiment, as she was trying to sweep up the evidence when I arrived on the scene.

Luckily, the contents were definitely due for disposal, having come from a new maintenance contract where we have just replaced a lot of the planting.

Otherwise I wouldn't have been quite so amused!


Monday, March 26, 2012

Another challenging installation

I think the last challenging install I blogged was palms bolted to the end of Bournemouth Pier, which incidentally are still going strong. This time we were at a private house in Branksome installing a very big plant. But this was a cracker:

1. The photo shrinks it: that's 3m from soil to tip, and as heavy as that implies. Incidentally, it was a lovely example of the Dracaena Song of Jamaica - one of my favourite large specimen plants.

2. The pot is about 1.8m high.

3. The pot (the client's own) was not watertight, which is kind of a must indoors.

4. The approach is from the left of the photo with a relatively low ceiling.

5. Once in the pot we'd never get the rootball out of the growing pot, but if we removed it first we wouldn't have anything to hold on to.

So.... we carried the plant in top-first then some of us carried the head up the stairs while the rest of us carried the rootball in an old bulk bag and lifted it on to the top of the pot. So the plant is now diagonal across the banister. We then whipped the bulk bag off (like a waiter removing the tablecloth without knocking over the glasses) and plopped the plant in the hole.

Oh, and I'd previously cut a double layer of pond liner to size so that when the plant plopped, it formed a waterproof layer round itself.

Re-reading that makes it sound easy. Holding a 50kg plant vertically and 1.8m off the ground while someone pulls a bag out from under it is no mean feat. You name it, Stewarts can install it!


Monday, March 05, 2012

Even more gorgeous spring hanging baskets

You don't have to be the most attentive student of our blog to know I posted a picture of some spring hanging baskets in the back of my van less than three weeks ago.

These however are even nicer, and deserved a post of their own.

They are destined, I fear, for a rather unlovely office block in Portsmouth, however, it can't fail to be that bit lovelier with these adorning the front.

If you check our website's 'latest news' section you'll see an article about hanging baskets. The picture on there is of the building where they are going. When that was taken they had all-pansy baskets which at the time I thought couldn't be bettered. Now I'm not so sure! The test will be whether these primrose-heavy baskets go the distance until the end of May. We'll see...

Thursday, March 01, 2012

How do we make our plants so shiny?

One of the questions my technicians get asked frequently when out and about doing maintenance is how we make our plants so shiny. I am happy to explain, though you may not like the answer if you were thinking of buying some!

We use a product called Pixie Sparkle. No, I'm not joking. Here's a pic:

We dilute this down to almost homoeopathic levels (more than the instructions say) and spray it on in the little spray bottles you see us carrying. It doesn't have a lot of effect the first time, but repeated use gives the plant a natural sheen. The alternative is aerosol leaf shine which (in my opinion) imparts an unnatural 'wet look' shine to the foliage, and can damage the leaves if not used carefully.

You can buy it online from a few places. Here's one place.

But look at the price: now you know why we dilute it so much!

Ahem... what I meant to say is, when you get your plants maintained by Stewarts, no expense is spared!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

3 little bonsai Ficus Ginseng in a trough

Sometimes I even surprise myself with the funky looking plant displays I supply to clients.
This little (it's only 50cm long) trough was designed for a car showroom in Christchurch who wanted something long and low to sit on their customer handover coffee table.
As they already have a number of bonsai Ficus Ginseng (very similar looking to the ones in another showroom I blogged about recently) around the place, I thought I'd continue the theme with this trough.
It's like an avenue in trees in miniature! I also rather like the little gnarled trunks. They already get my vote as I have two of these exact trees in bowls from the same Cubis pot range (but in metallic lipstick red) in my living room at home.
What's more (and the client won't like me sharing this) it's really good value. We have a large stock of 2nd hand ones of these 'Cubis' cabinet troughs so I am able to sell these outright for £40 + VAT, or rent them (with our maintenance service included) for as little as £6.50 +VAT per month. Bargain!
If you'd like one, get in touch.

Friday, February 17, 2012

My lovely Boston Ferns (now on sale in the shop!)

I've blogged about my massive order of plants in January which were for a short hire.

The Boston Ferns are becoming a bit of a fixture in the greenhouse; I haven't quite got to the stage of trying to keep them, but it'll come.

But what I have noticed is that they seem to have got accustomed to their environment (or maybe it's the lengthening daylight hours?) and have all started putting out vivid green new growth, straight upwards. En masse it's a delightful sight, as this picture shows.

On a related note, we recently took over a large contract in Havant. When we take over the maintenance on existing office plants we often find things have been done a little differently; in this case one of the plants was the largest Boston Fern I've ever seen indoors. It must be 1m across and hangs about 75cm down from the top of the tall pot it's in. Can anyone beat that? If so, tell me!

Edit to add that a selection of these are now on sale on the Wimborne branch of Stewarts Garden Centre as a special offer.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Spring Hanging Baskets

Look at these lovely spring hanging baskets. In the rather unlovely surroundings of the back of my van after I'd picked them up from our hanging basket supplier a mile down the road towards Wimborne.

While most people change their hanging baskets in May/June and September/October, we have a number of customers that have an extra spring set in late February/early March, or have them instead of the winter ones, as they can start to look a bit tired by the spring.

They are planted much the same as winter baskets but with more flowering/bulbs and less herbs.

These ones were meade to order for a health club in Berkshire and were £24 + VAT each -including delivery and installation. Bargain!

Contact me if you want something similar.


Friday, January 20, 2012

2nd hand pots: it's an ill wind...

...that blows no one any good. Read on...

As explained in detail elsewhere on our website, we have a large stock of second hand plant containers, as a by-product of the fact that many of our customers rent their pots from us, so we get the pots back if the rental deal ends or is renewed with new pots.

In a recent post I showed you our pot stock in its lovely tidy new home.

Sometimes we get plants in pots back from a contract in such good condition (often better than new if the plants have developed nicely) that we can't bear to dispose of them, and we hold on to them in the hope that a new owner will be found for them as they are.

Sadly, a chain of car dealers we look after went out of business recently and we got two sets of magnificent plants back, some which had only recently been installed, some though were over five years old. Car showrooms are very light, so plants tend to do very well in them (with our maintenance, anyway!).

I am happy to report that we have found homes for almost all of them, including the whole set of nearly new displays - like the one illustrated - which have not only gone back in to a car dealer, but in my opinion a much nicer one - much more my kind of cars. Meanwhile, the new clients benefit from much better rental terms than they would have done with brand new plants and pots.

It also has to be said that we have installed so many of these bonsai Ficus Ginsengs in car showrooms that it's verging on a Stewarts cliche (or a 'house style', at the very least). But you must admit a bonsai tree in a nice plain tall pot like this just looks right in this kind of location.

Now a picture of what all those plants were for

Well, half of it anyway - the other half being beyond the stairs.

This is what the huge quantity of plants in my previous post were obtained for: ~60ft of stage front to be turned into a mass of greenery for a dance championship in Bournemouth.

I can't take all the credit: my floristry-trained boss Rebecca took over the laying out, and I happily let her. Though I did choose the plant species - how many different ones can the indoor plant fans spot in this pic? I believe there's 18.

As I mentioned, we also provided all the fresh flowers.

As of a couple of hours ago, all these plants (400 small plants and 60 specimens) are back in my greenhouse, which is now rather full.

Oh, and it's our quarterly stocktake at the end of the month, so by filling my greenhouse to this extent, I've rather created a rod for my own back, haven't I?

So... if anyone wants a lot of indoor plants in hurry, I'm your man! Any offer considered!


Friday, January 13, 2012

I got a bit carried away ordering plants

Every other Monday I send an email to our Dutch plant supplier telling them what I want delivering later that week. Usually I get between three and six trolleys of plants but this week I ordered eight trolleys packed to the top with lovely bushy plants.

So many plants that we've completely run out of bench space for them. The reason for this extravagance? Next week we are providing a huge (and very lush) temporary display in front of the stage at an event at a conference centre in Bournemouth. 60 feet of plants 5 foot deep takes a lot of stock. All the plants you can see here are for this job.

We are also supplying the fresh flowers for the same event.

I haven't quite worked out what I'll do with them all afterwards; most will get fed into the stock for replacements as part of our maintenance service but some are plants we rarely use, so I'm thinking of holding a Stewarts Interior Landscaping 'garage sale' in the early spring. Watch this space....