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, February 21, 2013

Everyone has a plant they can't care for

As the man who's meant to tell the rest of the staff how to do their job, I'm meant to have some kind of interior plant infallibility.

I've learned, though, that everyone has a blind spot when it comes to looking after indoor plants.

Even the most experienced technicians (and we've got plenty of them) have one plant they just don't get on with.

15 years ago, when I first started working with office plants, I soon realised mine was the Fatsia Japonica, or Japanese Aralia. I was reminded of this by the presence of a gang of them we ordered in for an event hire in Bournemouth (the sequel to this one).

When I keep them dry, they rapidly sag. So I water them and they get over used to it and then sag. In fairness this is based on my experience years ago, as I have avoided using them in any of my own maintenance contracts ever since I've worked at Stewarts. My staff seem to get on with them fine!

Perhaps it's time I gave them a try again. They do have a very special use as they are equally happy indoors and outdoors in the UK, and don't need a lot of light. So they are the perfect plant for a cold, dark foyer of an office building, or other similar unheated spaces - not many other plants can fulfil this role.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Keep your interior plants warm

So I got into our Wimborne base (at Stewarts Country Garden Centre) a bit early this morning and decided to defrost all the vans that are going out today as they had rock hard ice on the windscreens. After a few lovely February days it's certainly turning cold again.

One of the first things we drum into new recruits (when we ever need any) is the need to protect plants for offices from the cold when transporting them from our base to one of our customers across Dorset and Hampshire, and I thought that while winter is still here I'd go into a bit more detail.

As a general rule, indoor plants need to be kept above 15 Deg C. There are some exceptions to this (Yuccas, Kentia Palms, Fatsia Japonicas, to name a few) but this minimum temperature is a good guide. This is the night time temperature we keep our greenhouse to; you should see our heating bills at this time of year!

We expect our maintenance customers to maintain this minimum temperature too; it's a bit of a struggle not to get some clients to turn off the heating over Christmas, but most behave.

Having said that, indoor plants can be surprisingly resilient to cold if the temperature drops slowly. What really does for a lot of the more sensitive plants (for example the Dracaena group) is sudden bursts of cold air, e.g. being exposed to a cold wind. So we take great efforts to wrap our plants in fleece or plastic when moving them from the van into a building. I learned this lesson the hard way when I was a new technician at Heathrow Airport; I moved a cold tender plant from my van into a terminal pier entrance and killed it stone dead in 30 seconds due to the biting wind. For the domestic customer the advice is the same: don't do what I saw one person doing in London in the depths of winter - carry a tall houseplant in your car with the top sticking out of the open sunroof, whipping back and forth in the wind!

The other oddity is plants that are quite tolerant of low temperatures but don't like a cold draught. These are unsuitable for placing in a warm reception by the cold door, for example. The best example of this would be the Ficus family (Weeping figs, Rubber Plants, etc.).

Finally, how do you tell if your plant is cold damaged? There's several types of symptom depending on the species, and also to a degree how the damage happened (as described above). With Ficuses the tendency is to shed leaves (but that's what they do whenever they are unhappy). Badly damaged Dracaenas and other tender-leaved plants get a characteristic black colour to the leaves (rather than the usual brown when leaves die more naturally. The early sign that you can detect is a 'cellular' look to the leaves on tender plants - if you examine the leaves closely you'll be able to see the criss-cross pattern of the leaves' structure, and the leaf won't feel as 'plumped' as it normally would. This is worth looking out for if you're buying houseplants at this time of year from a shop, as it's an early sign that they've got cold at some stage.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

'Old school' planted bed

Apart from my main job as assistant manager of Stewarts Office Plants, I also have a single regular fortnightly maintenance rota of my own.

The jobs are our northern-most contracts (Swindon, Gillingham, Yeovil), which as I live on the border of Somerset and Dorset make sense for me to cover. Plus our main plant container supplier is located near Bath, so I go there in person to collect new stock.

Anyway, I'm digressing before I've even started. We've acquired a new building in Swindon to look after for an existing major corporate client. Anyone that heard George Osborne name-check Stewarts twice in his speech on banking from one of their offices last week should be able to work out who it is.

The previous contractor had removed all their plants from a 4 metre built-in-bed in the main reception, leaving a gravel filled trench for me to fill. This is what it looked like when planted up, so empty wasn't much less inspiring.

Now, the trend in office architecture these days is not for built-in-beds at all, and if we're refurbishing old ones, it tends to be fairly minimalist and spiky. But the client here requested "as colourful as possible", so I think my arrangement (large photo above) of large Codieum Excellents and Maranta Tricolour underneath fulfils that brief.

Even if it does look more than a little 'old school'.


Friday, February 08, 2013

"Plant": you don't say...

Wow, it's been three months since I've last updated our blog!

This week is the first one since November that I've had a chance to do anything non-urgent - don't be offended by that description, loyal readers.

I've been looking through some old photos that need filing and found this one, taken on my phone at one of our maintenance customers in Fareham, Hampshire.  Not quite a silly office sign but it's close:

For the benefit of clarity, this sign is on the rim of a plant pot. The pot has a plant in (you can just see the stem).

Would anyone need telling this?