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.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Good things come to those who wait

As the picture above shows, we get some great, modern looking planters delivered at Stewarts, and as I've said before, because they are hand made from scratch you can have any colour you want - if you know the paint code, we can match it. We can even order pots to match a colour sample you supply.

We also order all our stock fresh from Holland as it is required - we hold very little stock at one time. Normally, anyway...

The only negative side to this is that our lead time for new orders is around four weeks from order to delivery. At busy times like Christmas Tree delivery time, it can be longer. Increasingly we have clients ringing up three days before they want the plants in place ("but we need them for our opening night...") and wondering why we can't do it.

Our way of getting round this - if it's an issue - is to lend new clients a few plant displays to keep them going until the 'real' planters turn up. But we still like to remind potential clients that the best things in life are worth waiting for.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

What houseplant should I put here?

When we are asked to go and look after people's sick plants that they have sourced themselves, one of the frequent reasons why the plants are sick is that they are completely wrong for the area.

As anyone that has been supplied with new plants by me will know, I can be extremely awkward about letting people have the plant they want. Unfortunately, everyone wants something colourful, preferably flowering, but this is rarely appropriate. This is know as "flowering cactus" syndrome, after a famous sales call I did to a Southampton Tex-Mex restaurant that, despite being pitch-dark and very warm insisted that I sell them flowering cacti. I flatly refused, and didn't get the job as a result. Flowering cacti would have been a mushy mess in a few months at the most.

Clients also have some fairly difficult briefs to fulfil - I recall a client that wanted "slender but bushy" plants  - but that's another story.

When choosing plants without expert advice in a garden centre it doesn't help that the plant labels tend to all say the same thing, namely:

"Plenty of light but avoid direct sunlight, never allow the compost to dry out completely".

So here's my little guide to what plants to put where, based on the two most important criteria: light and temperature.

Yucca Elmila
Cold and light

By which I mean cold some of the time, maybe hot at others, so think conservatories, windowed porches etc.

The classic choice here is the Yucca, either the straight 2/3 stem ones you see a lot or the lovely branched type shown here.

You can also try Nolina Recurveata, or as a small plant Chamaedorea (Parlour Palm) will do ok.

Cold and dark
Kentia palm

There's one plant that makes our profession possible: the Kentia Palm. This will survive low light and pretty low temperatures with reasonable ease. That's why we use them so much.

If you're talking dark and completely unheated, this is where you want to look at shade-tolerant plants that are also outdoor plants in the UK. The two that come to mind are Aucuba Japonica and Fatsia Japonica. Both will happily live in unheated indoor spaces. Though as I kill Fatsias, I'm a fine one to talk.

Sansevieria Laurentii 
Hot and dark

This is the worst combination, surprisingly, but it describes a lot of modern office buildings' environment.

Mother-in-Law's Tongues (Sansevieria) will cope with this well if you keep them nice and dry.

Also most of the darker-leaved Dracaenas (Dragon Trees) will cope pretty well.

 Hot and light

The world is your oyster! This is generally the best combination and all the plants above would do
Ficus Amstel Gold
fine here if adequately watered. However - as I'm often reminding my staff - if you can use a high light plant do so, as you can't use it somewhere else.

The number one choice has to be the Ficus family - with the exception of the Rubber Plant, all the Ficuses need medium to high light, and while they can survive lower temperatures than some houseplants, they don't like cold draughts.

If anyone wants more information, I have a more extensive table of plant suitability that I use for staff training purposes, contact me at the email address below and I'll send one to you.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Forklift safety at Stewarts

As I've blogged before, we take safety very seriously at Stewarts. Which makes this completely un-posed picture of Lauren from Goods In operating the forklift all the more troubling.

Suffice to say, all is not quite what it seems...

Thursday, October 03, 2013

How to trim tips off dead leaves

We often get asked about brown tips on dead leaves: why they occur and whether/how to remove them.

The answer to the first bit of the question is "lots of reasons". Dry air, too much water, low light, etc.

Once you've been doing maintenance for as long as most of my staff, you can tell by the particular nature of the tip a lot of the time, but the upshot is that tips are ugly and need to come off.

As far as I am aware they don't do the plant any harm so you are cutting them off for aesthetic reasons (don't forget, the plant is there to make your home or office look nice). There is an argument that cutting the leaves accelerates the tip die back, but that's above my pay-grade. They are ugly and they have to go.

Now, the plant we have here is an ex-rental Dracaena Massangeana that I was hoping might find a new home somewhere, but as you can see it's developed a nasty attack of Red Spider Mite, so has to go to the "Great Greenhouse in the Sky". So it was a good plant for me to demonstrate this on.

The leaf on the left shows how not to do it (and how staff at some other firms do it!). At Stewarts we teach our new staff on day one to cut dead tips off in one long diagonal stroke, as in the example in the picture below. The leaf cut in this image runs all the way from front right to back left. Over a few weeks the cut edge may go a bit brown but it's easy to trim that little bit off. It looks much more visually appealing than the "french manicure" style on the right.

Three final tips (sorry):

1. Make sure your scissors/secateurs are very sharp. Not only will you achieve a better cut but the leaf will be less likely to turn brown again.

2. You might think it would look more convincing to cut the leaf symmetrically from both sides to a central tip but it really doesn't. You just end up making the point too blunt however hard you try, and the leaf doesn't 'hang' right.

3. If you cut too much off the leaf it will look too short and stubby, so just cut the whole thing off; it'll grow more!

Happy trimming.