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.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Does compost matter?

Occasionally I slip a bit of horticultural advice into this blog. Even though we make our money by providing maintenance to customers' indoor plants.

On this occasion I don't know the answer to the question: does the choice of compost you plant an indoor plant in really matter? My suspicion is it matters less than some people think...

The houseplant advice forum I've linked to on the right certainly thinks it matters. Every other "my plant is dying" thread seems to include someone making very precise compost formula recommendations.

We have change compost supplier several times in my thirteen year tenure at Stewarts, The main reason has been to find one that successfully eradicates the need to use chemicals to prevent bugs living in the soil. The consistency of the different types has varied greatly, from light and peaty to heavy and soily. We tend to prefer the former, as we have to lift it all day.

One important facet that is often mentioned for houseplant compost is good drainage properties, and this is usually used to justify adding grit to the mix. While I agree that with most houseplants good drainage is a must, I suspect this is less important in commercial applications as we invariably use sealed planters, so have to water with great care in any case.

I was always told that the nutrients in compost are exhausted after three months at most, so again this can't be a reason to favour one type of compost.

Finally, if growing media choice is so important, why is it perfectly possible (in fact some would argue preferable - that's another can of worms entirely) to grow houseplants hydroponically, i.e. in no soil at all? Technically speaking, the roots in hydro planters adapt to their position either above or below water, and empirically I've found that roots in soil adapt to how wet they are habitually kept, which again makes me ask: does it really matter what they are grown in?

Answers by email please!


Thursday, December 18, 2014

This is why we like small contracts

A couple of years ago, I wrote an entry about how we didn't consider any contract too small. There's a lot more detail on why in that post.

Some of our competitors will turn potential business away below a certain value - we won't. Anyone that wants contract container planting is welcome.

One reason I didn't give at the time is that small contracts can only change size in one direction (up!), and this is occasionally shown to be the case.

This week I supplied six interior planted containers to a company near Bournemouth Airport. For many years they had been renting just one from us, so a sevenfold increase! Then today I added another two pots to the display shown above (these pots come from the same great local supplier as the ones I raved about here. So, again having had only one display in their waiting room with us for the last decade, this Fareham dentist decided to order the trough above plus another specimen planter, then decided to throw caution to the wind and order another two, to make the rather pleasing arrangement shown below. In other words, a fivefold increase.

As I said, some of our competitors would have turned their noses up at these contracts in the first place but not us, and the long game worked!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas is over for another year

Yes, I know it's not Christmas for a week and a bit, but for Stewarts Interior Landscaping it's over. On Monday we delivered the last of 72 Christmas trees, the vast majority of them fully decorated.

Here is Debra - who is our Christmas mastermind - standing by the biggest one, an approximately 20 foot high live Spruce delivered to a large office near Bournemouth.

Most of our trees are 6-7ft high and are delivered ready-decorated. This means we can squeeze more orders into the crucial busy period between the last days of November and about December 10. Our normal coverage area for Christmas trees is Dorset, Hampshire and south Wiltshire.

We had a real run on orders for artificial trees (which I prefer) and ended up more or less running out of stock; we also ran out of delivery slots very quickly so had to turn quite a few late orders down, even people who'd previously had one from us.

The lesson here folks is get your order in early - we start seriously taking bookings in September. You can contact us in the normal way, or email me at the link below and I'll pass the message on.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Featured plant: Sansevieria Mikado

As promised I'm trying to include a featured plant from time to time in this blog; if nothing else it'll stop me waffling on about bizarre coloured plant pots the whole time.

After a quiet period of posting caused by a very busy season delivering Christmas trees (separate post to follow),  I'd like to nominate another favourite plant of mine, and a fairly rare one: Sansevieria Mikado.

Those of you that recognise Latin names will know this to be a Mother-in-Law's Tongue. The most familiar one is Sansevieria Laurentii, which has variegated flat leaves.

There is also a cylindrical-leaved variety, called S. Cilindrica. These latter ones are good in theory, having a fan of stiff leaves like a hand with its fingers spread out, but in practice the new growth tends to pop up all over the pot and the elegant look doesn't last long.

S. Mikado, featured here, is an absolute beauty though. The leaves (if you can call them that) go straight up, and the new growth continues in that pattern. They don't come very big, so they are strictly a bowl and trough plant.

I often have clients wanting something in cabinet-top troughs that looks like a grass, and I've yet to find a reliable grass-like plant indoors so tend to steer them towards these. I was particularly pleased with the install in the top photo, which was to a technology office in Chilworth, near Southampton.

The pots are Pantone 201C - their corporate colour - oh no, there I go again!


Friday, October 24, 2014

Lovely modern planters

Far be it from me to blow my own trumpet, but I'm really rather proud of this new contract.

We do a lot of installs, and most of them aren't this photogenic. A combo of a client with lots of room wanting ultra-modern plant displays, and good natural light (which means I can use lovely plants and take lovely photos).

So here we have a row of five 1200mm high S-Planters with 1m high bonsai Ficus Ginseng in them, complemented by the little curvy bowl with a red Guzmania in. All in the incredbly vibrant scarlet red RAL 3020.

There were other planters on site, including these Dracaena Surculosas (one of my favourite plants!) in the same pots but in the unmissable RAL 6018 green (one of my favourite pot colours!).

Even better, these displays can be clearly seen from outside the building, so they are a great advert for Stewarts Office Plants.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Anthurium Rainbow Champion

I'm always on the look out for unusual house plant species but occasionally my staff alert me to something new and interesting. In this case credit goes to Michelle.

Here we have Anthurium "Rainbow Champion".

Anthuriums usually have plain green foliage and red, white or pink flowers, but crucially all the same colour on each plant. Typical ones can be seen in this old post.

Rainbow Champion has darker foliage in various shades from green to deep crimson brown.

In addition, the flowers seem to start white and fade to red as they age. Or it could be the other way round! So the whole effect is quite different from the usual Anthurium, and actually rather appropriately autumnal.

Anyway, if you are a Stewarts maintenance customer, you may see some soon, or if you're not, get in touch if you want one and you're in our coverage area.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Meet the author

I was looking for a picture in our enormous photo archive on our server (the photo gallery on the website is tiny by comparison) and I found a rare picture. One of me!

Rare in two ways:
1. I tend to be in charge of the camera, as we generally take photos of every installation we do. So pics of me tend to be rare.
2. I'm doing some actual work!

I have appeared on this blog back in 2007. But I thought that, having stumbled on this picture, I'd post it so people on the internet can point and laugh.

My reason for searching the archive was to find a photo of Pantone 382C pots for a client. We label all our photos diligently by plant species, pot type and colour, to enable searches like this

These green pots are 382C (as you know, we love green pots), carefully chosen to match this Bridgwater client's logo, as you can see from their sign in the top right of the photograph. It's a really useful result of our pots being hand-made to order. If you know what the colour code of your company's logo is, we can match it.


Thursday, October 02, 2014

Featured plant: Chamaedorea Metallica

OK, so I'm going to try something new in my constant battle to keep this blog updated: 'featured plant' posts.

I was going to call it 'plant of the month' but let's see how I go at keeping it up.

This month's special - hot off the lorry from Holland - is the Chamaedorea Metallica.

The common Chamaedorea is the C. Elegans, otherwise known as the Parlour Palm.

This looks really nothing like it, having broad, flat leaves with a distinct metallic sheen to them, hence the name.

My reason for ordering some in is that they have a reputation for toughness, and I have a client with a very difficult brief to fulfil, namely a sometimes very cold, sometimes hot, sunny indoor walkway.

I've said before that there is a right plant for each location. But the obvious choice for high light and extremes of temperature is the Yucca, which wouldn't fit in the troughs we are using in this site, especially as the plants are sited near handrails, and Yuccas' leaves are quite sharp. So my Dutch grower suggested these...

The job in question is still in the pipeline, but I've taken the opportunity to get some C. Metallicas in, so my team can try them out and see what their performance is like.


This seems such a shame

Excuse the dodgy phone pic...

As I've posted before, I sometimes find it a wrench to get rid of seasonal planting when it's time for the new set.

As it was October 1st yesterday it's time for the winter planting, but because we've had such good weather some of our contracts (like this hotel in Bournemouth) still look fantastic.

But out it must come, and be replaced with tiny little Pansies, Ivy and Polyanthus.

This hotel followed my advice and has three seasonal changes a year, rather than just two. I find the winter stuff struggles to make it all the way from October to late May so a refresh in late winter makes it look better for spring.

Still, there's something deeply odd about planting winter flowers when it's 20 deg C.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Plant care advice: varying your watering throughout the year

Apologies for the wordy post that follows: it's a no-brainer that your indoor plants will drink more in the summer than in the winter.

I say that but it's amazing how many clients who buy plants from us on a supply only basis go on to harm them by incorrectly watering them.

On delivery they will have asked me, "how much do I water this then?"

I will have replied, "the most important thing to do is test the moisture of the soil every time you water. If it's still wet don't water it. You'll also find it will use different amounts of water through the year. But at this time of year I'd say about half a can full of water a week."

What they will have heard is, "Blah blah blah blah half a can full of water a week."

Apart from the money, this is why we like to look after the plants we sell ourselves.

Anyway, I digress. The difference between summer and winter water consumption varies a lot, by as much as a factor of four I'd estimate. It's due to a number of factors, one of which I'll come back to below. Most important are hours and intensity of light, and temperature.

Light can be hard to judge. Some plants in a position away from a window in a dark room will actually get more light in the winter than the summer if the low position of the sun in winter gets to them.

Also very important is the size of container that the plant is in. When training new staff, I teach them to assess the water needs of the plant and the pot separately. Think about it: a pot of soil with no plant in on a sunny windowsill would dry out quite rapidly without a plant in, so you have to add enough water to account for that drying out then think about the plant's needs.

But the factor that really made me think about posting this is the effect of central heating. Most inexperienced technicians get caught out by a sudden upswing in the amount of water a plant needs at this time of year; it happened to me in the late nineties when I was a new technician at Heathrow Airport. Even though the building might be on thermostatic control all year, the same temperature achieved by heating produces drier air than that achieved by it being warm weather. Consequently, when the heating starts to kick in, the plants get thirstier.

This also highlights the big difference between how much office plants and house plants drink. Offices tend to be at a constant temperature, whereas houses tend to get cold in between times that the heating's on (I know mine does anyway!). The effect of this is that plants at home tend to drink a lot less.

Again, apologies that this post has got a bit wordy; I spend a lot of time thinking about stuff like this and I have to get it off my chest somewhere!


Friday, September 26, 2014

Curvy pot that reminds me of...

So I was at our trusty glass fibre container suppliers the other day, where they have various old pots scattered about for use as resprays (we make no secret of that fact that we can do you a good deal on second-hand plant pots if you are budget conscious).

Many of these pots come from other companies, including this orange monstrosity, which I now know to be called a 'Swan', having perused the relevant supplier catalogue.

Now here at Stewarts, we love our Curvy and S-shaped pots. But in my opinion, this is the ugliest plant pot I have ever seen. However it takes all sorts, and I'm happy to hear from people who like it telling me I'm wrong.

It doesn't remind me of a swan at all. In fact I spent the journey back from Somerset mulling over what exactly it did remind me of, before it came to me in a flash: it's a Triffid!

Now all it needs is a poisonous spike to pop out of the top and sting passers by and we have the finished product. I can see that going down very well in some of our shopping centre contracts.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Time to order your Christmas tree

Depressing thought though it might be, now is the time to order your office's Christmas tree from Stewarts.

We only have a limited capacity and stock, so it's advisable to get your order in early, particularly if you have a specific delivery week in mind.

You can order live or artificial, decorated or undecorated, decorations in your choice of colours, and all picked up from your office between New Year and Twelfth Night.

If you want to be my friend, order an artificial one. I much prefer them, apart from anything else I think the finished product (like this one from last year) looks much better when installed.

To request a price list call the office on 01202 882 463 or use the contact page on the website.

Or even just email me a the link below and I'll pass the message to Debra, our tame elf.


Good PR or Jonathan doing what he enjoys?

As loyal readers will be aware, it's not that long ago that our delivery van was re-liveried in the new Stewarts corporate style. 

This week - as occasionally happens as my workload is very erratic - I'm at a bit of a loose end, so I thought I should devote a whole day to giving the Transit a really good clean. The first experience of Stewarts Interior Landscaping for a new client will be us driving up to your door in our vehicle to deliver and install your plant displays, so it helps to make a good impression.  

That's my excuse anyway. Another theory is that I just like washing vans.

The upshot of this is a van as shiny as the one shown. Anyone who has polished and waxed their car will know it's quite hard work and time consuming, now try doing the roof of a van this big from a stepladder!

Friday, September 05, 2014

Winter is here!

Excuse the dramatic headline; winter isn't here really. It would be a tough case to make as it's 24 deg C today.

However it is time to order winter hanging baskets. Summer baskets only last until the first frost, winter ones are put in at the start of October, and last until either late February (if you have spring baskets) or late May.

If you want an order form, get in touch with us using the contact page, or email me directly using the link below.


Roger tests our new platform ladder

In a previous post about five months ago, I talked about our big new platform ladder.

Because we've had such a busy summer I haven't been able to go through pictures I've taken and meant to use, but having had a safety training course this week I was reminded that I had this picture of Roger, one of our maintenance technicians, testing it out.

In the previous post, despite my protestation that it is a higher ladder, it doesn't look it, and this was Roger's opinion. So here he is seeing just how high he can go, though he does look like he's about to give a speech, too.

Apart from the fact ladders are meant to be used for short periods only, you are meant to have three rungs above your feet at all times, so you can see that this platform ladder is a much safer way to work at height.


Friday, August 08, 2014

Want some cheap (late) summer colour?

Here's a bargain I have to alert you to. We did a hire of some flowering troughs for another company's stand at the New Forest Show.

This included twenty 90cm long plastic troughs planted with red, pink and blue summer flowers (Geraniums, Petunias and Lobelias), which are now sitting looking pretty outside our office.

The actual troughs are quite useful to us in the future, so how's this for a deal?

If anyone wants to hire some until the end of October (plants are likely to be pretty tired by then) I'll charge £10.00 (inc. VAT) each for them.

If you want to buy them and keep them, it's £20.00.

This assumes you can collect them from our Wimborne site, or we can talk about a delivery cost if not.

Contact me on the email address my name links to below if of interest.


Monday, August 04, 2014

Ready made trailing ivy

We just installed a nice little project for a client on Poole Quay. As you can see, they have a balcony overlooking the quay and wanted some instant trail to hang over.

Apart from the fact the balcony ledge was quite wide, meaning the trail had to be extra long, there aren't many plants which would survive the location.

However I was very pleased when my trusty Dutch plant supplier sent me these huge trailing ivies. They told me they had "80-90cm trail"; in reality they were more like 1.2m long and really thick. When we took all eighty of them out of their boxes when they arrived, they more or less took over the greenhouse!

What a view from that balcony!

Also worthy of note are the lovely wooden troughs that I put them in to.

I don't normally mention my suppliers by name, but I'll make an exception for the purveyor of these lovely hand-made larch planters from a West Dorset company called Fat Leaf.

Apparently larch weathers to a lovely silvery sheen over time. If they don't weather in this location, they won't do it anywhere!


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Our biggest install ever, but I can't tell you about it!

Sorry for the complete absence of posting since the end of May, we have been very busy completing our largest install since I have worked here (12 years). 

The last time I claimed to have completed our largest ever install was 133 planters. This time it was 186!

For advocates of trying to get new business from internet traffic, it's notable that the client initially contacted us through our website's contact form.  

Because our containers are hand made from glass fibre in a finite number of moulds, there's a limit to how fast our normal supplier can make pots, especially when I order 104 of the same design of trough. 

So since mid-June we have been receiving consignments of 20-40 planters on about a weekly basis, planting them up and taking to the customer. A big feature, as I mentioned, was little cabinet-top troughs full of either Peace Lilies of Chinese Evergreens, designed to improve office air quality. They looked very good in matt black and I'm sure I'll be using that combo again.

But I can't show you pictures of these pots as I normally do, or tell you any more about the customer than that they are in Southampton, as they are a very secretive organisation, so we are not allowed to:

 - take photographs on site
 - tell anyone that we are one of their contractors
 - use our being one of their contractors for promotional purposes

So you're just going to have to take my word for it!

Edit: just going through my camera and found a picture in the greenhouse just before we loaded, my colleague Michelle can be seen in the background, looking raring to go. In the foreground, row upon row of matt black cabinet-top troughs planted with Aglaonemas and Spathiphyllums, ready to be loaded.

So there's proof: I didn't just imagine our largest install ever. It really happened.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Two fantastic bespoke hanging baskets for sale!


As a result of me deciding a client - who always has four hanging baskets - wanted six hanging baskets, we now have two amazing 18" hanging baskets for sale right now.

These are not the kind of baskets you see for sale off-the-shelf in garden centres.

They have been specially prepared in 18" frames and absolutely stuffed with plants, by a real expert that we get to make all our baskets.

They are a good two foot across, are barely liftable, and need hanging off very substantial hooks.

They are for sale at £100 for the pair, including free delivery and erection, if you live in Dorset or Hampshire.

Call the office on 01202 882463 or email me on the link below.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

It's health and safety gone mad!

This is not, I hasten to add, in one of our maintenance contracts. For a start we very rarely use Cycad palms, and if we did they'd look healthier than this. Also the soil would be topped up a lot nearer the rim in a Stewarts contract.

Anyway, bitchiness out of the way, this is a picture of a planter I stumbled upon on a forum the other day in a discussion about OTT safety warning signs. The 'sharp plant' bit is understandable (Cycads are!) but the 'do not eat' bit surely goes without saying.

I posted it here as I thought it was an honourable sequel to my famous plant labelled "plant" post last year.

Safety signs like this are all jolly good fun, but in my experience what happens in one contract invariably appears elsewhere. The relatively recent fashion - spreading out from energy and utility companies' premises - is to mandate the holding of the handrail when travelling up and down stairs. This is not ideal when your job involves habitually carrying two watering cans.

Solution? My staff just use the lift. Purely for safety reasons, not laziness, obviously.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Flowering Swiss Cheese Plant

Here's something I've never seen before, after 16 years in the job.

This is (dodgy) phone pic taken of an enormous Monstera Deliciosa (aka Swiss Cheese Plant) cascading down a rockery in an aquarium in Bournemouth, where we have looked after the plants for over fifteen years.

I don't get to go there very often, so was delighted to see the Cheese Plant was so happy that it had produced these enormous - if not particularly pretty - flowers. They are a good six inches long, and as I say I'm certain I've never seen one flower before.

It's an unusual maintenance job, compared to the average office plant maintenance job, though it does come straight after the plants on the end of Bournemouth Pier I've mentioned before. It's certainly the only job where we are watched closely by terrapins when drawing water from a tap just inside their enclosure.


Hanging basket season begins

It has got to that time of year when we are starting to deliver and install hanging baskets.

As usual we have a clamour from customers to put them up earlier than the usual time of the second half of May. As I've blogged before it's not advisable when there is still the possibility of frost.

But one pub in Corfe Castle in the lovely Purbeck region of Dorset wants them now, so we've supplied seventeen of them this week.

Thirty nine to go!


Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Now a new look for the Transit

As I mentioned in my last post about our little vans being stickered up, Stewarts Interior Landscaping is undergoing a gradual re-branding to bring us in line with the rest of the Stewarts Garden Centre group.

On Friday afternoon I left our trusty Transit delivery van looking like the picture to the right - the old Stewarts livery. The company we use to livery them came in on Saturday morning and worked their magic and it now looks like the picture above.

It's funny how you don't realise something is looking dated until it's updated. I like the fact it shows potential customers a picture of what we do, and also tells them; no more having to try and explain to my neighbours what it is that I do all day.

Given the choice of the palm over the lollipop Ficus I went for the palm - I think it looks better on a big van. Now we only have two vans with the old livery to go, both to be replaced in the next year so no point in redoing. But they suddenly look really old!


Friday, April 11, 2014

A new look for our vans

Those of you that visit the main Stewarts website will notice that we are undergoing a subtle rebrand, including a new logo.  One of these days the office plants website will be updated too, so far we've just re-logo'd this blog (see above).

Anyway, this rebrand has extended to our three new Bipper vans, which for the last year have been plain white while we settled on exactly what this new livery would look like. I like it, it just says/shows what we do and who we are; nice and simple.

We couldn't decide whether to have a open braid Ficus Benjamina or a nice thick Kentia palm on the side so we went for some of each design. In fact I let the drivers choose their plant, as they have to drive round in it all day.

Which do you think looks best?

We actually had two pearlescent red Cyllic plant pots made just for the photoshoot, which are now sitting in the greenhouse looking for a home.

We offer a free two-month trial to potential customers; I think these will be loaned out to someone on that basis, unless anyone wants to buy or rent them first!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Stewarts take you higher

Actually that should say we take ourselves higher.

As I've mentioned before, Stewarts take safety at work very seriously.

We recently reassessed our high level work and decided for some tasks that require two hands (decorating Christmas trees for example) we should be keeping ladder work to a minimum.

Apart from the fact that you should have three points of contact on the ladder when working, it's recommended that you only work up a ladder for short periods.

So we have invested in this fantastic mobile platform ladder. Instead of working off a ladder (like the fantastic Waku ladder on the right), on this beast we step into a little crow's nest on the top and shut ourselves in. As you are on a flat platform it is much less tiring and uncomfortable to work from, too.

I love the fact you shut yourself in with a rope that looks exactly like the sort bouncers open to let people into a nightclub. All the obvious jokes ("if your name's not on the list", "one in, one out", "not in trainers", etc.) have already been made.

This image doesn't do the size of it justice - look at the waste bins in the background to realise it's at least 4m high when fully extended!

As I say, it's a big (38 kg), solid (and expensive) piece of kit. but when it comes to safety, we don't do things by half.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Spot the difference

Can you spot the odd one out in this line up?

Our most popular colour of plant pot is graphite. But it's rare that my fortnightly trip to our main plant pot supplier in Somerset results in me only picking up graphite pots; just the way it has worked this time.

Actually our most popular colour is matt graphite. As you can see one of the pots in this line up is gloss graphite, which we very rarely sell. Isn't it amazing how different it makes the pot look?

This serves as a useful reminder of just how bespoke we are able to be when it comes to supplying exactly what colour - and finish - of pots the customer requests. Not only can you have any BS, RAL or Pantone colour you want, but you can then have them all in two different finishes.

It's long been a staple of ours to supply matt metallic colours (the graphite above is a metallic), but flat colours are usually gloss. One colour/finish combo that seems to be becoming fashionable is matt black, as seen in this cute little trough full of miniature 'bonsai' Ficus Microcarpas I recently installed in an office in Richmond, Surrey.

This picture makes it look rather light, but in truth it's not hugely darker than graphite. They both look very effective in neutrally decorated receptions and offices where there is a lot of black leather furniture, with which they are a excellent match.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Spring has sprung, time for a spring clean

As can be seen from the photo I took yesterday morning at 0645 (there are some advantages to an early morning commute) in central Dorset, spring is here.

The garden centres are heaving, but as is the way we have a randomly quiet week this week. So as we were able to open the greenhouse doors and let some air in, and I had some spare staff, we spent the whole day having a really good tidy up.

As you can see we got as far as washing down the walls, disinfecting the plant storage benches, and having a really good throw away of redundant stuff. We are all inveterate hoarders, but a lot of our hoarded stuff is now outside the door being sold on at bargain prices. That's why it makes good sense to do this when the garden centre car park is full of people; lots of bargain hunters!

Friday, February 28, 2014

I love my scissors

This might seem like a silly and trivial blog post, but it's occasioned by something that happened to me this week.

As I live a good distance north of Stewarts, I do one maintenance rota of my own every fortnight consisting of most of our Somerset and Wiltshire jobs, including two in Swindon. I got to the second of my Swindon jobs, reached down to my holster for my trusty scissors, and they'd gone!

I drove hell-for-leather back to my previous maintenance call and - thank goodness - found them tucked down the side of a chair in reception where I had been perched while pruning the leaves of the plants in a table top bowl.

Why such panic over a mere pair of scissors? Well, I've had this very pair for fifteen years, since I was a fledgling maintenance technician at another firm, learning my craft five days a week on the 1,000 plant displays at Heathrow Airport.  I lost the original pair I had been issued and bought these from somewhere, and I've never seen another pair so perfect for looking after office plants. If you look closely at the picture above, you can see the blade has been worn away by the number of times it has been sharpened.

I think they are technically florist's scissors, but the combination of a short blade for precision, and a curved blade for strength means they can do what most of my staff need a separate pair of scissors and secateurs for.

So losing them - albeit temporarily - made me realise just how much I love this trusty pair of scissors.

Come back next week when I will compose a sonnet in honour of one of my watering cans.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Finally a good photo of a Dracaena Surculosa

One of my absolute favourite indoor plants is the Dracaena Surculosa, here's a really big one we once installed.

I had one at home but it didn't like the cold, and I have one in my own office.

The only problem with Surculosas (apart from being hard to spell) is that they are desperately un-photogenic, despite looking lovely in the flesh. This makes it hard to sell them to clients.

Part of the problem is that they tend to be trimmed into a bit of a 'lump' before they are despatched from the grower, where their beauty is the rather startling bamboo-like shoots they send skywards, that the grower has just trimmed off.

The other thing I love about them is the detail on their foliage, which my poor standard of photography can't hope to capture. So to illustrate below is a photo shamelessly stolen from elsewhere on the internet.

Anyway I digress. I did a large installation in Blandford Forum last week for a client who shares my taste for bright-coloured pots and a fairly simple planting scheme. The install included ten displays like this, i.e. 75cm high RAL 2004 Cylinders with 1.2m Surculosas in, and for once I managed to get a good photo of one. It helps that it's in good natural light; the Surc will tolerate lower light areas so tends to get used there, and there's nothing that makes a plant display look worse than flash photography.

I'll be adding a copy of this to my trusty sales portfolio, and adding this image to our large picture library shortly.


P.S. here's that detail shot:

Monday, January 06, 2014

Lovely weather we're having

Great weather for collecting Christmas trees this has been!

My colleague Michelle snapped this great shot on her phone as we were driving along the M4 west on Friday morning, minutes before the bad weather hit.

Behind us was bright sunshine, and it was lighting up the trees in the picture, but ahead of us was the blackest bank of cloud I think I've ever seen. It was amazing how quickly the weather ahead of us had changed from bright sunshine to this, too.

Needless to say, within a few moments of taking this picture we were driving through a really nasty - but thankfully short lived - storm.

This didn't stop us doing our bit for the Great Christmas Tree Pick Up. We collected six trees from Winchester, Basingstoke, Swindon, Salisbury and Blandford Forum. In total, Stewarts delivered 67 trees in Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire this Christmas, and collected virtually all of them in two days!