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, December 22, 2015

Counting down to Christmas

Continuing my fascination with funny signs in offices, here's a festive one as my last post of 2015.

Found on the white board in the cleaner's cupboard of a factory in Gillingham, North Dorset. As you can guess, this photo was taken on 17 December; the cleaner was clearly rubbing out a digit each day.

They and everyone at Stewarts Interior Landscaping are counting the days.

Merry Christmas!


Another hard day at the office?

As readers can probably tell, I'm using a few quiet days before Christmas to empty my phone of pictures I have taken lately.

I do like seeing what odd things people get up to in their workplaces, and have posted about it before.

This was actually in Stewarts Broomhill's Goods In dept.

As our garden centre customers will know, our hugely popular Christmas Department features a number of animated displays, including a railway track at Broomhill, featuring Thomas the Tank Engine.

It's probably not giving away confidential information to admit that Thomas has not been 100% reliable, having an alarming tendency to derail. The Fat Controller (if I'm still allowed to call him that) would not be happy. I can only assume this was some behind-the-scenes attempt to fix the problem, but it does rather look like the Goods-In boys were playing trains.


This is what happens...

...when you stop letting us look after your plants!

Back story: one of our clients - who had relatively recently had renewed plant displays on rental - unfortunately went in to administration. As is sometimes the case, we were not allowed in to retrieve our planters for several months, until last week.

The image on the right illustrates what we found.

Who can identify the three plant species - before scrolling down to the picture at the bottom which shows what they looked like when we delivered them?

So when you see your maintenance technician come in and deal with your plants very quickly, there is more to their skill than meets the eye. It's amazing how rapidly the plants go downhill if not cared for.


Monday, December 21, 2015

The annual "here's one of our Christmas trees" post

So now we have nearly got to Christmas, and all our trees are delivered, I usually show a picture of one of our large live trees to show off our decorating skills.

Usually I show the largest tree we do (an 18-footer that takes five of us most of a day to erect and decorate) from a merchant bank in Bournemouth's offices, but this year I'm going to break with tradition and show one of the next largest that we regularly do, which is also in a Bournemouth office.

It's a mere 12 foot high and as such is an awful lot easier to deliver and decorate.

This year I think it is really rather lovely, and I hope you agree.

Merry Christmas everybody!


Friday, November 27, 2015

Name that Dracaena (again)

A couple of years ago, I blogged about a new staff member getting excited about all the different varieties of Dracaena that we rarely use, and ordering one of each.

Well, it's happened again. New technician this time is Anne, and she appears to have tried to order one of each of all the subtly different variations of green/white variegated Dracaena.

Back row, from left: D. White Stripe, D. White Jewel, D. Jade Jewel. Front row, D. Warnekii.

I think!

As I mentioned recently, these varieties are great in locations where everything is quite monochrome, as they almost look black and white themselves.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Feature plant: Dracaena Burley

Regular readers will know that the Dracaena family is one of the most widely-used in interior landscaping. They are dark-tolerant, don't drink a lot, and pretty robust. But they need to be kept warm.

There is a huge variety of types, and while I know a lot of them, there is always something new to me. In this case it's the Dracaena Burley, as shown here.

It looks very similar in leaf type to Dracaena Massangeana but the leaves are somewhat tougher, leading me to think that it will be less prone to bruising/cold damage.

They are also only available in that intermediate zone between little plants we can use in bowls or troughs, and specimen plants that will stand on their own. This means we struggle to find a use for plants of this size.

However, we have recently sold five pots with three in each to a shopping centre in Southampton, which I'll be installing first thing tomorrow. As they come in boxes of six that means I have three left over, so yesterday I took one to one of my own contracts in Swindon and planted it in a 90cm high Cubis planter, that doesn't need a large plant in it (shown right).

Let's see how it fares!


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Ready for Christmas?

We are!

This is a long a shot as I can manage (by the technique of standing on a shelf at one end of the greenhouse) to try and capture all our artificial Christmas trees ready for delivery. There's a few out of shot at the back  but this is most of them. Look at all the different colour combinations we can do! I rather like the red and green one on the right.

As time has gone by, we are doing more artificial, and less real Christmas trees.

This is a good thing as modern artificial trees are lovely looking things, and live trees can be a real pain, as I'm sure you all know.

The biggest pain for us is not being able to decorate them in advance, whereas we can start on the artificials nice and early.

The downside (there's always a downside...) is that we can no longer move in the greenhouse for made-up trees.

Want the really bad news? This is a pointless bit of PR for us, as we closed our order books a couple of weeks ago. So if you want to order one now for your office, you've missed the boat. Maybe next year?


Friday, October 30, 2015

More brightly coloured planters

So I've continued my fashion for brightly coloured planters. This contract had five pots, all different colours (red, orange, yellow, pink, green).

The green was my favourite RAL 6018 (remember the post about my car being this colour?).

What we absolutely love about this client's premises (apart from the colouring-in wallpaper that they insist you help fill in) is that the three brightly coloured troughs, which feature different types of Sansevieria, are in three prominent bay windows overlooking a busy road in Bournemouth.

What a great advert for Stewarts!


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Nature red in tooth and claw

As you may be able to tell by the sudden abundance of posts after months of nothing, here at Stewarts Interior Landscaping we are finally have a period of relative calm.

So I'm reduced to mundane tasks like filing all the photos I have taken and not organised.

As I explained before, we name all our pictures so we can easily find them if we need to show a product to a client.

This photo however doesn't really have a home, so I thought I'd post it on here before I delete it.

I was sat in my office a few months ago... now, the word 'office' makes it sound somewhat more salubrious than it is. For a start it has more than its fair share of cobwebs, being in the corner of a giant greenhouse.

So I was sat in my office when I heard a high pitched drone. I turned round to see a fly trapped in a spider's web, with the spider moving in for the coup de grace.

As regular readers will know I'm not a particularly gifted photographer, but I managed to grab this rather ominous looking picture of the scene. It's probably not a spoiler to say that it didn't end well for the fly.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Feature plant (s): Cordyline Kiwi and Glauca

Cordyline Kiwi
In previous 'feature plant' postings, I've tended to choose something unusual, or an odd variant on a traditional plant, but this time round I'm going for two plants that are old school and proud.

Cordyline Kiwi is the most high colour variant of the Cordyline Fruiticosa family. Other varieties include C. Tango (dark red) and C' Glauca (dark green), of which more below.

The larger Cordyline family encompasses a wide variety of plants. The C. Australis family are outdoor plants in this country, but the C. Fruiticosas like the Kiwi are small indoor plants.

The Kiwi needs good medium to warm temperature and high light.

It's on my mind because I am about to put several dozen on a ferry in Portsmouth, where they will be in a window so should - touch wood - do just fine.

Interestingly, unlike most plant families, the temperature tolerance varies widely across the family. More specifically, most of the varieties (including C. Kiwi) require good temperature, while C. Glauca (shown below) is almost hardy in the UK. If you feel the leaf of the Glauca it's noticeably tougher, almost leather, while the Kiwi's leaves are paper thin.

The Glauca will also cope with a lot less light. Less siblings, more estranged cousins?


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fibrestone plant pots

At Stewarts we like to keep abreast of trends in plant pot design.

After years in which the only noticeable theme has been bright colours, such as green and pink, there is a gradual shift toward more natural looking pots, though usually still in fairly plain geometric shapes.

One problem with this is that that pots made from natural materials can be either heavy, expensive, or not immensely durable.

For example, clients really like the idea of pots made from natural stone or terracotta. Great in theory, but they will be very heavy, potentially quite damage prone, and also not necessarily waterproof: a must in an office!

The market is as ingenious as ever, and we now have a wide variety of 'Fibrestone' pots available. These are (I think!) manufactured from a composite of glass-fibre and cement, which can be dyed, which means they have the appearance of stone, but don't weigh a huge amount more than the traditional glass-fibre. Their only downside I can see is they are rather prone to getting dirty and being difficult to get clean, especially the lighter colours. So the 'Smoke' coloured ones, like the one shown, that we recently installed in an office park near Southampton are the most practical.

Incidentally, I just love using white variegated Dracaenas like this branched D. Warneckii in monochrome pots if the room is quite cold-coloured. It looks really effective; what do you think?


Thursday, September 03, 2015

A couple more funny office signs

I've posted a few funny office signs before (e.g. here and here).

I walk round people's offices when doing maintenance, and see signs which are either inadvertently funny, like this surprisingly nihilistic sign on a fire door in Bournemouth...

...or deliberately humorous, like this plea for the return of a pint glass in a large office in Winchester.

The helpful illustration gets me every time!


Monday, August 24, 2015

Feature plant: Ficus Melany Petit

Luckily I don't call this feature 'plant of the month' because it's nearly September already...

We've been really busy for the last few weeks, mainly training Anne and Sandie, our two new technicians, of which more later no doubt.

But I did have time to order this wonderful little plant when I saw it on my weekly price list from Holland.

I've long had a liking for burgundy rubber plants, (and again!), but the normal Rubber plant has a leaf the size of your hand, whereas this little beauty has leaves only three inches long at most, and much narrower than normal.

It was the price of a normal 1.5m specimen plant, and only about a 50cm ball, so not an easy plant to think of a place for. I'm thinking it would look good in a tall, slim pot, in a key location, like a reception area.

Now to find a client to persuade to be a guinea pig!


Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Feature plant: Scindapsis n'Joy

Despite having a name like a 90's manufactured pop group, this little beauty is a new variant on an existing family of plants (Scindapsis, sometimes Epipremnum, Devil's Ivy).

Interestingly it has a much tougher, thicker leaf than the normal variety of Scindapsis. As it has such a high contrast variegation, we are assuming it will need a light position, and we are using it as such.

We are awaiting the go-ahead to plant some in a new installation in a shopping centre in Bournemouth so we can see how they perform. Those few that we have used so far have settled in very quickly, so let's see...


Lovely summery event hire

Just tidying up the images on our camera and I came across this snap I took of an event hire we undertook a few weeks ago. Or rather, the planters ready to go out.

A very successful Poole firm were celebrating their twentieth anniversary with a series of events around Bournemouth, including a party in a marquee on the old IMAX site.

This was to have a very country garden kind of theme inside, and the events company organising it had sourced a whole load of random things (tea crates, tin baths, milk churns, wellies, you get the idea...) to serve as planters.

Stewarts' job was to plant them up. The initial spec was to include lots of herbs, but it's actually really hard to provide instant herb planters, as most herbs come in very small. I substituted lots of Lavenders and Rosemary from our own nursery instead. The rest I had a pretty free hand on, so I predominantly used Marguerites and Boston Ferns.

As this picture shows, in a very tight time window, I think we made their wacky planters look pretty good!


Friday, June 19, 2015

Featured plant - Fatsia Spider Web

Once again I am apologising for the gap between postings - it has been a manic six weeks since the last plant of the month! I may be able to post the odd pic of our adventures soon.

One thing that has kept us busy has been a couple of huge event hires for a successful cosmetics company head-quartered in Poole, who were celebrating their twentieth anniversary with a series of parties. One involved us stuffing a Bournemouth music venue with lots of plants in various nooks and crannies - nearly £4,000 of plants at trade prices!

As I am ordering so many and they will all be mixed up I get a free hand to try a few different things, and one thing I bought in was this variegated version of the Fatsia Japonica. This is a brave choice as I've previously admitted that I can't keep them alive. 

It has the most lovely variegation pattern, not evenly distributed over the leaves. Some are almost plain green while some are mostly pure white.

Some uncharitable observers have commented that it looks like it has a very bad infestation of Red Spider Mite (a common pest that turns leaves spotty), which makes the name 'Spider Web' rather cruel.

But I think they look lovely, and they are a great plant for very cold indoor areas which will also live outside.


Friday, May 01, 2015

Featured plant: Guzmania Paulina

The Guzmania family of plants is used widely in interior landscaping; we use them in our popular 'Finishing Touches' displays we supply as an affordable alternative to reception flowers.

Generally they are red, yellow, orange or purple, and they have a simple central bract.

As we do our 'Finishing Touches' (and also a large shopping centre in Southampton which has 45 Guzmanias) on a four-weekly cycle, i.e. you get new plants every four weeks, I'm always on the hunt for different varieties.

I was pleased to track down these much more complex-headed purple/white ones called Guzmania Paulina, which in 17 years I've never seen before.

True, they were a little (10%) more expensive, but I was happy to indulge my staff this once.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Replacing a big old tree

I thought I'd do a multi-photo story of the difficult plant replacement job we did in two mornings in the last week.

If you are a maintenance customer of ours, you'll know that we are constantly replacing plants in your office, without charging you or needing your approval.

This contract was a little different as it was a four metre high tree, and the contract did not include plant replacement, due to its size and cost.

So having gained the client's approval and chosen a tree (at this end of the market you can get pictures sent from the grower of the individual trees), we first had to remove the old one.

That's the tough bit. This tree has been in its pot in an office building between Bournemouth and Poole for over ten years, so as you can imagine it had quite well-developed roots.

The technique is always to dig as much soil out round the sides of the rootball as possible, cutting the roots you encounter as you go.

It's slow, laborious work. The goal is to get down low enough that the rootball can be rocked from side to side, so the the roots underneath can be severed and the whole rootball can be lifted out.

We got to lunchtime, though, and it just wasn't coming. In the picture of Debra and I to the left, we've just about got it moving but we'd found it to be rather wet and consequently heavy.

We sat outside eating our lunch trying to work out how to get it vertically out of the pot when we could barely move it, and I decided to get inventive. Having a large and extremely robust A-frame ladder in our van, plus a couple of webbing straps for securing deliveries, I positioned the ladder over the pot, attached the webbing straps to the strongest points on the top, then threaded them through holes in the cut-off trunk. Then we used the webbing straps as pulley ropes to lift the rootball as high as we could, before locking it in place with the ratchets. We were then able to slide the pot to one side as shown.

Don't I look proud of my trophy (and also very dirty!). This pic reminds me of the first post I did on this blog some eight years ago.  Annie - our new recruit - seems amused!

Once we returned to our Wimborne base, we cleaned the pot thoroughly; here I am again getting right in there!

Finally, as you can see in the last picture below, we returned with a new tree a few days later. This was a far easier operation, though the tree when delivered was much bigger than expected so had to be pruned quite hard in order to fit in our largest delivery vehicle ( a 7.5 tonne lorry borrowed - with driver - from Stewarts Nursery. Thanks, Scott!

Sadly, this photo doesn't really do it justice; because of its position in an atrium in front of the staircase, it's hard to get a position where we can take a good photo of it.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Featured plant: Calathea Triostar

This lovely-coloured plant is called Calathea Triostar, though for a long while it was Stromanthe Triostar.

Whoever it is that decides what plants are called occasionally changes the name of a plant, based on what information I'm not sure.

As this happens over a period of years, you can work out how long someone has worked as a maintenance technician, based on what they call plants.

Though to muddy the waters further, some plants revert to their original name, after a holiday being called something else...

Anyway, I digress. Most Stromanthes are troublesome beasts - I think they need much higher humidity than the average office provides. S. Triostar is much more tolerant of dry air, though it does need better-than-average light to thrive.

While they come in as a low clump like the ones pictured, when mature they send great leaf-topped spikes upwards and get to be quite a chunky plant. Like other plants in the Maranta/Calathea/Stromanthe grouping, they also curl up and droop their leaves at night somewhat. I've always fancied setting up a stop-motion film of some over 24 hours to see it happen in a short period.


Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Jonathan on the move

If you're wondering why the blog has been very quiet for a while it's because I have been out and about almost every day in the last month.

We are a small team, small enough that only person can be on leave at once. So when someone goes on long-term sick leave, it's a little tight getting all the work done.

Especially when that person, by virtue of living in Eastleigh, has many of our furthest away jobs.

But at Stewarts, we never miss a fortnightly maintenance visit. So I have been getting up early and going from my home on the border of Dorset and Somerset most days and driving to sites in such places as Basingstoke, Hook, Weybridge, Southampton....I'm getting tired just reading this!

So I illustrated this post with a picture of my trusty VW van, as that's what you will have seen a lot of in those areas of the country of late.

Said trusty van, on 106,000 miles, is about to go back to the lease company, and Stewarts have bought me a shiny new one which arrives in a couple of weeks. So all my hard work of late has not gone unnoticed. Or maybe they just want to make sure I can keep doing the miles?


Thursday, March 05, 2015

Featured plant: Codieum Tamara


Not often a new plant species just blows me and all my colleagues away, but this one has.

This image of beauty is called a Codieum Tamara.

Apart from being a lovely white and green variegated shrubby plant in its own right, what has got this plant such attention is how different it is from the rest of the Codieum (or as we tend to refer to them, Croton) family.

All the rest of the Codieums are red, yellow and green, like the image below, so this is a remarkable difference. We like plants that don't look like their relations, there will be another like this as next month's feature plant.

I intend to take this and plant it in one of my own maintenance jobs in Gillingham, North Dorset, so I can see how it performs.

I'd like to say we'll be getting more in, but my Dutch grower tells me they are one of those plants that comes to the market in batches, then disappears for a while. When I can't regularly get plants I can't use them in quotes for new contracts, but I can get the odd one in and let my maintenance staff use it in their clients' sites.

As I said above, the picture below is what a Codieum/Croton should look like. Can you spot the



Monday, March 02, 2015

Ten years at Stewarts

Ten years ago, on March 1, 2005, Stewarts bought another company called West End Plant Displays, based in Winchester.

Apart from the maintenance contracts we acquired (many of which we still look after today), we acquired their two technicians, Roger and Ian.

We must be a good place to work as they both still work here today!

Six years ago I calculated that my staff had 116 years of experience looking after indoor plants, a lot of that is down to these two. Roger's been doing it since (I believe) 1990, and Ian since 1980!

I've also said before that there's no substitute for experience when doing our job; these guys have it in bucket loads.

As they both live in Eastleigh, north of Southampton, they only visit us once a fortnight, the rest of the time they are looking after all our clients that are to the north and east of Southampton and Eastleigh, including Portsmouth, Fareham, Basingstoke and Winchester. So if you are one of our clients in these areas, they will look familiar.

Roger reached official retirement age last autumn but he still won't leave, instead cutting down to three days a week. This is one of those industries that you never escape.

Jonathan (1998 to the present!)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Jack Frost hates Peugeots?

Just went to get my delivery van to load up for an installation we are doing between Bournemouth and Poole this morning at a car showroom.

The windscreen of the Transit is completely clear, while the little Peugeot next door is solid ice.

Either Jack Frost is a Ford man like me, or it's something to do with the angle of the sun?


Friday, February 20, 2015

Pink plant pots

The most noticeable trend in pot colours (here I go again...) in the last five years or so has been for very brightly coloured pots.

By far the most popular choice, once you've crossed the "blimey, that's bright" threshold, is for variations of lime green, as previously discussed at length.

I've recently noticed that momentum is gathering behind very bright pinks.

I should point out, that while we may steer clients towards particular coloured pots, they usually have a good idea what kind of look they want to go for when we go to see them. Potential customers these days have frequently done their homework, and have a good idea what kind of planters they want us to supply them with. So to an extent these distinct trends are followed by us, rather than led.

So as a dedicated follower of fashion (as far as plants and planters go, anyway, I thought I'd take this opportunity to post some relevant pictures, just in case a clued up potential customer is browsing the web for information.  These were supplied to clients in Winchester, Chandler's Ford and Poole.


I've gone on often enough about it before, but I'll say it again. Because almost all our pots are handmade from glass fibre and hand painted to order, you can have any colour you want: if you can name it or provide a swatch for us to match, we can make it, and you can have one or a hundred from as little to rent as £7.00 a month with us looking after them.

If you like what you see, contact us.

If this sort of thing is not to your tastes, have a look through our huge library of images of planters that we've previously supplied. Not all pink!



Thursday, February 19, 2015

Is winter over?

I'm starting to think the image above depicts the only snow we're going to get this year. That was taken on Tuesday 3 February when we unexpectedly had an inch or two of snow.

I live about an hour's drive north of Stewarts; I got half way to work before seeing any snow. After helping to clear the car park, I then drove to Weybridge in Surrey to do a delivery (to our furthest away maintenance clients that we don't subcontract). The snow had more or less gone by the New Forest, then was only patchy from there all the way through Hampshire and Surrey.

Anyway, if winter is over that means spring is round the corner, and that means it's time for spring hanging baskets. As I've said before, these are my favourites of the year. Many clients just have summer baskets in May and and Winter ones at the end of September, but the enlightened few have an extra set in early March, as otherwise the winter ones can look seriously tired by May.

So the time to order them is now - contact us to place an order, we deliver at no extra cost anywhere in Dorset or Hampshire.


Quiet day at the office?

Just in case you're feeling guilty at having a quite day at work, here's a snap I took in one of our client's offices in Swindon the other day. It's not only you.

In an unused section of a large open plan office, someone appears to have set up some kind of crazy golf challenge.

Is the idea to get the ball into the tea cups?

Or is it some kind of slalom?

I really don't know!


Monday, February 16, 2015

Predator control

One of the issues that we occasionally have to deal with on the plants that we look after is the management of pests.

There are a couple of pests (e.g. Mealy Bug, Red Spider Mite) that are a problem for the plant but don't really bother our clients.

There is one that can be really annoying if not dealt with, and that's Sciarid Fly, otherwise known as Fungus Gnats, as these fly out of the plant pots and have a particularly annoying habit of flying in front of people's computer screens in their offices.

This occurs most commonly on newly-delivered plants, leading to the myth that the flies come from the new compost. This isn't in fact the case. They are all round us, but when they smell fresh moist compost they think "lunchtime!" and set up home in it.

For a long time we used to pre-treat the compost with a pesticide that stopped this occurring, but about two years ago it seemed to stop working, so now we use a combination of two predators.

"Predators?" I hear you say? Yes, that's right. Sadly it's not as visually exciting as you might think, involving no lions or tigers.

First line of defence is that the compost we buy is pre-treated with a fungal disease that attacks insects called MET52. This is very long-lasting, and basically makes any insect that lives in the soil go mouldy. However, we have found that this does not spread through the rootball of the plant in the pot, so sometimes we still get Sciarid Fly living in the untreated compost of the rootball.

Second line of defence, applied if a problem is detected, is a microscopic worm called Steinemema Feltiae. These come as a little pack of what looks like sawdust which is diluted heavily then watered into the affected soil (or can be sprayed on). The packs we buy will treat 50 square metres of soil surface, so we usually are supplying an enormous overdose. What you can see in the pic to the right is what they do to their prey, namely burrow inside the flies and eat them from the inside. Ewwwww!

However, anyone that has had Sciarid Fly in their office will probably think this is justice.

This process completely eradicates the fly problem in a matter of days, after which the worms, being starved of food, theoretically just die. In practice, just enough flies will keep arriving in the soil to keep a few worms in food, i.e. an equilibrium population is set up, meaning a major infestation never re-occurs.


Friday, February 13, 2015

Feature plant: Dracaena Florida Beauty

OK, so this plant gets chosen as feature plant this month, as I had to get a snap of this with my dodgy camera phone and show it to you.

Dracaena Godseffiana 'Florida Beauty' is a rare relation of one of my favourites: Dracaena Godseffiana Surculosa, which I've blogged about before.

Florida Beauty has much more pronouncedly variegated foliage, and seems a little stiffer in growth habit.

What the whole Godseffiana sub-family share is a habit of suddenly and abundantly flowering, as this one at an office in Winchester has done (the flowers are the little spiky things you can see in the pic).

When they start to go over they get very messy, so it gives me great joy to say I was only covering the site where this plant is, and next time it will be my colleague Roger's job to sweep up all the dead bits of flower.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Silly Greenhouse Sign

While this sign in our greenhouse has a purpose (related to this year's version of this event hire), it could be construed as a little confusing...


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Soil or Hydro?

Hands up who knows what hydroponic planting is. No? OK...

Hydroponics is an entire system for growing plants in a soil-free medium (normally expanded clay granules). Watering is monitored by using floating water level indicators. The plant actually grows a different kind of root under the normal water level, this explains how wet and dry-loving plants can both be grown in the same water reservoir.

It offers a number of advantages over traditional compost-based planting:
 - Plants seem to perform markedly better, you can keep the same species in lower light in hydro in my experience.
 - There is no danger of soil-borne pests, e.g. fungus fly
 - Plants can go longer between watering, meaning maintenance visits can be less frequent
 - if installed correctly, and if equipped with the right equipment (like giant pastry cutters!), plants changes are very easy.

On the other hand:
 - The plants are more expensive
 - Because they have rigid, vertical pots, it's hard to make mixed arrangements with them, and hard to use them in some funny-shaped pots
 - Because the granules are loose in the pots, it's harder to transport them
 - If the water indicator breaks, you have no way of accurately watering them, and hydro plants do not like incorrect/inconsistent watering
 - Rather a reduced range of plants
 - If not installed correctly, or if not equipped with the pastry cutters, plant changes are a pain!

Stewarts, with the exception of a single contract we inherited, use soil-based planting, as do most other UK companies. Occasionally we are asked to quote using hydro planting, and have no objection to doing so, but it's not something we push without prompting. Hydro was briefly fashionable a few decades back, and occasionally seems about to come back. It is definitely a better system for specimen planting, less so for troughs and bowls etc.

Interestingly, I'm told it is as dominant on the Continent as soil planting is here.


Thursday, January 08, 2015

Lovely Phalaenopsis Orchid

I just had to post a picture of the Phalaenopsis Orchids that we received in a plant order from Holland yesterday.

We order six white orchids every four weeks for a particular pair of reception desk floral displays in Bournemouth. Our plants are bought effectively mail order and I just ask for white ones.

These - for some reason - feature very distinct purple spots at random on the petals, as you can see.

I think they are beautiful. Could I get them again if I tried to order them specifically? Doubt it!


Neoregelia Meyendorfii - goodbye?

This post will probably not mean anything to all but the most ardent fan of houseplants, or others in the industry, but I am reliably informed by my Dutch plant supplier that the little red plant called Neoregelia Meyendorfii (universally called 'Nid' - a compression of its old Latin name, confusingly) is no longer available.

As a layman, you might think that if a plant exists commercially, it will do so forever. Not so! Many niche plants come from a single nursery source, so if that nursery decides (as in this case) that it's not profitable to grow it, it disappears from the market. Another example of this is a plant I used to see occasionally when I started in interior landscaping in the nineties called Maranta Massangeana

As a digression, it is also interesting that what can be obtained commercially varies depending where you are in the world. Reading the US houseplant forum I link to on the right, it's clear that there are plants you can pick up in Walmart that simply don't exist in Europe, or are very rare (e.g. red Aglaonemas - as I blogged before).

Why does this matter? 'Nids' are an utter mainstay of our planting portfolio. If you are a Stewarts Interior Landscaping client and you have a desktop bowl or a trough, the chances are you have had Nids in there at some point. Added to a mix of Mother-in-Law's Tongues and Money Plants, they are used in a planting style we call Desert Planting, which apart from making troughs look a lot more modern than with more tropical planting (see below), also makes a very nice built-in-bed scheme.

Sadly, there is nothing quite like the basic Nid (apart from its larger relations such as N. Flandria, which are about three times the price), so we are going to have to think of something new.