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, October 23, 2017

Plant labels - don't believe them!

I have mentioned this before in passing but haven't ever posted about it directly. Today's plant delivery from Holland made me think about it again.

A lot of plants come with little push-in plastic labels with care instructions printed on them. A lot of the care advice on them is - to put it bluntly - nonsense.

Today I have taken delivery of these cute little Nolina Recurveata (also known as Beaucarnea), and immediately planted 24 of them in to some cabinet-top troughs for an installation in Portsmouth this week.

Reading the label - as shown below - reveals that:

1. They cannot tolerate draughts
2. They need to be kept at 21 deg C
3. They are a middling plant as far as watering goes
4. They need to be kept in partial shade

All four are wrong!

Here's my list:

1. They can tolerate draughts
2. They are hardy to minus 5 deg C
3. They need next to no water
4. They need good light, ideally full sun

The only thing I suspect is true is not to eat them (though that sign could be don't eat them with - or use them as - cutlery).

I've noticed this is much more prevalent with high light plants like Ficuses, or low water plants like Sansevierias; the label information is misleading enough to be catastrophic for the plant's future well-being.

So here's my tip: buy your plants, throw the label away and spend five minutes reading up about it on the internet. It may live a bit longer.

Incidentally this is the species of plant that I had to dig out after my staff had kept them alive (in a cold light shopping centre I might add) so long they'd burst out of their planters. So we know what we are doing!


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Feature pest: Mealy bug

 In my never-ending quest to find new things to fill the blog up with, it occurred to me that I've spent very little time talking about common indoor plant pests, so here is the inaugural 'feature pest' post.

Sadly, Stewarts aren't immune to their plants suffering from pests. I suspect most come in from Holland on the plants. We have the added complication that our industry is legally not allowed to use pesticides. There's nothing licenced for commercial use, and we aren't meant to use stuff labelled "for home and garden use". We aren't even technically allowed to use plant cleaning products as pesticides, however if we apply them with the intention of cleaning the plant and they have the happy side effect of controlling a pest, that is OK. Daft, but there we are.

So the first pest under discussion is one of the most common: Mealy Bug. This looks like white fluff like little bits of cotton wool stuck to the plant. If you look very closely, you'll see that within the fluff are what look like tiny white woodlice; they are the bugs.

As far as the detrimental effect on the plant, they will eat the flesh of the leaves, leaving yellow patches, as you can see in the photo of an affected Dracaena above. As well as generally weakening the plant, they also excrete a sticky residue known as Honey Dew, which then tends to get secondary fungal infections, and is also a swine to clean off the floor round the plant if it drips on to it.

Saying that, I've known plants live with Mealy for a very long time, so like most pests if managed it's an irritant rather than a catastrophe. So the bit that most people brought here by an internet search are after: how to treat/control it.   

1. Keep the plant as dry as you can - this seems to discourage it.
2. Keep the plant as clean and shiny as you can (a leaf shine product or a good wet wipe down). Bear in mind that they are quite easily transmitted to other plants so don't re-use the cloth on other plants.
3. You can also try spraying the plant with diluted washing up liquid, this seems to keep it controlled.
4. Provado, or similar pesticides will also control it, but it seems to be fairly immune to pesticide treatment, especially as the active ingredients keep getting banned and replaced with less effective ones.
5. If you have a major outbreak (and the plants are in a confined area like a conservatory), try a predator bug, in this case called Cryptolaemus (available here), but I'll be brutally honest and say I've had limited success with these, as they tend to either just sit and ignore their prey or fly away!

So in summary, if you find Mealy Bug (or any pest) on your plants, don't panic! First try and physically remove as much as you can, then try the methods above. It's very rare that a leaf-borne pest will kill a plant entirely.


Friday, October 06, 2017

Christmas is over for 2017

Following on from a similar post this time last year, this is a slightly misleadingly-titled post as clearly on October 6th, Christmas is not over.

However, if you were hoping to order one of our ever-popular fully decorated Christmas trees, it is over, as we have now firmly shut the order book, having admitted more last-minute orders than we may find was wise.

We run out of:
 - greenhouse capacity for the made-up trees (as you can see in the photo above!)
 - time to deliver them
 - actual stock of trees
 - and most crucially, time to collect them.

This last point is the killer. We deliver them all over Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire in one van over about two weeks. However, we only have the three (occasionally four) working days between New Year and Twelfth Night to get them all back. Thankfully we borrow two extra vans from two of the garden centres to achieve this, but it's still quite a challenge.

So note to potential Christmas tree customers: if you want one next year, it's best to contact us in late summer/early autumn. 


Feature Plant - Dracaena Compacta Surprise

I haven't done a 'feature plant' blog post for a while, so here's another.

There is a very common Dracaena called D. Lemon Lime; Compacta Surprise (sometimes just called D. Surprise) has very similar vibrant two-tone green foliage, but the leaves are smaller and there are a lot more of them. 

Unlike Lemon Limes, they don't seem to suffer from lateral weakness (i.e. lengthways splitting), but like Lemon Limes they can get 'sunburnt' if placed in very strong sunlight.

That said, they are a medium light plant; they won't enjoy being in a super dark location. Like all Dracaenas they need to be kept pretty dry.

Also, like most of the Dracaenas, they are available in lots of shapes and sizes. The long photo on the left shows a normal 1.5m three-stem one. Below we have a little bowl/trough variant which shows the colour off well, and the rather lovely branched type.

1.2m branched Dracaenas are one of my go-to groups of plants when doing installations at the moment. They are a nice compact chunk of foliage that looks good in a tall untapered pot, and aren't too expensive either. There are also enough types to be able to give a client a theme without it all looking the same. For example, we supplied the plants to an office park in Southampton a couple of years ago with multiple building foyers, so I put a matching pair of a different species of 1.2m branched Dracaena in each location. This picture was one of that installation.