Autumn gardens: Blooming business

Related tags Flower

Colourful floral displays can turn heads and attract customers right through the year - and prepare your pub for a smoking ban reports Phil...

Colourful floral displays can turn heads and attract customers right through the year - and prepare your pub for a smoking ban reports Phil Mellows.

It might have been one of the dampest of summers but, as the saying goes, a drop of rain is always good for the garden. Pub gardens are, in fact, looking better than ever as autumn arrives, really showing how they can add character to a business - and there's no reason why you can't make your pub attactive all year round.

"It's about dressing your pub so it turns heads and attracts people in," says John Holden of Chelsea Direct, whose firm specialises in supplying the UK pub trade with hanging baskets and troughs.

His company has surveyed the licensees who take its summer and winter hanging baskets and discovered that an eye-catching display can add up to 20 per cent to a pub's traffic all year round.

Now is the time to get your floral displays into shape for the winter months. September is the changeover time from summer to winter baskets before the frosts nip the last of the summer blooms.

A proper winter display can survive all but the bitterest chill and buffeting by the weather to produce flowers and a cheery welcome right through the depths of winter.

A typical winter planting in your baskets, window boxes, barrels and troughs might include:

  • hardy gold and green variegated evergreen euonymus
  • winter pansies in blue, yellow and apricot
  • small-leafed trailing green ivy
  • autumn-flowering cyclamen.

Displays can also be underplanted with spring bulbs creating continuous blooming from September to May with the minimum of intervention.

Winter baskets and displays cost around £30 plus VAT per unit and are available to order now for the coming winter.

You might have been looking forward to a winter break from horticultural chores of course. Some publicans enjoy the daily dead-heading, feeding and watering that are required to keep displays in peak condition, but in many cases this is too exhausting and, if your back is turned for a moment, displays can dry out, never to recover.

But there are ways to do this other than maintaining the gardens and displays yourselves. Specialist companies can supply hanging baskets, window boxes and other floral displays and maintain them for you at surprisingly affordable prices.

Most floral display providers offer two seasons of colour. Summer displays arrive in April or May and they can be swapped for winter displays in September or October.

Publicans can either opt for purchasing their displays twice a year, with or without maintenance, or take a contract from 12 to 36 months long for supply and maintenance with fresh baskets and displays arriving automatically twice a year. Often a watering system is supplied as part of the contract.

Outdoor floral display providers also offer maintenance contracts to cover looking after the flowers between plantings. This can include dead-heading, watering and feeding, and replacing under-performing displays as part of the contract price.

Some contractors will even maintain the pub's grounds and gardens too so you and your team can use your time in other, more profitable, ways. Typical weekly contracts including maintenance may cost you about £2 plus VAT per floral unit.

Automatic watering systems

Automatic watering systems are a great labour-saving device that make sure your displays keep blooming through the year, working on a timer to water hanging baskets and displays at optimum times.

Consisting of micro-pipework, an electrical timer and a drip nozzle system they are best installed after Christmas in the quiet winter months when climbers and most vegetation is dormant.

The flexible micro-pipework is usually black 5mm bore, very discreet, and can be fully installed and maintained by your usual floral display provider. As a rough guide, an automatic watering system for a typical pub with a mixture of hanging baskets and troughs is around £600 plus VAT.


  • Calor
    0800 626 626
  • Chelsea Direct
    01442 843853
  • Indigo Shading
    0151 630 1262
  • Leisuregrow
    01462 744500

Licensees should get their gardens prepared for anti-smoking legislation argues Rachel Hodge, market development manager of patio heater supplier Calor.

Should we ban smoking in pubs? The Pub Users Ballot says "no", finding that just 28 per cent of customers want a ban, while numerous regional Big Smoke Debate surveys say "yes", with the majority of respondents wanting smoke-free pubs.

So what is going to happen? Will Britain follow Sweden and the Netherlands to join Norway and Ireland as smoke-free zones? Large pub chains such as Greene King Pub Company are already opening smoke-free pubs.

From the licensee's point of view it is obviously a very serious issue that could damage profits, as illustrated by Ireland's trade showing a 16 per cent decrease. But while the fight is on, perhaps we should take a moment to focus not on the problem but on finding a solution. How can the licensee avoid profit loss in such a situation?

From talking to our Calor colleagues in Ireland we have found that many licensees have chosen to maximise their outdoor space to boost their profits. By investing in café-style canopies and patio heaters or a lick of paint and some soft landscaping, many of our Irish customers have found that their business hasn't suffered from the ban.

Of course, making the most of your outside space makes commercial sense anyway. Who doesn't want to increase trading space to increase profit?

It's not just the summer months that count. We have customers who have doubled their trading space during the summer but continued this throughout the rest of the year, especially at peak trading times such as New Year's Eve - all through the simple use of patio heaters.

The informality of the al fresco offering also has a big impact on the customer experience, encouraging both repeat and extended visits, resulting in increased spend per head.

In fact, in our independent research we found that 95 per cent of people believe a patio heater adds to the overall enjoyment of the pub experience and over 75 per cent claim that a patio heater would make them return.

So even if a ban doesn't come into force, making the most of your outdoors seems to make a lot of sense. A little investment now could pay dividends.

Related topics Property law

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