Making your business bloom

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Leading nurseryman Miles Watson-Smyth gives top tips on how to improve the floral impact at the front of your pub Dead or tired plants at the front...

Leading nurseryman Miles Watson-Smyth gives top tips on how to improve the floral impact at the front of your pub

Dead or tired plants at the front of your pub will do little to encourage visitors. To maximise your pub's welcome, try these helpful hints to show the public that you care.

n Think big. Larger hanging baskets, window boxes and tubs are easier to keep wet and will give you a more impressive display. Baskets should have a minimum diameter of 40cm, window boxes should be at least 90cm long and tubs must be 45cm or more in diameter.

n Keep them wet. Fill the drainage holes in the base of pots and drill new holes 5cm up on the side to give you a reservoir. Line the baskets with a plastic-backed moss substitute available from garden centres. Use compost with water-retaining granules mixed in.

n Make sure your hanging basket brackets are strong enough to take the weight. A 45cm-diameter basket can weigh more than 20kg when wet and you don't want it to fall on somebody. Use coach bolts or 3in screws to fix them to the wall.

n Enter your local council's "in bloom" competition. This is likely to be free of charge and will give you excellent publicity when you win.

n Don't plant the summer flowers too early. It still gets cold enough at night for flowers to drop off until well into June. The later they go out, the longer they will last into the autumn.

n Don't mix too many colours. Limit the scheme to two or three shades to keep a clean and coordinated look. Avoid the use of plants such as geraniums, which produce ugly seed heads and need to be picked over to keep them flowering.

n Use a central feature plant such as cordyline, bulky filling plants such as impatiens, fuchsia and scaevola to surround and as many trailing plants, such as surfinia, ivy-leaf geranium and bidens, as can fit around the edge. Avoid planting through the base of the basket, as this makes it tricky to keep the basket wet.

n Consider using permanent shrubs. Many Mediterranean plants, such as olives, can now be used on south-

facing frontages and reinforce a food-led image when mixed with lavender and rosemary.

n Feed the hungry. Flowering plants will generally need a high-phosphate fertiliser applied regularly to promote the plant's growth.

n Quit while you're ahead. Replant before your flora starts to look tired and if the watering has been missed. Winter-flowering pansies really do give colour all winter and come into their own in April and early May.

n It may be helpful to put one member of staff in charge of watering. If these rules are followed, this should be done every three days, but the displays must be drenched. Consider getting a drip-feed irrigation system installed by a contractor, which should be connected to the tap in the cellar or in the garden, but only if it's out of the reach of the public.

n Enjoy the garden and wait for the praise to flood in.

Miles Watson-Smyth is a director of Windowflowers, a company that has been supplying and maintaining hanging baskets and other garden services to pubs for more than 60 years. Visit for more details.

Why it's cool to put your pub in the shade

Crown Awnings managing director Tony Holman stresses the importance of keeping outdoor areas covered:

"We don't have summers and winters any more. We have good days, bad days and worse days, and what you can do in June with your outdoor space, you can probably do in November.

"Forget bargain-basement products and the cowboys who came riding to the rescue before the smoking ban. Decide what you want the space to do for you, spend once and spend wisely.

"A good-quality product such as our Crown Alfresco, Pergotenda, or Megadome, or our glass and wooden structures, will stand the test of time and can be used all year round. Add heating, lighting and quality screening, along with weather-proof gaming, entertainment and audio-visual equipment, and you may well double your operating space, triple your dwell time, and quadruple your profits.

"I'm not talking smoking shelters here, but the effective and innovative use of outside space. Whatever the weather, if you want to dramatically increase profits, then you should be talking to people like us."

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