Adding a few plants to borders, baskets and pots can transform your outdoor space, but which plants work best in a hard-working pub garden? We asked some green-fingered publicans and gardening experts for their choice of pub plants.
One of the most popular plants for flower beds, geraniums come in a wide variety of shades, shapes and sizes and are relatively simple to take care of.
Tracey Leaver creates such head-turning floral displays at her pub, The Chequers Inn in Laddingford, Kent, that they have become a local attraction. She uses them in her hanging baskets and pots as they can tolerate quite dry conditions.
"In the summer, soil can dry out quite quickly. We water our tubs by hand, which can be time-consuming, so we don't want plants that need watering a lot," Tracey says.
In fact, if it's not baking hot, geraniums may only need watering weekly and are a good choice for shadier gardens and corners. They will also provide scent — anything from citrus notes to a rose-like smell, depending on the variety.
If it's scent you are looking to add to your garden, you can't go wrong with lavender. Its fragrance, which is known to reduce stress and lift moods, is accompanied by foliage that runs from green to silvery grey and flowers that don't come in just the more well-known purple but also pink or white.
It's also a hardy plant and very drought-resistant once established. Use in borders and troughs to add colour and interest, as well as scent.
Chris Driver is the licensee of The Derry in Long Newton, winner of the Best Garden category in this year's Star Pubs & Bars Awards.
"We spent £60,000 turning our outdoor area into a family-friendly area and sports hub," he says. New facilities include an outdoor bar, pizza oven, kids' play area and three shed-style pods, artificial grass and, of course, plants.
"We really prioritised easy maintenance on the planting and conifers are hardy evergreens that don't need too much care," he says. "They provide year-round greenery and then in the summer we add in hanging baskets, which give some colour."
Chris has also planted herbs in his award-winning garden, which get used in the pub's meals and drinks. Rosemary, thyme and bay have grown the most successfully, been the most versatile to use and have provided a nice talking point for punters, he says.
"I invested £2,500 in plants for the garden in total and I got a lot more for my money by approaching a local nursery and garden centre," he says. "We struck a deal whereby we advertise where we got our plants from via signs in the garden in exchange for a discount, and that has worked out really well for both businesses."
These flowers will provide a cheerful display early in the year. At The Chequers Inn, Tracey plants around 1,500 daffodil bulbs in the autumn and the subsequent display in early spring can cause quite a stir. "They are such a cheery sight after the darkness of winter and lots of people stop to have their photo taken with them," she says.
Tracey mixes in her daffs with tulips, pansies and primulas to create a "bold, bright and beautiful" display. Tulips are very popular and come in a variety of colours but the flowers don't last long — a few weeks at best.
Pansies, on the other hand, will last longer and can also provide a little autumn colour once the rest of the summer blooms have faded. They are also very easy to grow — so much so, that the Royal Horticultural Society recommends them for children.
Primulas are also spring flowers and are similarly easy to grow. They come in a variety of colours, will keep flowering for weeks and return in subsequent years — they even cross- pollinate and multiply, so you should get your money's worth.
Climbing plants are great for pub gardens as they take up very little space and can be trained up walls, arches and fences to create a beautiful backdrop.
PHS Greenleaf, the planting and landscape specialist, recommends choosing a scented one such as honeysuckle or jasmine that will add fragrance to your beer garden too. With its cream, trumpet-shaped flowers, honeysuckle can be grown in either sun or partial shade and can reach up to six metres in height. It also gives off a powerful, sweet scent which is popular with many.