Add a touch of flare

House Style: Transform your garden with lanterns, lamps or flares for stylish outdoor eating
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The Independent Culture
Eating outside in the evening used to mean dropping a night light into a jam jar or struggling on in the gloom. Now, diners alfresco are flanked by hurricane lamps, lit by hanging lanterns, and further illuminated by floating candles in glass bowls on the table. Rows of garden flares - borrowed from the traditions of stately homes - transform the humblest garden path into something rivalling an airport runway. And just as candles are now one of the fastest-selling house-style accessories (Habitat sells 25,000 a week and Harrods devotes a whole department to them), garden lights are booming with the trend towards outdoor dining-rooms.

There are three trends - the rustic or ethnic, the traditional and the jokey. The latter are largely represented by garden flares, an almost entirely new product category for most shops this year. Essentially, they're drizzle-proof, wind-resistant mega-candles on sticks. Find them shaped like giant carrots and aubergines from Capital Garden Products, as wax flowers from House of Fraser, and in shades of green, red, yellow, blue and orange from Graham & Green, Habitat and Ocean Trading or - more simply and elegantly - as long metal stakes with a glass shade at the top for ordinary white candles from Ocean Trading. You can also find small garden flares in terracotta pots at many supermarkets or DIY stores, where the unwary assume they are for tables. Be warned - it is like dining with an uncapped oil well.

Traditional garden lighting harks back to the Victorian days of metal- and-glass hurricane lamps - one of Liberty's top-sellers this summer - or plain glass storm lanterns (a wide variety can be found at Habitat), while the Stiffkey Lampshop draws on colonial days for its Indian Garden Lantern - a six-sided glass paraffin lamp in unpolished brass. But the ethnic or rustic list is top of the impulse buy list. You can buy tiny tin buckets with wooden handles and night lights inside from Graham & Green, or tin lanterns with cut-outs from The Pier. Anything you can hang - on a branch, hook or washing line - such as Turkish lanterns from Graham & Green, also works well, but don't forget to check the fire hazard.

If you haven't got a glass bowl with floating candles this summer, then you haven't been reading glossy magazines. Another category that barely existed last year, these are everywhere in 1996 (Harrods, Habitat, The Source, to name a few). They're ideal for outside because, being small buoyant night-lights or glass balls with wicks, they float inside bowls which protect them from wind.

Last, but not least, now that everyone is urged to have a "water feature" in their garden - even if it's only a dribble trickling over stones from a cunningly overturned pot - mosquitoes are an issue. Smoke them out with citronella, incorporated in garden candles from shops as diverse as Homebase and Harrods

Stockists: Habitat, 0645 334433 for stores nationwide; Harrods, 0171- 730 1234; Capital Garden Products, 0181-348 5054 for branches; Graham & Green, 0171-727 4594; Ocean Trading, mail order 0800 132985; Liberty, 0171-734 1234; Stiffkey Lampshop, 01328 830460; The Pier, 0171-351 7100 for stores nationwide; The Source, 01708890253 for stores nationwide; Homebase, 0181-200 0200 for stores nationwide