For a quirky take on low- maintenance outdoor furniture for flexible living, look no further than inflatable bean bags. Examples of these unusual seating ranges were also on show at Hampton Court, including Big Boy Air

from the

Outdoor Beanbag Company. These products are becoming increasingly popular – particularly with younger consumers – as they are portable and can be simply inflated in seconds by wafting through the air.

Taking a dip They are certainly a big investment but hot tubs are proving to be a real growth area in outdoor living, with more and more homeowners opting to make an outdoor spa part of their garden scheme.

Jacuzzi UK national sales manager Martyn Winstone says: “Over the past two years we have seen real growth. It could be due, in part, to finance offers available but also I think there is more education now and people know you can use them for things like sports injuries. It is also seen as a family and social activity, whereas before there was a bit of a stigma attached to having a hot tub.”

New finance offers in the market mean that customers only need to put down a small deposit, which makes the big-ticket item purchase less daunting, Mr Winstone explains. “We are even doing a show offer where people can put down just £99 on the day,” he adds. And there was real interest in the category from visitors, as Jacuzzi UK’s stand was extremely busy throughout the show. So, when are the sales peaks for this category? “We do really well in the winter actually because you can put up marquees over the jacuzzi. Easter to autumn is a peak selling time but now it’s a year- round category.”

Jacuzzi UK used to sell online with John Lewis but Mr Winstone

Botanical prints are a huge trend for home and garden products and the Bath School of Art & Design has had a number of designs on show here snapped up by major brands

says, “it never really took off”, explaining that customers like to touch and feel the product before making a purchase. The supplier also looked at stocking its products in Homebase but felt it “wasn’t the right fit” and now sticks with specialist independent outlets. “You might have one hot tub on offer in a DIY store but a choice of 10 to 15 in specialists so customers can find a product that meets their needs.” While the outdoor product continues to grow in popularity, there are still some hurdles suppliers need to overcome. “Some retailers stock cheap Chinese imports, where you really take a risk. Also, it’s about defeating the myths. The cost of running a hot tub can be as little just an extra £1 a day. It’s a luxury but it’s a bit more affordable.”

Decorative touches

One might not initially think it a natural fit for a gardening show, but Farrow & Ball was flying the flag for its paint range which, it says, many consumers are unaware can be used for external applications. A number

of representatives from Farrow & Ball showrooms from surrounding areas took it in turns to man a vintage truck that had been decked out in Farrow & Ball paint and was filled with an array of sample jars in order to inspire visitors to get experimenting with colour in the garden. The reaction from visitors was fantastic, said those on stand, explaining that they had given out thousands of leaflets that contained a show offer of a free sample pot and all goodie bags had completely gone. The paint brand sees a lot of opportunity at the show and said it would be back next year with even more to offer. Garden retailer Crocus, which began life as an online-only trader before opening a site in Dorney, tells DIY Week that it has seen a move toward ranges that offer a contemporary take on classic garden items. Rustic and unfinished looks are popular, with its handmade terracotta pots and aged galvanised steel products doing well. “Our aged grey items are very popular and look great against any plants,”

says Julia Leakey. Decorative stakes in grey or white metal finishes also on Crocus’ stand, were a favourite with visitors. “These decorative stakes also serve to mark dormant plants,” explains Ms Leakey. “The practical stuff has got to work but also look good. Functional should still look attractive”. The thirst for succulents and houseplants meant that Crocus brought an array of stylish glass cloches to Hampton Court. The range is already very popular with customers online and Ms Leakey says the trend continued with visitors at the show.

The natural, unfinished look could be seen across Hampton Court Flower Show, with Forest Garden debuting a line of rough sawn planters and a lot of natural stone used in show gardens. Softer, more natural planting was also a big feature. In the Gardens for a Changing World section, Brownfield – Metamorphosis, created by garden designer Martyn Wilson replicates an outdoor space after demolition and before regeneration begins. It was planted with native species including fennel, grasses, buddleia and erigeron and used ferns to add softness. Rusted corten steel pillars, blocks and rings add structure and act as unusual sculptures, representing construction. “The rust tones and fennel look fantastic together,” says Martin. “The sculptural walls are really striking and the three pillars have already been pre- sold. They have captured people’s imaginations.” DIY Week reported last year that

The link between gardening and entertaining is a great opportunity for GYO and outdoor living categories, says Plants 4 Presents

14 DIY WEEK 21 JULY 2017

Architectural trees, such as these on the Journey of Life garden are extremely popular with gardeners, says Flowerpot Nurseries

there was a real renaissance for sculpture – particularly stone – at Hampton Court, with plenty used in show gardens and some choice suppliers selling their wares. This year there were reportedly more sculpture brands exhibiting at the event, revealing that the thirst for art in the garden continues to grow. Mara Sculpture, who DIY Week spoke to last year, were back again and owner Bernard Mavunga says he had seen a marked increase in the level of interest in the pieces he was showing this year. Almost 30 sculpture brands were at this year’s show including Steve Noble with natural objects crystallised in metal, stone sculptor Matt Maddocks, and John O’Connor with bronze contemporary figures. Sculpture still took centre stage on show gardens but more geometric shapes were prevalent this year, particularly on the RHS Watch This Space garden, which re-used architectural features from a number of former award-winning gardens. The garden designed

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