A key role for a garden designer is to advise on what kind of materials and plants are appropriate for your garden, and an element that shouldn’t be overlooked is the boundary or internal screening.

The most commonly used options are wooden fences or trellis screens however, walls, railings and hedging can also be a good alternative. Wherever possible I like to explore the possibility of using a suitable hedge, evergreen, semi evergreen or deciduous because it can create a really beautiful garden backdrop, while also offering protection from the elements, privacy and habitat for wildlife, not to mention security.

Natural hedging also suits properties of all ages and size, creating both a traditional or contemporary style. Dependent on the style of garden you wish to create, a hedge can be used in many ways; to provide a warm natural atmosphere in a country garden, soften the surroundings of a city garden or add structure to a modern garden.  A hedge can also be a useful screen for those areas you might want to hide from view in your garden.

Plus, what many people don’t realise is that you can buy hedging in all growth forms, from 1 year old whips that are about as thick as a pencil up to a fully mature 2.0 meter hedge in a choice of varieties according to your garden aspect and soil condition. Available varieties include native, exotic, flowering, ever-green and fruit bearing.

In terms of upkeep (one of the biggest questions), all hedging will require some form of maintenance, at the very least pruning, but it will depend on the varieties you choose (and for me a twice yearly clip outweighs the chore and expense of painting a fence).  Our advice would be to do your research before you buy or contact our award-winning garden design team for help.


By a mile, porcelain tiles have become the most desirable outdoor paving choice this year says Martin Neenan, General Manager, at Boningale Garden Creations. Here, he discusses what you need to know about this emerging trend.

Porcelain tiles are increasingly being specified over alternative natural stones because of their inherent versatility and contemporary finish. Increased supply and advancements in the manufacture of porcelain tiles have also fuelled this demand, however, as with all flooring options there are pros and cons to their use as we identify here.

The Benefits

For outdoor spaces, porcelain has grown in popularity because manufacturers are now able to produce the tiles in a greater thickness for use as structural paving slabs (the industry standard set is 20mm thick). This is enabling customers to take advantage of the benefits of porcelain – a type of ceramic that is stronger, harder and more water resistant than most durable materials.

  • Durability: Porcelain is one of the toughest flooring options available and can therefore withstand heavy loads that might over time cause cracking or breakage on other less strong surfaces.
  • Water: The density of porcelain makes it more resistant to water penetration as compared to other more porous types of ceramic – this makes porcelain less likely to go green due to algae/moss. Manufacturers claim this makes them frost resistant too, as well as slip resistant.
  • Low Maintenance: The natural stain and water resistance of porcelain means tiles require little maintenance – just a soapy wash down once or twice a year.
  • Long-life: If installed and maintained correctly, porcelain tiles can last for many years, even decades.
  • Aesthetics: Porcelain tiles are available in a wide choice of attractive and sleek modern finishes; they can be smooth or textured, and can even replicate natural stone or a wood finish. Being suitable for indoor and outdoor spaces, they also make a seamless transition from one area to another.

The Downsides

  • Weight: Like most hard tile flooring solutions, porcelain is very heavy which can make the installation process difficult and labour-intensive.
  • Limited Sizes: Porcelain tiles generally only come in one or two sizes, which adds to the weight and labour cost.
  • Installation: As above, installing porcelain is time-consuming because it is heavy and hard to cut – its limited sizing and weight also make it difficult to shape and achieve curves.
  • Finishes: While the tiles themselves benefit from inherent stain and water resistant properties, the gaps between the tiles don’t and therefore require grouting – cement based or two-part resin is recommended. An additional bonding agent is also needed to adhere to the mortar – due to the tile’s low moisture absorption. All factors that add to the overall material and labour installation cost – and if the tiles are not finished professionally the prime long-term benefits of choosing porcelain could be negated.
  • Price: As compared to other paving materials, porcelain can be very expensive – upwards of £50 per square metre.  Customers also need to factor in the increased cost of installation as explained here.

Porcelain tiles are of the moment; aside from their material benefits, they are beautiful and give a luxurious and contemporary feel to any size of garden. To offset the initial costs you need to consider porcelain as a long-term investment; so our advice would be to consider your budget, seek expert advice and make sure you get the tiles professionally installed.

Making your driveway an integral part of your landscape

Your driveway is an important part of your landscaping because it gives a first impression of your home – they call this ‘kerb appeal’, making the approach to your home attractive and appealing. However, is also likely that your driveway will be driven on every day. That means in addition to looking good, it needs to be durable and functional.

A well-designed driveway will take into account the surrounding landscape as well as your home’s architectural style and car parking needs.

The four main issues that a designer considers when creating and building a driveway are access, safety, drainage and aesthetics.

Materials are the most important component in the design and with so many options, from block paving and asphalt to concrete and gravel, to choose from, it may feel overwhelming.

It’s important to look at the width and layout of your driveway to see which will work best but ultimately, your budget and design goals will determine what you choose.

A good designer will advise on the pros and cons of each material and may also suggest additional ideas, such as multiple colours to create a pattern, pattern stamping or decorative borders, lighting or gates. While many homeowners understandably want to maximise the space they have to park their cars safely on their property, try not to create a car park.

Planting softens the hardscaping, creates a more inviting space and assists with drainage, but choose carefully the shrubs and plants that will be used in the borders alongside driveways – check for overhang, maximum growth and spread.

Here Martin provides 5 different style ideas for creating attractive driveway landscapes.

  • ELEGANCE. Create kerb appeal with an elegant paved driveway that is bordered by a classic planting combination of evergreens and colourful scented blooms.
  • CLEAN AND GREEN. Create an inviting and lush planting scheme by layering all-green foliage plants.  These will also require less maintenance as compared to perennials.
  • LARGE AND PROUD. For large driveways, you want hard materials that complement the landscape (so it doesn’t look like a car-park) and the planting scheme should be designed to look like a garden – not practical.  Consider using attractively planted and colourful ‘cottage garden style’ flower beds.  For long driveways, break-up lawn areas with a mix of leafy evergreens, bright foliage and colourful accents. Depending on the design of the space, an informal meadow garden can also be very attractive and cost effective for large expanses.
  • MINIMALIST. Keep things simple with a single variety of plant — this could bean evergreen shrub, an ornamental grass or topiary – strategically planted a long the length of the driveway.  This works well with contemporary styled homes.
  • SHORT AND SWEET. Even small driveways provide the opportunity to make a design statement with plantings. If you are short of space for borders, swap out some of the paved areas with walk able ground covers and complement with colourful potted plants and glorious hanging baskets.

For further information and advice on creating a striking driveway, please contact us today for a free consultation.

Gardens With an Eye for Design

Creating an eye-catching focal point in your garden can make a marked visual difference to the completed design, and Martin Neenan, Boningale Garden Creations’ General Manager offers his expert advice here.

A strong and creative focal point can add real design flair to your garden; it can be used to highlight points of interest, as well as to cleverly hide and divert attention away from unsightly areas.  The trick to getting it right is choosing the right location and the right type of focal point.

LocationThe first rule is ‘less is more’.  Too many focal points in a garden can create a confusing space, which in turn will take away the value of creating a focal point.  Next, try and get a feel for your garden; see where your eyes are naturally drawn and use this to test your focal point – remembering to check the position from all different angles of the garden, including the view from the house (and the neighbours, if privacy is required).

Types of Focal Points

  • Objects: Using an ornament, statue, water feature, or a piece of furniture can create a striking centrepiece, especially against an elegant planting scheme. Tip: make sure the object fits with the size and style of garden. Your chosen object can also work to emphasis / compliment architectural detail that is unique to your home.

  • Plants: Using plants as focal points can work really well, as they can create more subtle features. Tip: think about the seasons – if you want all-year round impact for example, choose a larger specimen plant / topiary which come in many different shapes, sizes and colours.

  • Borders: Each flower bed should also have its own focal point, which can be a tall plant or a bright flower. Tip: invest in an unusual species and resist the temptation to centre your focal point – just off centre is more effective.

  • Structures: Summerhouses, garden kitchens, entertainment areas and fire pits can also make striking statements. Tip: look at where the sun and shadows lie in your garden, so you can identify the best position with the most vantage points.

For a smaller garden, you might also want to consider a circular lawn or gravel bed with wrap-around flower beds for a focal feature. The use of mirror(s) is also a good tip, as they can give the impression of a larger space; they will also reflect more light into your garden, as well as provide a focal point.


If you are thinking of getting your garden professionally designed this year, what should you be looking out for when choosing a landscape company? We ask Martin Neenan, General Manager at the award-winning Boningale Garden Creations for his advice and tips.

 What makes a good garden designer?

A good garden designer has to be in tune with the customer – and gaining trust is absolutely vital. This means spending hours with you to ascertain exactly how you want to use the garden and what it is you want to achieve. At this initial stage, they will go through existing features, talk about preferred styles, and, crucially, budget. It’s only when those details are sorted that the design can be created.

What should people look for if they want to use a garden design company?

Do some digging! Before signing on the dotted line, ask to speak to previous customers and check to see if it is a member of the Association of Professional Landscapers – this will give you added assurance of quality and guarantee of service.

Will they help us choose the best hard landscaping materials?

Materials are one of the most important components in the design (and budget) and with so many options, from slate, block paving and brick to concrete and gravel – not forgetting natural materials like hedging and trees – to choose from, it may feel overwhelming. A good company will advise on the pros and cons of each type of material taking into account the design brief, surrounding landscape as well as your home’s architectural style.

At Boningale we have a team of experts, from our award-winning garden design associates to our horticultural specialists and project management team, who will give you expert advice, every step of the way.


By Martin Neenan Garden Creations General Manager

The dormant season – mid-autumn to early spring – is generally agreed to be the best time to plant root-ball and bare root plants.

Not sure what this means? Hopefully, this simple explanation will help you so that you can the most out of your outdoor space.

Bare-root plants are exactly what it says: plants with their bare roots exposed. That means they are sold without any compost and not in pots. Instead, they are sold wrapped in polythene, which prevents the fibrous roots from drying out. Bare-root plants and trees are typically between one and three years old and because they have large clumps of root, they will establish more quickly once in the ground. It’s important, however, to keep the roots damp (put them in a bucket of water) and plant the specimens in their permanent position as quickly as possible – except if the ground is frozen or waterlogged. Make sure they are in situ before the spring growing season.

 Root-ball plants usually come in a hessian wrap & wire mesh to hold in the compost or soil and roots.  It’s a common method for larger, semi-mature trees and conifers and other evergreens. Make sure you dig a hole that’s at least twice as wide as the root ball but only as deep as the root ball itself. Plant the root ball too deep and it could encourage disease to enter the trunk.


As we approach the start of another New Year, Martin Neenan, Garden Creations’ General Manager
looks back at the top 5 trends seen in garden and landscape design over the last 12 months, which are to set to continue this year.

Rethinking Outdoor Experiences

As we know, an increasing number of homeowners are turning their gardens into a space they can use all year round. This can be as simple as creating cosy sheltered areas where you can cook, eat and socialise, to making the garden an integral part of the home using materials and hard landscaping in complementary colours. The biggest trend this year has been the use of indoor and outdoor porcelain tiles which create a seamless transition from inside your home to your outdoor space – plus, they not only look beautiful, they are easier to clean and are frost-proof.

Boningale Patio

Extending the Seasons

To support the outdoor experience, more and more clients have specified fire-pits this year and asked for them to be designed as an integral part of the garden.  Here in the UK, we are not blessed with all-year sunshine and fire-pits do offer the practical solution, as well as providing a stunning focal point for relaxing conversation on chilly nights.


Colouring Structures

Generally speaking clients either want a contemporary or a traditional garden design, but in both cases there has been a real demand this year for customers wanting more colours out of their structures. This can be achieved by painting fences, sheds or structures like pergolas. For example, rather than brown or grey fences, we are now painting more fences black, dark green or dark blue.  These dark surfaces also provide the perfect backdrop for vibrant planting schemes.

Low Maintenance

For this piece we couldn’t leave out the growing popularity in clients wanting the benefits of artificial grass.  This is a trend set to stay with more and more options being developed for homeowners to simulate the look and feel of real grass. From traditional bowling green designs to striped lawns and even wildflower turf, there is an increasing array of options available to suit all budgets.

Kerb Appeal

Finally, we’ve seen a massive shift in client’s ‘front of house’ expectations this year – it’s no longer a case of simply tarmacking or paving your driveway. Clients want to create ‘kerb appeal’ – they want a beautifully designed landscaped garden that compliments and is styled around their driveway space.  The key to success is the ‘design’ – making sure it reflects the style of the house, that the soft landscape is conducive to the environment and that the hard landscape is durable and functional. With so many factors to consider and choices to be made, professional advice is the best way forward.


If you would like to see case study examples of our landscape designs or need professional advice from our award-winning garden designers please Contact us for a free consultation.


There’s still plenty to do in the garden this autumn, if you want to keep it looking tidy. Martin Neenan, General Manager at Boningale Garden Creations provides his golden tips here.

Now is the best time to move established trees or shrubs. Deciduous plants can be moved any time from late October to mid-March, while evergreen plants are best moved from October to late March. Moving them in the dormant season gives the roots time to re-establish themselves quickly.


If your garden is at its peak in the summer, it can start to look a little tired in the autumn months, so it’s a good idea to cut back any perennials that have died down. This not only improves their appearance, it also encourages strong growth for the following year. If you can, leave some stems to over-winter because this provides some a home and food for wildlife.


There’s no need to go to the gym when you are a gardener – especially if you like to maintain your lawn! Get your workout done by scarifying the lawn (this is removing unwanted thatch – moss – that grows in the lawn). Afterwards, top dress by applying a layer of sand/soil/peat mix to the lawn. You’ll need a different mix depending on your lawn’s soil conditions, for example, if you have a fast-draining lawn, you’ll need more soil/loam to increase water retention.


Another great way to tidy up the garden and make a difference to your soil quality is composting the fallen leaves. In 12 months’ time, you’ll have a nutritious, rich leaf mould with which to enrich your borders.

If you need any further information or want to seek professional advice from our award-winning garden designers please contact us today for a free consultation.


Do you ever look enviously at those gardens with beautiful lawns? While most of us don’t have the time to achieve the perfection of a premium golf course, there is plenty you can do to ensure your lawn looks lush and healthy.


Mowing is crucial but it is important to get the mower height set correctly – make sure it’s higher in dry weather and for the first few cuts of the year, just in case there is a late frost. The type of mower you use will also have an impact. Rotary mowers do the job but if you want a more professional finish, consider buying a cylinder mower, which usually comes with rollers for striping.

Scarifying – removing the unwanted thatch – should be carried out twice a year, in April and September, preferably on damp grass. It’s a good idea to apply a moss killer seven-10 days before using a scarifying machine or rake to go over your entire lawn.


Aerating is also important and should be done once a year between March and November. This involves perforating the soil with small holes to allow air, water and nutrients to penetrate the grass roots, thus alleviating soil compaction.

We also recommend top-dressing the lawn with a layer of sand/soil/peat mix after scarifying and aerating. What mix you use depends on the soil conditions.

You may also want to water your lawn during prolonged periods of hot, dry weather (just check there’s no hosepipe ban!). Morning is the best time to do it when the air is cooler and the wind is calmer – and avoid 11am-3pm, when the sun is at its hottest.

The summer heat can take its toll on lawns, but if you follow these simple tips you can make your grass the envy of your neighborhood!


Steve Tonks, General Manager at Boningale Garden Creations provides his top tips

Summer is the time you can really enjoy the fruit of your labours, but don’t sit back and relax too much – there’s still plenty to do.

Check your potted plants carefully because they can easily dry out during periods of warmth and no rain. Equally, over-watering can be a problem, so it’s treading a fine line between the two issues!


Potted plants – especially those in terracotta pots – are vulnerable to overheating, so there are a few things you can do to mitigate any problems, mulching helps too improve moisture retention, as does a good helping of water retention gel to compost in pots and hanging baskets.

Be careful not to soak plants in water though, because it can cause root rot. A good tip is to stand them in saucers of sand and keep the sand damp. If your pots get too dry, soak the pot in a bucket of water for 30 minutes and then drain well.

If you’re not sure if your potted plants need to be watered, place your finger in the soil. If it feels damp, don’t water.

Your grass doesn’t need to be cut frequently at this time of year – if there’s a long, dry
spell, raise the height of the mower blades because the grass won’t scorch so easily. Lawns recover quickly after a drought but if you do water them, do it in the evening (just check there’s no hosepipe ban!).


If you need any further information or want to seek professional advice from our  award-winning garden designers please contact us on or call me on 01902 376500.