For fabulous landscaping or view, fake it
Want a beautiful yard or view? Artificial landscaping and scenery gives you the look without all the work.
By Yvonne Swanson, Special to the Times
Published February 2, 2008
If you'd like a waterfall view from your screened lanai, no problem. Or how about a grove of mature palms that you never have to water, fertilize or trim? Need a full-grown hedge in a hurry? And don't forget the deep green, perfectly manicured lawn that doesn't require a bit of care.
They're all fabulous fakes that provide instant gratification for homeowners who want a beautiful yard and view - and they want it now!
Outdoor artificial trees, shrubs and lawn look like the real thing but without the maintenance, says Corey Bryant, owner of Golf Coast Sports in Tarpon Springs, which specializes in artificial outdoor landscaping, putting greens and game courts (www.golfcoastsports.com or (727) 946-1512). "They are maintenance-free and they look gorgeous year-round," he says of the handcrafted artificial plants that are constructed of 70 percent recycled material, fiberglass and steel.
Shopping malls, office buildings, hotels and other commercial properties have used artificial landscape products for years, but homeowners are increasingly joining their ranks, Bryant says. His company recently installed $50,000 worth of synthetic lawn and palms at a Tampa area residence where the owner was fed up with maintenance. Another customer bought a 17-foot coconut palm, complete with coconuts, for a front entryway.
Most homeowners, however, buy smaller plants to accent their live landscape, including Chinese fan palm, pygmy date palm, sagos and shorter versions of tall palms. Treated with UV-protection and rated to withstand winds up to 120 mph, the plants are guaranteed for five years. If fronds look less than healthy after that, customers buy new fronds and attach them to the trunk.
Artificial landscaping isn't cheap, but the prices are comparable to those for live, mature-size specimen plants. Golf Coast's 17-foot coconut palm is $2,600, the 16-foot Canary date palm is $3,800 and synthetic lawn runs $6 to $8 per square foot.
Ohio-based Earthflora (www.earthflora.com or (877) 252-1675) sells a wide range of outdoor artificial plants, including 4-foot laurel hedges and 7-foot boxwood topiaries. There are podocarpus, Japanese maple, oak and ficus trees, as well as gardenia and geranium bushes, bougainvillea vines, bamboo and English ivy. Earthflora's palms range in price from about $900 for a 10-foot model to $5,500 for a 23-foot model. All products are made from a patented, UV-treated polyurethane resin.
But what if artificial palms and plants don't eliminate the unsightly view of your neighbor's side yard? What if your screened-in pool area provides no privacy from nosy neighbors? There's Scenic Screens to the rescue!
The Orlando company (www.scenicscreens.net or (727) 647-0566) has more than 500 scenes printed on a patented, heavy-duty screen made from nylon, polyester, PVC and UV inhibitors that can be installed onto a screened enclosure or fencing to block the offending view. There are panoramic scenes of islands, waterfalls, gardens, jungles, desert, wilderness, even city skylines. You can also provide your own image, which is custom-printed on the screen.
That's what a couple ordered recently, and now they have a screened view from their kitchen window of themselves honeymooning in Mexico, Scenic Screen president Jim Linehan says.
A Scenic Screen costs up to 60 percent less than vinyl privacy fencing, Linehan says. The average installation costs from $1,800 to $3,200 and includes a two-year warranty. For an additional fee, screens can be configured for easy removal during tropical storms.
"It's a great alternative to installing mature landscaping or fencing. This is a much less intrusive way to get privacy around the pool and patio and there is no maintenance involved," says Linehan. "We've had people rip 10-foot-high hedges out because they are tired of looking at bushes and taking care of them."
Before you install any artificial landscaping, you'd be wise to check your homeowner regulations if you live in a restricted community. Most don't allow artificial turf in the front yards, Bryant of Golf Coast Sports says. However, nearly all his customers who live in restricted communities have obtained approval to install fake turf and putting greens in their back or side yards. Your community may also have regulations about the use of images on fencing, so it's best to consult homeowner guidelines.
Yvonne Swanson is a freelance writer in St. Petersburg and a master gardener for Pinellas County.
[Last modified January 31, 2008, 17:53:17]
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