Artificial turf worth a look for yard makeovers
I never knew so many of you cared. After I shared the landscaping plan for my garden a few weeks ago, many landscapers wrote among you to warn me of the woes of palm trees, bamboo and fig-ivy. And you didn’t even know about the wrong weed.
Poor Tony Evans. My landscape designer when he graduated with a degree in landscape architecture thought that defending his designs in front of his professors would be his toughest test. That was nothing compared to what my readers thought.
Because you had questions for me, I had questions for him.
The palm thing easily dissolved. Tony had suggested a triangle made of queen palms to create a shadow over the outdoor table. However, palm trees are not allowed in our community. Apparently they didn’t match the developer’s vision, I learned when the architecture review board carried out my plan. No problem. We will plant crepe myrtle instead. (Yeah, I know they’re falling.)
As for the bamboo trees planned for the side wall, my initial reaction was the same as that of Gene, a reader in Campbell, California. His real comment was “Bamboo? Ugh”. When I lived in California I remembered that bamboo was very invasive, but Tony assured me that the type he suggested will be preserved. It clumps together and doesn’t send runners to spread. I’ve been to several homes in Florida where bamboo trees are a welcome screen, exactly what we want between us and our neighbors. I stick to the plan.
The thought of fig-ivy really drove readers to the wall. “Because I love you so much that I have to write to you and warn you about the dreaded fig-ivy you want to plant on your garage wall,” wrote Marjorie from Orlando. “Suppose you speak of creeping fig-ivy, run away as fast as you can!”
Impressive. I have always liked ivy-covered buildings, their classic atmosphere of durability and stability.
“It will damage paint and wood. It will be a monster,” she continued. “It starts out as a nice little pointed leaf, but the leaves get bigger and the vine becomes woodier. If you don’t prune it all the time, it will grow into a hedge. … That’s not all. It creeps into everything.”
I forwarded her note to Tony, who, to be fair, had mentioned the ivy needed maintenance and could be tough for stucco, and said fake fig ivy was an option that sounded good. Except for the Christmas trees we discussed, I’m not a fan of fake plants.
There are now pretty houses with beautifully manicured ivy walls all around me. So the jury is out.
Now Pat from Santa Clara is lucky. She is considering redesigning her front yard, she writes. “I would like to discuss the pros and cons of artificial turf. (Probably too much to ask!)” Not at all, Pat.
Tony actually presented that option. My antennae shot up like crab grass: “Artificial grass?” I said to make sure I heard right.
“You’d be surprised how nice it looks,” he said.
“When I think of artificial turf, I think of the putt-putt golf course,” I say, feeling my face grimace when I smell something bad.
“First you have to stop calling it artificial grass,” he said. “It’s artificial turf.”
“Aren’t you using Astro, um, artificial grass instead of real grass, like replacing Brie with Cheez Whiz?”
“I’m not talking about the cheap, plastic looking grass,” he said. “The good stuff looks very real. There are even some brown blades woven into it.”
“Isn’t it the point of not having a brown?” There are some things I will never understand.
“I love the idea,” my husband, DC, intervenes. “No watering, no mowing, no maintenance, no mud, no turf service bills. How much would it add to the project?”
He had me with almost no mud, a constant fight outside our back door. DC was sold. But I wasn’t. Tony and I take a walk to visit two houses with artificial turf. I am looking. I go barefoot on the lawn.
“What do you think?” he asks.
“It looks good, but wrong.”
This may shock you, but I am able to change my mind. I tried to like it. I interviewed friends who told me that in desert climates like Arizona and in places with a lot of mud (Washington State) artificial turf is gaining ground.
When my mind creaked, I passed the idea on to a member of our community’s ARC who said the committee had never allowed artificial turf in front yards. For a backyard, however, they could be milder. I was cordially invited to submit the request.
“No,” I replied. This is not a rule that I want to bend. “I’m sticking to the real thing.”
That said, artificial turf can be a great choice for other homes, including Pat’s. When I looked at the pros and cons, I learned the following:
Looks. Today’s artificial turf comes in a variety of blade lengths, colors, and textures (including colored strands) and is difficult to distinguish from natural turf.
maintenance. Artificial turf does not require weeding, mowing, watering or fertilizing. Clearing sludge will keep your home cleaner. In contrast to natural grass, however, the synthetic variety must be cleaned regularly.
Ecological damage. Although more environmentally friendly in some ways because it saves water; removes dirt from mowers, edge trimmers and blowers; Artificial turf is a petroleum-based product that causes pollution and waste when it is manufactured and does not require chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Since it is not biodegradable, it will end up in a landfill after many years.
feeling. Although many love the foot feeling, lawns heat up and can get much hotter than real grass.
costs. Artificial turf costs about four times more than regular grass, Tony said. Some estimates suggest that the cost will be amortized in seven or eight years if you factor in the savings with no maintenance.
Armchair landscaper, for a future column please weigh fake, real, or no ivy and pool or no pool.
Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of five home and lifestyle books, including the recently published Downsizing the Blended Home (Sterling Publishing, December 2019).
HomeStyle on 02/08/2020