Tired of mowing the lawn? Pave it over
Homeowners weary of yardwork are turning to 'hardscaping,' replacing grass and plants with low-maintenance stone or concrete. Some are keeping things green with fake vegetation.
Michael Kulik recently invited the bulldozers in to tear up his quarter-acre Falls Church, Va., backyard. The $90,000 redo he has planned will include a hot tub and gazebo, an outdoor fireplace and grill, a multilevel paved terrace -- and very few plants.
Kulik, a professional photographer, says he was tired of spending hours every week trimming the azaleas and hollies and trying to get grass to grow under the oak trees. "For me, the backyard had become a war zone."
Here's what's on the way out in landscaping: grass, flowers and trees. Frustrated by extreme changes in the weather -- floods this year, droughts last year -- some homeowners are simply giving up. They're replacing ferns and palms with lifelike fakes, pulling up the sod and putting down stone, concrete and other types of paving, and drastically shrinking planting beds.
"It's garden fatigue," says Bruce Butterfield, the director of research for the National Gardening Association in Burlington, Vt.
Lawn and garden sales have been declining for the past three years, according to the group. Sales totaled $35.2 billion in 2005, down 4% from the year before. And it's not just the wiggy weather: Many homeowners are aging, says Butterfield, or are simply wearying of maintaining elaborate plantings or competing with the neighbors for the showiest roses.
Even professionals like Josh Dean, a landscape designer in Burke, Va., are paving over their green space. In January 2006, Dean replaced most of his backyard with a huge flagstone patio. "I was tired of dealing with the overgrown grass and poison ivy," ....