When most people consider artificial turf for their landscaping, the biggest question they have is how realistic it will seem. Sure, you might be saving water . . . and gasoline by not needing to mow it . . . and keeping fertilizer out of the environment . . . but will people know it's not natural?

While a lot of progress has been made in making artificial turf look like the real thing—you only have to check out photographs of synthetic yards online to see how realistic they can look today—you shouldn't overlook an alternative option: embrace the fact that it's artificial, because as an artificial turf, you can put it in places, and use it for things, you couldn't with real grass.

Patterned Patios—Mixing paving materials with grass can create some very visually interesting design. However, real grass is unruly, and it takes a lot of work to keep it just where you want it, making complicated designs tough. Artificial turf doesn't have that problem.

For a simple design, a checkerboard pattern of turf and stone or concrete can be attractive, but the possibilities extend much further than that. Narrow stripes of green turf running through a patio paved with stone steps up the visual interest; as an alternative to a grid pattern, why not have them curve to match the features of your patio, bending organically around your furniture or grill? Larger designs are also a possibility, such as a sunburst shape radiating from a fire pit or an organically irregular shape spreading from a doorway.

Relaxing Rooftops—If you have a roof patio, you can turn it into a gorgeous green living area. Carpeting a rooftop patio with synthetic grass is a great base for a rooftop garden of potted plants or trellises, too. On larger rooftops, try dividing the space with a mix of turf and wooden decking, using raised planters full of greenery as borders. Putting in turf can make stepping out onto the roof like stepping into a comfortable garden.

Delightful Decks—Traditional wooden decks are attractive, and grass and wood go together beautifully. So rather than plain wooden planks, try a deck where each plank of wood has a thick stripe of grass down the center. For a less uniform look, imagine a river of synthetic grass winding down the length of your deck, your furniture placed on its "banks."

When you don't have to worry about growing or mowing your grass, you can start to think of it as another paving material, able to be placed and shaped however you want. So there's no need to limit yourself to the idea of a flat, grassy yard—with synthetic grass from a retailer like Rocky Mountain Materials & Asphalt, you can make designs that are uniquely your own.

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