Make your Tampa landscape Florida friendly

Make your Tampa landscape Florida friendly

For a year, Tom Fay of New Port Richey tried in vain to revive his patchy, dying lawn.

He invested more than $10,000 to replant it, paid upward of $500 monthly on watering and spent hundreds more on fertilizing. Nothing worked.

So he changed course and hired Shaun Sadree, owner of highly rated Sadree Landscape Design in New Port Richey, to do a $25,000 yard overhaul. Today, he enjoys a grassless, Florida friendly landscape with dwarf palms, drought tolerant jasmine ground cover and a walkway to a backyard fire pit.

“I’ve only had one [monthly water] bill since I made the switch that was over a hundred bucks,” Fay says.

Most local homeowners still prefer their traditional St. Augustine lawn, despite municipal water restrictions and other challenges unique to a state with alternating wet and dry seasons.

But experts say other opportunities exist to reduce water use and improve energy efficiency through thoughtful landscaping, including drip irrigation that targets water to plant roots and low-voltage landscape lights that use less electricity to illuminate.

In addition, the state encourages homeowners and service professionals to practice so-called Florida Friendly Landscaping that limits fertilizer, conserves resources like water and uses low maintenance plants well-suited for the Sunshine State.

“When you go with Mother Nature and you follow her rules, she’ll be kind on your wallet,” says Sadree, who prefers species native to Florida for this reason, including a miniature version of the classic tropical tree called the Coontie palm.

From the ground up, trees dramatically change landscapes and large, shade varieties like oaks may lower your energy bill as well.

“Picking the right tree is key,” says Brian Marc Schatz, owner of highly rated Schatz Landscape Design in Tampa. “Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the winter — that way you get the sun when you need it and the shade when you don’t.”

Schatz recommends positioning them on the south, east and west sides of the home.

Plant trees an appropriate distance from your house to account for future growth and protect against the possibility of roots penetrating your home’s foundation or heavy branches crashing down on your roof.

To keep trees healthy and homes safe, Schatz, a certified arborist, recommends getting professional help with pruning. He says properly cared for trees can often withstand even hurricane-force winds. “Of course, if it’s a Category 5, all bets are off,” he adds.

Trees hold both functional and aesthetic appeal for Angie’s List member Jane Davis, who recently paid highly rated Treeology, a tree service company in Clearwater, $500 to trim branches overhanging her house.

Since she moved into her Largo home about 11 years ago, several nearby oaks grew tall enough to provide shade and reduced her summer air conditioning bills by an estimated $50 a month.

Several trees and vines also provided a temporary home for a family of screech owls. “I think even the humblest dwelling is beautiful with trees in the yard,” Davis says.

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