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Innovative products for the garden offer style and ease

(ARA) - Many a homeowner has been inspired by the classic gardens and courtyards found at great estates and modern mansions. Stone pathways lead to expansive gardens, lounge chairs line elaborate decks overlooking the lawn and intricate landscape designs provide a lush backdrop. But the expense and maintenance of these traditional materials has sparked a new trend: Products that give the look and best features of the original material without the hassle.

Traditional outdoor furnishings in wicker and rattan evoke memories of long summer days sitting on the porch and patio. But caring for that furniture can be a bother: Hard to clean, vulnerable to the elements and often expensive, homeowners have had to sacrifice the look they want for convenient, but unattractive plastic furniture. Thankfully, new products have come to the market that bring the best of both worlds: Easy-care vinyl with the woven look of wicker. Now dirt and grime can simply be hosed off and rain is no longer a concern.

With all the priming, staining and painting, not to mention worrying about bugs, rot and wear, wood decks can be a chore. But homeowners have discovered a better way to have the enjoyment of a deck, minus the sealing, staining and painting. Composite decking, made from recycled wood and plastic is an eco-friendly option that is growing in popularity.

"Rhino Deck offers homeowners the look and feel of wood without the worry," says Mark Reum, CEO of Master Mark Plastics, an industry leader that was the first to create composite decking with a woodgrain finish. "Composite decking is a strong, durable alternative to wood. It looks like wood, but is impervious to termites, manages extreme temperatures better than wood and never needs to be treated."

Composite decks are a great choice for high-traffic areas because they are very easy to maintain. And their splinter-free material makes them especially appealing for barefoot spots like docks, pool areas and near children's play equipment. Preserve privacy and define spaces with trellises and fencing without worrying about yearly painting or repairs. Master Mark offers a range of products made from the same composite material as their decking for strong, long-lasting performance.

Cobblestone pathways bring a romantic, stately feel, but are expensive and time consuming to install. Homeowners have flocked to concrete as an alternative that gives the same look at a fraction of the cost. Plastic molds create the appearance of individual stones without the mess of mortar or the need for expert installation. Simply pour quick-setting concrete into the mold, let it set according to the manufacturer's instructions and move on to the next section.

Plantings and landscapes look best when they incorporate a variety of materials and textures. Hardscaping elements, such as rocks and stone, are increasingly popular additions. But no one wants the back-breaking work of hauling and positioning heavy rocks to create a natural, organic look. In the past, faux stones have been flimsy plastic pieces that didn't have the look or feel of the real thing. But today, many companies are creating "mock rocks" that would fool anyone - even up close. These fake boulders are molded from real rocks and covered with a dusting of crushed stone to give them the right texture. Look for sturdy fiberglass models with hollow middles that make them easy to move and configure.

For more information about composite decking, visit

Courtesy of ARA Content