Swimming Pool Cool
by Nellie Neal
can be a family’s center of entertainment and exercise, and a simple
landscape plan adds to the enjoyment without creating maintenance chores to
keep you out of the pool. You can create a relaxing mood and soften the
sharp edges of most pool shapes and still not crowd the action by using
plants and soil wisely in the pool area.
the pool itself at the center of your landscape plan. You must maintain safe
access on all sides, so leave the concrete bib free of obstructions like
planter boxes. A fine design places large planters at all four corners of
the bib, not the pool, to leave a clear path and prevent leaves or soil
falling into the water.
back from the pool to consider other plantings along its edges. Groundcovers
and lawns can ring the pool site in a neat five or ten foot wide solid
border and put it in dramatic perspective to taller plantings further away.
The consistent effect of one type of plant in this area adds to the relaxing
mood you want around the pool. Stay away from perennial borders and annual
beds that must be replanted frequently. Both make for busy areas visually
and take frequent regular maintenance to look good. If you’re thinking
about taking care of the plants, they’re distracting and you can’t
you’ve established a solid ring around the pool, choose several places to
add plantings or groups of pots at its outside edge. These plantings add
height and stability to the design and draw your eye upward from the
water’s flat level to the inspiring sky above. Simplicity remains the
watchword for beds along one side or containers arranged at the corners.
Choose one or two small trees and repeat them along with no more than three
different shrubs. Repeat the groundcover you used in the border for
continuity of form and color. Remember, the pool is the point, and plantings
should simply enhance its beauty.
plants to use around a swimming pool can be confusing unless you set a style
and stick to plants that meet three basic criteria:
Heat tolerant - able to withstand the reflected heat given off by
Bold texture - to make a style statement and lead your eye upward
with strong lines
Plants with neat habits – those that don’t propel their litter
through the air but drop flowers and leaves all at once or not at all and
those that grow slowly to strong forms (like small conifers.)
usual rectangular inground pool lends itself equally well to a classic,
elegantly formal planting or a wild rainforest theme. Aboveground models
surrounded by decking are more suited to a looser style where decorative
containers filled with annuals, herbs and even bananas work well together.
gardeners like tropical plants near the water and even though most are not
hardy everywhere, you can still use a few for their powerful effect. Combine
striped leaf cannas with elephant ears or caladiums and a vine like
‘Marguerite’ spilling over the sides of a big container. Or plant
gingers and jasmine with a princess tree for fabulous flowers and fragrance.
If you have a favorite spring-flowering shrub, show it off in groups of
three and bring the visitor’s attention to the pool area even before the
season begins. Add more offseason color and interest to a nearby wall or
fence with a climbing rose or espaliered fruit tree. Where mild winters mean
you can entertain outside even when the pool is covered, use upright
evergreens – and drape them in holiday lights to make a festive mood.
plants that create hazards or abundant litter around your pool. Stiffly
arching branches and border shrubs with thorns can poke visitors, and fleshy
plants that drop leaves over a long period make for slick spots that can
trip guests. Build a retaining wall around plantings to keep the pool deck
clean and choose lawn or a substitute like dichondra for walkways to and
from the cabana if a concrete sidewalk isn’t in your plans. Stepping
stones used here will be easy to miss, giving you dirty feet and dirty
the pool landscape together with accessories that match your style and mood.
Decorative planters in carved concrete emphasize the formal setting while
wooden box planters make it casual. Use highback chairs with strong lines
and add a tall trellis, patio umbrella or obelisk when your design puts most
plants at ground level. And don’t forget lights: line the edge with solar
powered garden lights, add a string of lanterns to the trees or use candles
in luminaries around containers for a welcoming glow.