Pool Landscaping Ideas
By Michael Aral
Pool landscaping design requires integrating a variety of elements—plantings, fences and walls, decking and pavement, structures, and lighting—around the pool and decking.
Although it may take careful planning, once you get your pool area designed the way you want it, you’ll never have to leave your home for an exotic vacation anytime you want.
The ideal pool landscape design will flow with the architecture of your home and the rest of your landscape. When you first start collecting ideas for what you want your pool-side landscape to look like, take note of the patterns of straight lines and curves in your house and any nearby garden structures. Continuity of color and texture also helps. Keep in mind the colors of the house and its surroundings. It usually looks better and makes designing easier if you choose one color scheme and stick to it, rather than dabbing a little color here and a little there and ending up with a something that looks like an Art Deco experiment gone wrong. Don’t wait until the pool is already installed to consult a landscaper—talking with a landscape architect early in the process, before you’ve installed any permanent structures or planted any expensive trees or shrubs, can save you from costly mistakes.
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Hiring a landscaper
Given the variety of factors involved in designing a pool site landscape, it’s well worth at least consulting a landscaper who’s familiar with pools and spas. Mistakes don’t just look bad, they can cause expensive damage to your property. Improper grading can lead storm water to run into your pool or basement and trees planted too close to the pool can crack the pool as the tree’s roots mature. Most importantly, safety is a major consideration near any pool or spa and flaws in the material or design of surfaces, protective fencing, or lighting can have tragic consequences.
Plantings soften the lines of swimming pool equipment, provide privacy, and help the pool area blend in with the rest of your home’s landscape. For easy-maintenance, broad-leafed evergreens and ornamental grasses are among the best choices. Stop by our Pool Plants page for tips on how to incorporate plantings into the swimming pool area.
Plant trees on the south side of the pool for added shade and a feeling of lush coolness that no plastic umbrella can match. Just remember to avoid shading the whole pool area so you’ll still have a place to sun yourself on cloudy days.
When small children will be in the yard, a fence is vital for safety reasons. Being able to lock up the entire pool area gives you peace of mind and could potentially save lives. Don’t think just because you don’t have children you can forego a safety fence. If neighborhood kids find their way into your pool area, even if you warned them to stay out, in some areas on the basis of negligence you could be held responsible for any injuries that occur.
Besides safety, the right fence design can also provide you with privacy. A full privacy fence is usually six feet or higher, with boards arranged in an overlapping, shadow box, or tongue-and-groove pattern. Board-on-board fences like the shadow box offer you the advantage of being able to show finished faces on both sides. That is, they look just as good from the inside of the garden as from the outside. Stockade and tongue-and-groove fences are also popular constructions for full privacy. Lattice or basket-weave fence are other options. These fences are made with strips of material, such as wood or wood-styled vinyl, woven together. They offer semi-privacy, allowing air and light to pass between the boards, yet blocking your pool area from full view. If the look of a bare fence is too stark for your taste, you can soften the fence’s appearance by training climbing vines over the it. This will also add a little more privacy.
Windbreaks and baffles
Even a light breeze can quickly steal warmth from a pool area. Fortunately, windbreaks and baffles can be used to redirect chilly air currents. First, start by identifying the wind currents in your yard by posting small flags where you want wind protection and observe their movements.
Then decide how where you’ll need to place the fence/baffle for greatest efficiency. Angling at a baffle into the wind at 45 degrees gives greatest protection close to the fence, but effective protection also extends to a distance more than twice fence height. Air will be warmest in the area below the baffle at a distance equal to the height of the fence. Much past that, though, and the fence won’t offer much protection. If you’d rather have a natural wind-break, dense shrubbery can also provide good shelter.
To break up, rather than block, wind flow choose a fence with lattice work spaced about 1/2 inch apart, or screens of plants.
Outdoor lighting is another safety feature every swimming pool needs. To provide sufficient lighting, both underwater lights and perimeter lights should be installed. While incandescent and halogen quartz pool lights of both 120-volt (at 300 or 500 watts) and 12-volt (at 100 or 200 watts) are still on the market, fiber optics offer a better choice. With fiber optic lights, there’s no electricity near the water, maintenance is easy because the light is accessible (specifically, it’s not underwater), and for a little something different, a color wheel can be added to the remote light source. Even basic pool lights now offer owners the ability to quickly change from standard white illumination to colored lighting with snap-on lenses.
Traditionally, a single incandescent light is located at the pool’s deep end, 18 inches to 4 feet below the surface. Nicheless lights, which attach directly to the pool walls, are one option to consider for this. If the pool has been designed with the deep end nearest the house, the glare from the underwater light created by waves and splashing is directed away from the house. But if the glare is directed toward the house, you can install a dimmer in the circuits design known as niche lighting.
To add lighting around the pool’s perimeter, a decorative strip of fiber optic lighting can be use to frame the pool in light and also works well on steps.
Patios and decks
Quality paving and decking assures swimmers a safe, slip-resistant surface that’s easy on bare feet. If you prefer to use a brick patio, make sure the bricks you choose have somewhat rough surfaces, so they don’t create a slipping hazard. This will mean you’ll have to clean moss off patios periodically, but it will provide better traction for walking. Keep in mind not only the initial cost of the paving material, but also the material’s durability in your climate and the safety of the material. Pick something that won’t be too slippery when wet and is easy to maintain. If your house is made of red brick, for instance, consider using limestone or bluestone. If you opt for less expensive pavers, choose colors that complement your house, instead of trying to find a color that matches your house exactly, which is almost guaranteed to be a frustrating, if not impossible, task.
- Concrete is the least expensive paving material and can be tinted and stamped or brushed into different textures and designs. If you live in a cold
climate, though, be aware that concrete is liable to chip or crack in freezing temperatures. Another drawback is that stamped concrete tends to become slippery when wet.
- Pavers, which cost about two to three times more than plain concrete, allow for different patterns and colors and are a creative tool to attractive landscaping. Since they move, rather than crack, with the ground’s movements, pavers are a good choice for climates with temperature extremes.
- Exposed aggregate stones are attractive, but they’re hard on bare feet and cost about one to two times more than concrete. Stones such as limestone or bluestone, despite their good looks, are not only the most expensive paving material, they can also get uncomfortably hot in the sun.
- Wood, when exposed to water, can splinter and warp over time and, if untreated, it’s vulnerable to insects.
- Vinyl decks have the look and price of wood, but are more durable and nearly
Furniture and structures
One of the most useful structures to place near your swimming pool is a closed gazebo where you can change clothes and relax in the shade. If you don’t have quite enough room for a gazebo, consider a cabinet to hold towels, sunscreen, insect repellent and other poolside essentials.
Unique pool landscaping ideas
Fountains and waterfalls add a sense of luxury to your pool. If you keep fish in your garden, make sure the pond is far enough from the pool to ensure that chlorinated water won’t splash into the pond and kill the fish. You might also add a pool slide or construct a bridge over the pool. Just remember that strong hand-railing and traction surface is essential as even a short fall can cause serious injury.
Want more tips? Visit our sister site Perfect Pool Landscaping.
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