by John Galcius , March 28, 2009
For today's pool designers, the surrounding landscape can have as much of an impact on job design as the pool itself. Blending elements of wood, rock, plant and water may seem to be Feng Shui, and indeed the integration of these elements in a balanced way can result in an awe-inspiring pool setting. Plantings around a pool can soften architectural lines, provide privacy and prevent access or guide visitors along prepared pathways.
INGROUND POOLS - Your best chance to make your mark on your backyard pool area is with landscaping. Landscaping around a pool is different than a regular backyard without a swimming pool. In your pool area, use non deciduous trees and shrubs to keep leaves at a minimum. Hollys, Junipers and palms work great in a pool environment. The key here is to keep things like flower buds and petals, leaves and other plant debris away from the pool water.
Trees like Cherry, Poplar, Gum and Oak are beautiful in the spring, if not year round, but they will increase your workload and some of their debris can clog pump impellers. Evergreen trees, Palms or Cactus add dramatic landscape with less "shedding". I would avoid most conifers and pine trees because of the needles and the pollen. Avoid fruit bearing trees, which are a mess to clean up, and can attract bees and wasps.
For ground covers that are attractive and chlorine resistant, look at Trailing Rosemary or Gazanias. Good ol' iceplant is popular in the sunbelt. Hosta is popular in the north, as is pampas grass. Rock gardens are a good idea as a ground cover, much better than mulch, which tends to wash into a pool (!) during a strong summer storm. Certain types of clover can fill planter beds or surround strategically placed boulders. Generally speaking, pool water is harmless to plants. There are many jurisdictions that send water to your tap at home with a chlorine residual of 2-3 PPM - that's more than most pools!
While in your backyard pool landscaping dreams, consider fencing, hedges and retaining walls. Short walls and fences or even deck levels do a great job of keeping debris from blowing into the pool. All pools should have a deck of concrete or wood, surrounding the pool. Grass right next to the pool is a mess. It is almost impossible to mow, or trim the lawn without getting grass into the pool.
ABOVEGROUND POOLS - Above ground pools are easier to landscape, but more necessary. The sight of an aboveground pool wall is large and white, and well, unattractive. The best thing for this may be to install a deck around a portion of the pool, and a nice hedge of bushes around the rest. If you do plant bushes, remember to leave enough room for service on the pool and pool equipment. To keep roots from running under the pool, plant at least 18" from the pool wall and consider sinking a barrier wall underground, between pool wall and bushes.
Cyprus and holly are also a good choice around an aboveground pool. Most above ground pool owners put a 3’-4’ rock border around the bottom edge of the pool. This is a great idea. If mulch, or even grass gets anywhere near the bottom of the pool wall, it will not allow for evaporation of any water or moisture, thus rusting the pool wall and bottom ring prematurely. As a rule, keep mulch and dirt away from the pool wall. Stones will allow for evaporation. A vapor barrier can also be installed against the pool wall to slow any effects of soil against the pool wall.
Planters can be a good choice for a seasonal pool in the northern climates. Large clay pots with tropical plants and small palms can be spaced around the edge can be a quick landscape fix, and can be brought into the house during the winter.
Creating a small wall around the base of the aboveground pool will help to keep the yard and planting areas separated. This will make it easier to keep plantings out of the yard, and vice versa, while preserving pleasing visual lines.Make sure plantings do not obstruct the view to the pool, for safety's sake!