In many parts of the country, swimming pools are a prominent feature in the garden. They often act as the center of entertaining, dining, and relaxation for the entire family. Whether you are starting from scratch or looking to spruce up an existing pool, here are some important things to consider.
For safety reasons, fencing around swimming pools is a must when small children, pets, or non-swimmers are present. Currently there is no federal law requiring pool fences in the United States, however many individual states, counties, and municipalities have enacted their own pool fence laws. Even if you don't have children or pets, pool safety should still be your number one concern. If someone were to enter your pool without permission and accidentally become injured (or worse), you may still be sued for negligence.
- For practical purposes, look for fences that are resistant to sun damage and the corrosion caused by salt water or chlorine. Gates should be equipped with a high quality lock.
- Removable safety fences are designed to be set up or taken down in a matter a minutes. These fences are made up of sections that attach to temporary posts inserted into your pool decking. A smart alternative to permanent fencing, safety fences offer a greater degree of flexibility if you like hosting a lot of backyard pool parties and family gatherings.
- If you're installing a permanent fence, install it far enough away from the pool to allow room for planters, deck chairs and other landscape features. This will allow the pool to remain the focal point of your landscape and keep the fence in the background.
- The right fence design can offer you privacy from neighbors and other nosy onlookers as well as adding visual impact to your landscape - especially when covered with an attractive climbing vine.
Choosing a Landscape Style
The style of your home and your pool in combination with your climate should be the leading factors dictating the style of your landscape. Take cues from the existing landscape. Unity in landscaping is achieved when everything looks as though it belongs together - with no one element standing out from the others. A lot of homeowners want a pool-scape that reminds them of a favorite vacation spot.
Whether you choose a style that is sleek and contemporary, elegant and formal, or lush and tropical, think about how it will complement your home's exterior, blend in with the native vegetation, and how well it will work with your climate. Don't be afraid to let nature do some of the work. If your lot is adjacent to an impressive view (mountains, a lake, etc.), use a minimalist approach to landscaping around your pool so that the view remains the focal point.
Selecting the Right Plants
Plants provide beauty and privacy around a swimming pool. They can soften harsh lines, camouflage pool equipment, and they help your swimming pool blend in more naturally with the environment.
- Choose the right plants for your zone. The types of plants you choose will largely determine your level of success when landscaping your pool area. Choose plants that are both winter hardy and also tolerant of the summer heat in your climate.
- Make low-maintenance the goal. Avoid plants that "shed" or plants that drop their leaves, or at least place them farther away from the pool. You want to spend your poolside time relaxing, not fishing plant debris out of your pool.
- Consider the insect factor. Some types of flowers and flowering shrubs are notorious for attracting bees and other biting insects. Many annual flowers also fall into this category. Although most insects are not aggressive unless provoked, some people suffer serious allergic reactions when bitten or stung. Consider plants with interesting foliage. They often boast reliable color that flowers do not, and do so without attracting problem insects.
- Watch out for water damage. Most plants don't like chlorine or salt water, so try to avoid putting fragile plants in areas prone to splashing or runoff from the pool. Also, avoid trees and shrubs with invasive root systems that over time can damage the structure of pool walls over time.
- Keep water requirements in mind. Certain types of shrubs and vines require large amounts of moisture to grow successfully. If you live in an arid climate or in an area subject to water restrictions, you might be better off going with drought resistant natives.
- Don't block out the sun. When selecting plants, it's important to think long term. How big are they going to get? Avoid plants that cast shade where you don't want it. Instead, choose low-growing or dwarf-type plants for areas closest to the pool, and keep taller trees and shrubs toward the back.
Adding Your Personal Touch
Finally, consider ways to add personal touches to your swimming pool landscape design. This might include dramatic lighting, customized deck furniture, statuary, or even adding a structural feature like a pergola or gazebo. Remember, the outdoor space around your pool contains the same basic elements that needing addressing when designing your indoor spaces: a "floor" (the pool and deck area), "walls" (fences and plantings) and a "ceiling" (pergola or patio umbrella).
By Ellen Brown