Landscaping around the swimming pool, part two
During the past decade or two, it has been a fashion for pool builders to design in small pocket beds around the edges of swimming pools. Although these pocket gardens look nice with the cement form of the pool, they are very hard to keep well planted. Too often the plants suffer and die because they are difficult to keep watered properly. Just the right plants should be designed in those spots.
Pocket beds need to be treated as if they were container gardens. They are likely to need regular watering, pruning and renewing. If you want them to look cheerful and you are willing to change out the plants seasonally, keep them filled with annual color. Another approach is to use a few larger, naturally neat-growing plants that are easy to maintain, like Heavenly Bamboo or sago palms (if the sun isn’t too strong) and fill in around them with a low-growing perennial plant like Sea Lavender or Pincushion Plant (Scabiosa) if you have extra space. Spineless succulents are also good choices for plants. Don’t be tempted to put too many kinds of plants into these small spaces and make sure whatever you choose to plant will not only take the sun or shade of the location, but will not grow too big when it matures. Palms are popular choices for a tropical look. The Pigmy Palm is probably the best choice to stay small, but it can still grow over six feet in both height and width. In dry climates, Pigmy Palms can be burnt by hot sun or light frost and are stunted by too little water.
Ornamental grasses offer a good choice for pocket gardens, too. You can find an assortment of different heights and foliage colors to design an interesting picture. Grasses create very little litter to blow into the swimming pool and they move gracefully in the wind.
A simple, easy maintenance solution for those pocket gardens would be to use few or no plants at all. Instead you can fill the space with permeable paving. Adding a couple of inches of decorative stone, crushed brick or other material that will drain water easily will not only look good, but won’t fade in sunshine or need any fussing or watering. There are colored gravels, glowing tumbled glass in an assortment of gemstone hues, or even chips of shale or flagstone that can offer interesting alternatives to river rock or plain gravel. I’d advise against using bark chips (that will fade, wash or blow into the swimming pool water) or pea gravel that will kick out of the planter beds easily.
Despite these considerations, there are many wonderful plants that can transform your swimming pool area into the beautiful magical place it deserves to be. The plants you choose should reflect the style of your pool design. By designing a tropical feel, a woodsy environment, a desert-scape or any other theme, you can blend the pool hardscape (permanent features) with the softscape (living parts of the landscape) of the plants and create your own swimming pool paradise to enjoying the heat of summer.
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