Pool landscape ideas can be tricky to pull off. But if done right, a swimming pool can serve as a unique water feature that enhances the experience of a property.
“A swimming pool has quite the presence, which must be carefully publicized so as not to compete with the garden,” explains landscape architect Frederico Azevedo of Unlimited Earth Care. “I like to use strategically placed and scaled plant beds, either blending the corners or the pool with rectangular flower beds, or setting up a long plant bed parallel to the pool. I don’t like the pool to look like a completely different space, so I line the area with plants to bring color to the water.
There are, however, factors other than aesthetics that need to be considered, including maintenance and user experience. “People always want flowers, but keep in mind that with flowers come insects,” warns landscape architect Janet Cavanagh. “Be sure to ask yourself if anyone living there has an allergy to insects, because no one wants to get stung while swimming. Beyond that, consider flowering times and maintenance of various plants. There is a tendency to use a mix of grasses as they are low maintenance and always look great.
Read on for more designer tips for achieving the ultimate pool ideas.
Pool Landscape Ideas
1. Consider the inside pool experience
A flowerbed dotted with colorful perennials runs the length of this pool, providing “a full floral view while swimming and interrupts the rectangular flatness that swimming pools normally impose,” says landscape designer Frederico Azevedo of Unlimited Earth Care. .
Plus, pink crape myrtle lends interest to a row of hedges, a trick that can also be used for small backyard pools to make the space look fuller, and therefore taller. “In August, these plants are awash with sparkling roses,” adds Frederico.
2. Take design cues from existing site elements
For the space around the pool of this modern farmhouse designed by Smith & Vansant Architects, landscape architect Janet Cavanagh made the most of site level changes to separate the upper and lower pool terrace, creating separate areas in the backyard. This is also a trick we often recommend for narrow gardens.
To complement the rugged site – which features large outcroppings of ledges – Cavanagh retained the planting scheme of green foliage and grasses, avoiding flowers altogether. Birch trees, juniper and coral bell complete the mix. “This site is rough, in full sun, so we kept the scheme minimal and incorporated lots of texture,” says Cavanagh.
3. Get out of the rectangular frame
Landscape architect Edmund Hollander envisioned a sleek infinity pool that incorporates an elevated spa and relaxing pool deck. A planting bed containing weeping Japanese maple and ornamental grasses cuts into the pool, visually dividing the deep and shallow ends.
“The grasses tie in with the meadow in the background, and the infinity edge helps create the feel of a reflecting pool,” says Hollander. “The key to incorporating this into the property is to think of the pool, lounging area and plantings as part of a larger composition.”
4. Select plants that are both beautiful and functional
Frederico Azevedo of Unlimited Earth Care used White Calamintha to build a border around this raised pool deck, helping to veil the change in elevation and blending the pool deck into the rest of the garden.
“Calamintha is an appropriate plant to have near water because its herbaceous scent repels mosquitoes,” notes Azevedo. Terracotta planters filled with purple Scaevolas accent the stairs and corners, while a group of Annabelle hydrangeas serve as the focal point at the far end.
5. Choose plants adapted to their environment
To one side of this clean and simple pool is a stone wall that separates the upper terrace from the pool terrace. Because the plantings are set against the masonry wall and face full sun, Janet Cavanagh selected catnip and hearty grasses to separate the two areas. They are also perfect for low maintenance gardens as they require little work to keep going.
“Catnip grows fast and well in a warm environment, and if you cut it, it will bloom a second time during the summer,” she says. “It’s also a good alternative to lavender in areas where it doesn’t grow well. It’s always a good idea to mass plant something that will bloom for a long time.
6. Incorporate plantings and multifunctional materials
Landscape architect Janice Parker cleverly disguised the required security fencing for the pool by layering hedges, crabapple trees and hydrangeas. “These lush plantings are also a simple and beautiful privacy solution,” says Parker.
Immediately around the pool are bluestone paths and terraces with grass joints “which create a solid green setting based on axial lines”.
7. Be experimental
Frederico Azevedo placed a series of identical flower beds around the pool, providing views of the water from the house, the pool house and the rest of the garden.
“It’s my interpretation of a French garden, which traditionally has geometric axes,” explains the landscaper. “The framed pool views act as centerpieces, and the axes are formed by the straight grass paths between the flower beds.”
8. Use design elements to enhance the property
The curved lines of this hilltop property – which slopes down past the pool – have shaped the shape of the pool itself, which features a rounded corner that mimics the contour of the land.
Three types of daylilies provide a beautiful yellow color from early spring through fall, while pinks provide a hint of red.
“These clients are excellent gardeners, so this simple pool area is all about summer blooms and maximum color,” says Janet Cavanagh.
9. Take advantage of the reflective quality of the pool
Colorful perennials and a hedge are planted on a berm at the end of this elegant L-shaped pool and spa area. “The raised plantings paint the water with brilliant reflections,” says Frederico Azevedo.
A retaining wall props up the plantings and keeps them from descending to the lower level, where another flower bed provides a lovely view for bathers looking over the edge of the pool.
10. Adapt the pool area to your needs
Acacia trees add a sculptural element near the pool of this hilltop residence. Janet Cavanagh upgraded the existing pool, previously designed by Shepard Butler Landscape Associates, by extending the coping at one end to accommodate both a dining area and a new pergola large enough for a seating area and two umbrellas. Anyone else thinking of a garden bar?!
“We’ve added native plantings which include various types of ferns as well as a small area of grass between the living and dining areas where young children can crawl and play,” notes Cavanagh.
How to arrange around my swimming pool with a limited budget?
“Swimming pools cost double what they once were,” says Janet Cavanagh. “However, the planting budget is next to nothing compared to the total cost of the pool space. The pool itself, masonry work, and practical issues like water and electricity can drive up the price per square foot.
To avoid this, Cavanagh suggests limiting crowning and masonry work such as stone walls and terraces. When it comes to saving on plantings, Cavanagh favors a minimalist aesthetic, which she says “is what a lot of clients want right now anyway.”