Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Landscaping Your Above Ground Pool

Ah yes, the sight of a nice cool pool on a hot summer's day. Almost a necessity and not luxury when you live in the south. I first met one of my very best friends (Geri) when she asked me at a garden function, "How do you landscape a pool?" Hmmm. Good question I suppose. She worried about chlorine more than anything, as well as leaves falling into the pool. All concerns you must consider when landscaping a pool. Not to mention accessibility to the pool must be maintained. Geri was very concerned she could not plant plants around her newly installed pool. Not plant plants around a pool to beautify it? Who are you kidding?? We are gardeners so anything is fair game, as my husband soon found out. He is not happy about it either since he is the 'pool man' around here, in addition to being 'Mr. Fix-it'.
You first must consider accessibility. How will you get to the pool and its operating parts? Here you can see our little swimming pool. The all important pump and skimmer areas are located on the uphill of the pool and are easily accessible. It helps me (a short lady) to have a somewhat elevated path to the side of the pool. I used old 4x4s I had on hand. There are no plants in this area and no obstructions to block maintenance of the pool. The drain hose to backwash the pump and filter is located on the downhill side of this pool. It drains onto the lawn. Pool water can be either alkaline or acidic (hence the need to add soda ash to increase acidity and baking soda to decrease acidity) so this is a factor for the drainage area. You must be aware how the pH of this water runoff may affect the surrounding plantings. In the seven years we've had this pool, I've never lost a plant or blade of grass to pool runoff water. A good thing. In fact, I think the lawn likes the drink of water in the summer.
Now that we know to leave an accessible area, especially in the area of the pump and filter and where the ladder attaches to the pool, how about the rest of the pool surround? Shall we just leave it bare? No, no, never in a gardener's yard.

What I did was try to consider what would be in bloom in the summer when we utilized the swimming pool most. I did not want plants that would block the view. Since the Jimster is the one mostly swimming (picture me working in the garden while he swims then falling into the pool when I can no longer tolerate the heat) I like to have a good view of the pool from all areas. When I'm not in the garden, I'm on my deck. The first view of the pool is from the deck. Here I wanted to be sure to not block this view yet I wanted to make it attractive. All things in my garden are "in the garden". There are only two things in my yard not located "in a garden". They are my driveway and two lone trees. That will probably change one day, but for now all other things-hardscaping and living are "in the garden". That is, they are surrounded on all sides by a garden. The pool is no exception. This is one reason this blog is called "In the Garden".

I initially had about a 2 foot garden around here filled with annuals. That was not a good solution. We gardeners know a measly two foot wide garden won't cut it. I widened the garden to about 4 feet and began planting perennials in addition to self seeding annuals. I wanted structure and a bit of formality. I chose to alternate orange daylilies with 'May Night' salvia all the way around this pool. There are a few irises mixed in too, and just last fall I added some 'Adagio' ornamental grass for structure in the winter and fall.

The daylilies are tall enough that when we are swimming in the pool they are above the pool edge so I can enjoy them from inside and outside the pool yet still see through them. The salvia blooms off and on all summer so its blue contrasts nicely with the orange of the daylilies. I love it. The landscaping also works well for maintenance. These daylilies, grasses and salvia can take some stepping on. The plants will bounce back no problem.

To try to shorten these posts
I will do another pool post at a later time. It will involve fragrant plants as so many folks like fragrance near their pools.

One note: Our lot is full of mature oak trees as you can see from the picture. These trees are NOT good for pools. It is by choice we keep them all, but do know we deal with the leaves year round and it is NOT a fun thing. If you can site your pool away from trees, it makes maintenance easier. You can always add a sitting area in nearby shade if your pool is in full sun.

Another important note: Here in Tennessee we had to get a permit to install our swimming pool. I am pretty sure a permit is required for ALL permantly installed swimming pools based on your county laws and codes. For us it required a small fee, and the environmental person came out and checked for our septic lines and told US where we could put the pool. We felt much better having this service prior to installing our pool. Be sure to check with local zoning offices prior to installing any large permanent pool. In addition, it is a really good idea to let your homeowner's insurance carrier know about all permanently installed pools right away. Again, check with local codes offices in your county/city.

Any pool landscaping ideas you all have you'd like to share?

in the garden....


  1. Hi Tina, your pool sure looks good and I believe you need one down south. Here in Germany it is rather a luxury. Take care, Andrea

  2. Just in time! I'm setting my pool up, how 'bout peonies?

  3. You did a great job Tina--that looks really pretty. We don't have a pool, but I do have to worry with leaves and debris getting in our little's just one of those things you do sometime when the enjoyment is so worth the trouble. :)
    Hope you are having fun on your trip!

  4. Hi Tina, my neighbor across the creek has a pool and a deck surrounds the pool, but along the edge of the deck are lots of peonies and at either end of the deck are tall (about 12 feet) Chinese Snowball Viburnum. A pool sounds very inviting!

  5. Your pool looks good and I am imaging floating along and catching a peak at a day lily bloom! What do you do each winter with the drained water?

    With the limestone bedrock we have, there is no way we could have a below ground pool and finding sun would also be difficult! ...We opted for no pool! A pool would be nice now that it's summer!


  6. Good Morning All,
    Tina I hope you are getting some needed R&R. Your pool looks lovely.
    I don't have one & don't need one as I couldn't use it. Mainly that I don't know how to swim. Never learned due to issues.
    Here you need a tall fence around pools I think.
    Another great morning to garden so off to it.
    Have a nice day all.

  7. Daylilies are a great solution for any tough/neglected spot--I have some near my air conditioner.

  8. A very inviting spot on a hot summer day.

  9. Oh that looks very inviting!I think if Jamie and I had a pool then garden work would never get done. :-)--Randy

  10. My pool landscaping idea: Remove pool. ;~P

  11. I just have clumps of Hidden Ginger around ours....pretty bare in the stays so soggy back there. To get to our above ground pool, walk out the back kitchen door onto the upperdeck, go down the stairs to the lower deck and jump in!

  12. Hi Everyone! Just popping in for a quick minute. We are having a blast in NC. Lots of plant viewing, barbeques, and family. Great weather too! Cameron of Defining Your Home and Garden and Helen of Gardening with Confidence have kindly invited us to visit their beautiful gardens in the Raleigh area tomorrow, then we'll be heading home. Not before Mr. Fix-it visits his car place near Raleigh though. Yes, there HAD to a be a reason we traveled over there as my inlaws live on the west side of NC. It will be fun and we are most excited. I'll be back sometime Friday! So to everyone-Happy Gardening!

    And to Skeeter-thanks so much for filling for me!

  13. Since we have small children a pool is not in our future! But I would landscape it with a shade arbor over part of the pool, maybe with some rapid climbers on it and some ornamental grasses around to add additional privacy if needed. If not needed they just look good! I would try to avoid many flowering plants since they attract bees to pool areas. Might not be good for people (stingers) or the bees (chlorine).

  14. I have never put any plants around the pool as my cousin's high bush blueberries were near her pool and they all died. They figured it was from the runoff of the pool chemicals. Maybe I should take the lupine and daylilies outta the front garden and put them around the pool since they are taking over the whole darn garden.

  15. Good Morning everyone! Ah, Tina has popped in to say she is having a great vacation! I am glad to see all is going well and with nice weather. I went out to water a fern and started to melt so the humidity is back in our area of GA today! Arg, was 94 again yesterday and calling for it again today then a front will move in hopefully cooling things off a bit! Whew, I do not get into the garden on such hot days...

    I need a pool but so many trees in our yard! The side which has few trees has the above ground power lines and the septic tank. If I had an above-ground pool, it would have a deck built around it with lots of plants and small trees. My in-ground pool would have a black iron fence around it with plenty of plants and ornamental grasses!

    Andrea, Pools are indeed a luxury in Germany. Near our apartment while living in Bruhl, there was a nice lake for swimming...

    Dawn, Get that pool up girl, summer is on the way...

    Meadowview, We dont have a pool for the same reasons nor a little water feature like I would like. Saint is right on this one as it would be more trouble then anything. My water feature is on the sheltered front porch in a table top style...

    Janet, I have the Snowball plants and they would be great! When the blooms shed it might be a bit of a mess but if far enough away from the pool, no problem as they mostly shed straight down and dont fly around in the wind like a dogwood blossoms would do...

    Gail, I am thinking lying on a float, gazing at the lilies while sipping on something frozen through a straw! tee hee, the trees keep us from having a pool. Not sure if the rock would be an issue but a lot in our area for sure. I will just soak in the lake on weekends I reckon...

    Lola, I am not the best of swimmers but I can float and get from Point A to Point B. Not going to win any medals thats for sure. Now the Saint, he was on a swim team for years and even held the State record for his High School when he lived in Hawaii. so if I start to drown, he will save me. I hope anyway. lol...

    Monica, You have given me the perfect idea for something near my AC unit! Thanks as I have been wondering what would work there...

    Marnie, I would like to take a dip after working in the yard on a hot day. Ah, Splish Splash, I can feel the coolness now...

    Randy, I dont think a pool would stop you two from gardening. You enjoy it way too much for a pool to interfere with your love of the land :-)...

    TC, you sound like my Saint! NO POOL in my yard! His words, not mine. But one day I think I WILL have a pool just not at this house...

    Darla, our neighbors in Texas had the same idea of a deck around their pool. It worked well and kept the dogs out of the pool also! We had a lot of fun splashing around with his 5 year old daughter. Lots of pizza parties at the pool also...

    Tina, I knew you would pop in at some point. You just cannot stay away from your garden buds for too long. Am glad to hear you are all having fun. Hope the Jimster got to a theme park. I would be right along with him on the rides as I love theme parks. Have fun and chat with ya once you are back in TN....

    Dave, Pools and small children are a bit scary. I like the way your dream pool sounds though! An arbor would be great and I would even have a little gazebo near by with a swing in it. Ah, I can see it all now. I will Dream on as it will not happen at our house...

  16. Jean, I would not think that edible berries would be good around a pool. I would fear the chemicals may get into the fruit I eat. Now they are using salt in pools. Have you heard of that in Maine? This is new to me but our friends in SC have been using salt and it is so cost efficient. I noticed Wal-Mart has bags of pool salt now so must be catching on...

  17. That pool looks really good right now. It's been hot here! I really like how it's landscaped and the combination of plants sounds really pretty. I don't know anything about pool plantings, our pool is a little plastic wading pool for toddlers :)

  18. Looks great! It is a neccesity here, especially after a long, hot day in the garden. A cool dip is refreshing

  19. Tina that really ended up looking great - I especially like seeing part of another garden close by. That made it look even more inviting.
    I'd love to have a pool but I suppose it would be full of rainwater and fir needles. LOL Actually the people down the road do have one - sometimes it even quits raining and gets hot here!

  20. it s fantastic, Hokins also has a pool...


  22. Tina...
    Looking forward to meeting you tomorrow. My garden flowers have all perked up at the idea of being viewed by you! So much started blooming today!

    Please check your email about my address as Mapquest is wrong.

    You'll see our pool tomorrow. We built a deck around ours since we had no backyard to speak of.


  23. This camme at the perfect time, Tina, since we just set ours up. In fact, I wasted no time sending a link to this page to my husband. I think the daylilies would work well for us, as well as the wooden path. Our pool had to be dug into the slope to make it level, so it would be nice to have something to mask the rough edges.

  24. Pools are nice but I had a bad experience with our neighbors pool several yrs back. They emptied their pool & it killed all the grass in my neighbor & their neighbor back yard. It also killed the grass about 2' into my yard from the little ditch that runs along the fence. This little ditch is for water run off to the nearest drain system. It took yrs for the grass to start to grow again. Their neglect.

  25. Hi Tina --happy to hear you are having so much fun. Hey Skeeter --we just had a downpour --yes ...while I was filling up at the gas station, hahaha. But, enough that I don't have to water the veggie garden:) It was high 80s and is now in the 60s so our cool front has arrived. Our pool is surrounded with daylilies, roses, strawberries and a wild variety of flowers. The kiddos splash alot and so far it all seems fine. We have switched to the salt system though --don't know if that makes a difference. The water is so clear with the salt system --really sparkles. Only problem with all the cool flowers around the deck has been a bee/wasp problem. It's not too bad but enough to notice them on a hot summer day. Ciao!

  26. Another hot one today and boy did I need a pool. 92-degrees and steamy!

    Catherine, You can put your feet in the toddler pool to cool off. I put my feet into a bucket of cold water on hot days while in our garden in Germany! Worked fine to cool me down...

    Dirt Princess, Lucky you to have a pool to take a dip! I bet it feels really nice after a hot day in the garden. Ah, refreshing no doubt...

    Raingardener, Sounds like my house with a pool. Leaves or pine needles for sure. And lately, lots of rain water. Seems just like a few months ago we were in a drought. Oh, we were! Now here we go in over load of rain. lol...

    Kathrin, Hopkins pool is the best! That should keep him nice and cool during the summer days…

    Cameron, I know you and Tina will enjoy a stroll through your gardens tomorrow! A deck around a pool is a great asset. That is the way I would have to go if I had a pool. If I only had a pool. Kind of like the scarecrow wanting a brain, I only want a pool but the Saint is right as it would be full of critters, leaves, pine needles, sweet gum ball pods and pine cones....

    JGH, Hey there, timing is everything right? Lilies would be great to hide the rough edges. Go for it as there are so many beautiful ones out there to choice from…

    Lola, I recall you mentioning this in the past. That must have been awful to loose all the grass. Were the neighbors upset this happened as well? I would be reseeding everyone yard if I did such a silly thing. I did make some foot prints in the grass a few days ago. I sprayed round-up in an area then walked on it and my wet shoes made prints in the grass for a few steps. It was funny when I found the foot prints in the grass. Saint got a kick out of that and pretty much said, he was glad I did it and not him. lol...

    Have a good evening all...

  27. Anonymous, we chatted at the same time! You gotta watch those wasps and bees with the kiddoes in the pool. Ouch they can sting and hurt especially to a little one! Am sure Sidekick would tell the wasp to hold still so he could examine it. Tee hee... I will have some critters for him to see on the blog soon. Our snake and some baby birds. Enjoy that pool this summer. Will little bundle be able to get into the pool this soon?

  28. tina,
    we have plans for a pool one day but have a list of things in front of it. nice way to landscape yours.

  29. The pool area looks so inviting. I'll be right over for a dip. ;) Glad to hear you are enjoying your trip. -Jackie

  30. The perennials around the pool look great. And the pool itself fits nicely as part of the yard. Too often the yard sticks out like a sore thumb, but not in your garden.

  31. Oops, typo in my last sentence: yard=pool. Sorry. I should use that preview feature.

  32. Skeeter the one neighbor behind me was really upset about it but what can you do. The damage was done & only time would make a difference. I don't think the pool owner was too together.
    Watch those pests Anonymous. Not good for kiddos. But the pests are only after the honey in the flowers.
    Glad you got some rain & cooler temps.

  33. Oh but Lola, those little kiddoes are so full of sweetness. :-)

  34. Beautiful landscaping around the pool Tina. We had an above ground pool for years when the boys were young. I just basically put a strip of edging about 2-3 feet deep around it with some gravel. Your idea is much more landscape friendly. :)

  35. Skeeter I have read about the salt for pools but I am the worst on changing ANYTHING. If it works, don't fix it!

    I also remember about Lola telling us about her neighbor and I will say the same thing I said before, it was very rude and self centered.

    Another thing I have said before is that even with trees it is not so bad to keep clean. We have one of those solar covers with a reel that you reel it onto when you wanna swin so that collects things pretty good. But then again I guess that is easy for me to say as our trees are away from it but on the 4th of July the pool does get a lot of burnt out fireworks and they all mostly are on top of the cover. We do have a deck on ours but only on part of one side but the deck is plenty big enough for a good crowd as we have one of the big oval ones (largest size made) so that does cut down on dirt that goes in the pool. We do not even vacum once a week. Now we in Maine are very lucky to have good water so that also cuts down on the chemicals we use. Mosty just shock 2 times a year.

    Dave I have to also say that little kids love the pool. They have vests or arm bands for kids to wear and you do have to keep them locked up (the pool) either with a fence of deck with locking gate. I have had 2 different great grandkids in mine at a year old and a friends baby who was under a year old and they all loved it. Everyone should learn to swim and show a respect for the water and I believe the younger, the better. However, if they are scared of it, you NEVER force them.
    Also they have sirens to put in that alert you if someone does get in unattended. We have one but it has never been in the pool. Shame on us.

  36. Wow- that looks so nice. I have always shied away from an above ground pool for that very reason. What would I do to make it look nice but it seems to me you have the answer.

  37. Jean, I am kind of like you, If it aint broke, dont fix it. lol...

  38. Hi all! Just back from my trip trying to catch up. Thanks for your nice comments and come on over for a dip! Might want to wait for a hot day, as it is cool today. What joy in Tennessee in June!

  39. I love the look of your pool.. I plan to do some landscaping around ours this weekend. Can you tell me did you put down any kind of weed barrier? And what did you use to cover the ground? Pea gravel has been recommended to me and mulch discouraged. Do you agree?

    1. Hi Gayle! Thank you so much for your nice complement and taking the time to leave a comment. Good luck with your pool! Our pool was backfilled with soil and I did not use any weed fabric. I don't like weed fabric except under hardscaping but I don't think it is a major problem if you plan to use it where you will not grow any plants like perennials-as I have done here. Weed fabric is limiting to the soil structure and gardening in my opinion. I LOVE the idea of pea gravel around a pool! You could surely use weed fabric under pea gravel and maybe put in one or two short shrubs just to soften the look of the pool. I think I'd try Japanese holly or lorepetulum or even a short nandina (really anything that will stay under 4' without pruning) with about 3" of soft pea gravel as a mulch. It would work and look great! I have no problem with hardwood mulch. If swimmers step in it then it would probably stick to their feet and might get in the pool. That is maybe why it was not recommended to you. But if you have a ladder (as I did) you would perhaps put some patio stones under the ladder; which would eliminate the stepping in hardwood mulch-theoretically. Good luck and have fun!