Guide to Landscaping Around the Pool
What is landscaping?
Landscaping is the art of beautifying an outdoor space using hardscapes and softscapes. Whether you choose to landscape using grass, native flowers, succulents or other amazing flora and fauna, landscape design will help you create the outdoor living area of your dreams.
Types of Landscaping
When discussing plans with your landscape architect, you may come across two terms related to landscaping: hardscapes and softscapes. What is the difference?
Hardscapes refer to the patio, pathways, deck and other man-made backyard structures. These also include your pool and shade structures like pergolas and cabanas. Softscapes refer to plants and organic materials like mulch and soil.
How should I landscape around my pool?
Decide the style of backyard you like. For example, modern backyards tend to showcase more green plants in a variety of textures and shapes. Classic backyards lean towards shrubberies and other manicured bushes. For a tropical look, homeowners select palm trees and hibiscuses. Not sure what your backyard style is? Take our backyard style quiz!
Next, determine the level of functionality you need in your backyard. Want to create an outdoor dining room? Allocate hardscape space for an outdoor kitchen unit, grill, table and chairs. Looking to develop a haven for animals? Select edible plants and butterfly bushes. Need a space that enhances your active lifestyle? Consider a patch of grass for exercises and games.
When you have a general idea of the size of your backyard and the features you’d like to include, read our Landscaping Tips below and reach out to a landscape architect who can help you make your dream backyard a reality.
Pro Tip: In this article we focus on backyard landscaping ideas, but front yard landscaping may increase the value of your home. Consider both front and backyards when consulting with a landscape architect.
You’ve got a landscape design in mind and you’ve found the perfect landscaping professional to create your vision. Before you begin your backyard transformation, review our landscaping tips to make your outdoor space awesome.
Planning Makes Perfect
Create a plan for your backyard before you meet with your landscape professional. This includes a general idea of the size of your space, the look you are going for and the plants you’d like to see. Not sure where to begin? Refer to "The Best Plants for Landscaping Around Your Pool" for some ideas.
Don’t assume the landscape you admire in your neighbor’s yard will work for yours. The best landscape design is a combination of the natural area of your lot, home and its existing elements. A landscape professional can help determine the best design suited to what already exists on your property.
Understand Time Commitment
The most beautiful, well-kept yards require year-round care. Of course, fall and spring are integral seasons for landscaping, but your commitment to retaining your beautiful yard should be constant all year long. That means you should choose a landscape design that works within your time constraints. Remember, you want to enjoy your space during leisure time.
Strive for Balance
Don’t forego functionality for attractiveness. The best yards have a perfect balance of both. Landscape professionals can help you determine the best ways to achieve that balance.
Additional Landscaping Tips
- Think about the design in proportion to your house. Avoid blocking natural scenery, and make sure the sizes and styles are right for your home.
- Use trees and shrubbery to frame your home.
- Use historical items as focal points. For instance, a historical brick or other family heirloom can make a perfect centerpiece.
- If you’re going for an elaborate backyard, make sure pathways are part of the design, allowing visitors to enjoy the area without damaging it.
- Don’t forget about seating. Benches or furniture sets create the perfect place for relaxation.
Now that you have a basic understanding of backyard landscaping, let’s take an in-depth look at the products you’ll need to create your beautiful outdoor living area.
Hardscapes include the pathways, decking, coping and other areas of your backyard where you have hard materials. Retaining walls, fences, and swimming pools also fall under the category of “hardscapes.” Concrete, brick and stone are some of the most common hardscape materials, but for an in-depth exploration of all your hardscape options, check out our guide to decks and patios.
Pathways and Walkways
One of the main reasons gardeners and homeowners choose to implement a path or walkway on their lawn or garden is to provide better access to gardens and flowerbeds. A walkway can prevent inadvertent damage to flowers, vegetables and other plants by providing a clear-cut path.
Paths and walkways are also perfect for redirecting your family's feet off your manicured lawn. If the best shortcut to the front door happens be straight through the front yard, you might want to create a path to prevent any damage.
Paths and walkways also add a new dynamic to your landscape. Paths and walkways give a calm, welcoming effect to your yard or garden. You have many different options when it comes to constructing your walkway, both simple and complicated. It all depends on how much time, money and effort you are willing to put into it. Below are just a few of the options you have.
Pro Tip: Before designing your new backyard, take note of the traffic patterns of your family and friends. Your landscape should enhance your living, not create barriers. Retaining walls are visually appealing, but not if the little ones keep trying to climb over them. Walkways should be planned for high traffic areas, not through the middle of the kids’ play field. Spend some time thinking about your layout and sketch it on paper. Do a walk-through with your family to make sure it meets everyone’s needs.
Concrete Slabs Paths
One approach is to purchase concrete landscape pavers, approximately 18 inches in diameter, from your local garden store. Position the slabs directly on the ground about two feet apart from one another along the pathway.
For a variation on this method, consider digging out an area in the ground for each slab. Leave approximately one-half inch of the slab above ground. This will allow you to easily mow over the walkway as well as trim the weeds that will inevitably sprout up in the area.
Decorative Rock Walkways
Another thing you might consider, instead of steppingstones, is constructing your walkway entirely of pebbles, landscape gravel or other decorative rocks. This will eliminate the need for mowing around the walkway area. You may also choose to use these small stones in addition to the slabs. Either way, consider first putting down a layer of landscaping fabric before you incorporate the gravel or pebbles. This will aid in both drainage and weed prevention.
A walkway consisting entirely of mulch, or a combination of mulch and steppingstones, is an attractive, inexpensive option for your walkway.
There are many ways to accent a mulch pathway. For instance, wood or plastic edge pieces provide a formal look. These inexpensive accents can be purchased at your local garden or dollar store and can be easily installed along the edge of your walkway with the use of a mallet or hammer.
If your walkway is located on a slight slope, you might consider using pine needle mulch, since the needles cling together much better and are more likely to stay in place during a heavy storm.
Bark nuggets are another great alternative for your walkway. Today bark nuggets come in various stains such as red, black and brown and are resistant to fading due to sunlight exposure.
Planting ground cover along your walkway is another great way to make your walkway look its very best. Carpet Bugle is very common plant used for ground cover along walkways. It spreads horizontally above stolons and produces crowns. It has foliage that reaches 4 to 6 inches in height as well as stems that grow up to 8 to 10 inches that, in the springtime, produce beautiful, purple-blue flowers.
Trailing Periwinkle is another great plant to use as ground cover along your walkway. It is a fast-growing evergreen that produces dark coverage.
Softscapes refer to the natural, organic materials in your backyard, from plants and trees to mulch and soil. The types of plants you choose for your backyard will impact the overall look and feel of your backyard, so consult with experts, visit nurseries and check out our gallery to guide your outdoor living area style.
Plants and Trees
Plants and trees provide beauty and privacy around the backyard. Tall plants form privacy screens around the backyard. But plants must be chosen wisely. Strive for low-maintenance plants. For instance, you don't want large deciduous trees around backyard enhancements such as swimming pools, as you will end up constantly fishing leaves out of the water. Even needle-bearing evergreen trees can be messy. A good alternative is a broadleaf evergreen such as holly. We’ve compiled a list of the best plants for landscaping around your pool here
You’ll want to choose plants that will flourish in your geographic area, so check with your local nurseries before you buy or consult a professional landscape designer. Landscaping using native plants is called “xeriscaping” and is an ecologically friendly choice.
Avoid fruit trees: not only are they messy, but they attracts bees. And as beautiful as flowers are, be aware that they, too, can be bug-magnets. Even worse, plants with invasive root systems can damage decks and swimming pools over the years.
Remember to also make considerations if you have a saltwater pool. You will need to choose a salt-tolerant plant. Two great choices are a winterberry or a Bar Harbor juniper. Plant trees on the south side of the pool for added shade and a feeling of lush coolness. Remember to avoid shading the whole pool area so you’ll still have a place to sun yourself on cloudy days.
Pro Tip: The most common landscaping mistake made is not accounting for future growth or maintenance. Will you eventually need to prune that shrub? Will those flowers thrive in your climate? Are they perennial or annual? Research the plants you choose, read the tags on your selections and talk to the nursery staff or landscaper.
Landscape edging retains gravel and soil in flowerbeds and prevents grass and weeds from overflowing onto paths and driveways. Read on for landscape edging ideas.
Traditional and conventional options consist of steel, concrete, brick and stone, wood, aluminum and plastic. Hedges make a great organic option, can be grown to fit any design and trimmed to whatever shape, size or height needed.
Landscaping rocks can also be great for edging. Rocks of different shapes and colors can be used for an informal look and provide a natural edge to flower beds. Square cobbles of granite create a hard edge and bring an “earthy” touch. Flat stones like flagstone and bluestone can be stacked using two or three levels. Their irregular shapes and thicknesses create texture and add dimension.
Another landscape edging idea is to use mismatched or leftover bricks. These can be placed against one another in a straight line with a right or left slant. Bricks can also be planted into the soil to create irregular designs. Other materials, like glass bottles, can be used as edging when they are planted bottom side up in the soil around a flowerbed.
Pro Tip: Don’t drive yourself crazy by trying to keep straight lines when creating gardens. Nature isn’t square. Gentle curves look more natural and are easier to maintain. The idea is to work with the land, not against it, creating a landscape you enjoy!
Neatly mulched beds improve the appearance of any landscape. Beyond its good looks, a layer of mulch provides many other benefits. Mulch protects the plants' root systems and can add much-needed nutrients to the soil. Mulch also prevents the erosion of topsoil.
When laying mulch, a one- to two-inch layer of fine mulch should be sufficient, while a coarser material should be three to four inches deep. Too much of either type can suffocate your plants. In areas where you simply want to keep anything from growing, lay it on as thick as you like. Coverage will vary greatly based on what type of mulch you use and how deeply it is layered.
In general, one cubic yard of mulch will roughly cover 100 sq. ft. at a 3-inch depth and 160 sq. ft. at a 2 inch depth.
1 cubic yard of mulch = 27 cubic feet = (9) 3 cu. ft. bags or (13.5) 2 cu. ft. bags.
Use our landscape calculator to determine how much you will need for your specific area.?
Though applying mulch may seem like a chore, it can save you effort later in the season. Because mulch helps to prevent weeds and retain moisture, you'll spend less time weeding and watering your garden and more time enjoying it. For mulch to work and look its best, you must choose the best material for your garden and apply it properly. Mulch is available in both organic and inorganic material:
Compost is one of the best mulches for providing benefits to the soil, but the fertile medium also means it’s a great place for weeds. Additionally, some compost is not very attractive. If appearance is important, use compost as a soil amendment and find a more visually pleasing material to cover it.
Wood chips or shavings are visually pleasing and have all the characteristics of mulch. It is advisable to use older, decomposed material like sawdust. Wood mulch that has not been properly aged or turned regularly can contain toxins and acids that are harmful to young plants. Fungal contamination can also occur with unseasoned wood mulch.
Bark is sold as chunks, nuggets, or shredded. Bark is one of the most attractive (and more expensive) mulch materials, so it is best used in more visible areas. Pine, cedar and cypress are the most common varieties. In addition to its good looks, bark provides excellent weed prevention and moisture retention. Also, bark nuggets will last for years.
Straw is the leftover stem portion of harvested grain. It is lightweight and therefore not always easy to apply. It decomposes quickly and needs replacing more often than other mulches. Its appearance may not make it a top choice for the landscape. However, straw makes a good cover for newly seeded lawn areas.
Hay - the stem portion of grasses, is often confused with straw. Hay is likely to contain weed seeds, so use it with caution. Both straw and hay are good plant nutrients and work well in the vegetable garden where weeds can easily be pulled.
Pine Needles are sold in bales like straw which makes them relatively easy to transport and apply. They are long lasting and attractive.
Plastic warms the soil and blocks air and water. Plant growth is accelerated by the added heat and moisture retained underneath the mulch layer. Since plastic is solid, moisture must be provided by an irrigation system underneath or by careful hand watering.
Usually sold in rolls, either black or clear plastic can be used. Black is impervious to light, while clear plastic has been known to let weeds germinate and grow beneath. On the downside, plastic can overheat the plant's roots or retain too much moisture, particularly if the plastic is covered with a layer of organic mulch for appearance sake. Plastic will freeze, so you may need to take it up in the fall. If used on slopes, any material placed on top of plastic will wash away or slide off. Plastic is well suited for use in vegetable gardens.
Brick or Stone is a long-lasting mulch that offers a neat appearance but may not blend with every landscape design. These hardscapes offer some weed control. Brick and stone (especially lighter shades) will reflect heat back up towards plants, which may be harmful. Take caution - if pieces are strewn into the lawn, they can become potential hazards when mowing.
Landscape fabric is purchased in rolls and provides excellent weed control. Unlike plastic, the fabric allows air and moisture to penetrate the soil and plant roots. Overall, it's the best inorganic mulch for long-term use. Roots can become enmeshed in the fabric, making removal difficult, so be sure to remove weeds as soon as you see them.
Grass is one of the most popular products in landscaping. The green tint of grass is beautiful, and the soft feel brings back memories from childhood. Grass is also appealing because it is good for the environment; it absorbs rainfall into the soil and prevents erosion. You may not plan on planting any grass seed. Whether you use grass seed or not, however, you'll have one of two types of grass: warm season or cool season.
Warm season grass mostly grows in the southern United States and is at its best during the summer, or, more accurately, from April to October. Bermuda grass and buffalo grass are two popular warm season grasses.
Cool season grass grows in the central and northern regions of the United States, and it flourishes during the spring and fall and slows during the summer. Kentucky bluegrass and fescue are well-known cool season grasses.
Your region will determine which category of grass to purchase, but within each category, you'll have several options. At this point, personal preferences of coarseness, color, and hardiness will govern your decision. You should also consider how much shade and water the different types of grass require. Another amazing option is to purchase synthetic grass. Synthetic grass (i.e. Astroturf) looks like grass, but it is made of plastic. It's incredibly easy to clean and you can have it in any part of the country with absolutely no maintenance.
When landscaping, you want nutrient-rich soil that is ready for planting. However, some soils need some additional help. Adding topsoil helps improve the existing soil in the yard. Topsoil is paramount in helping plants and trees grow because the trees and plants usually "dig" into the topsoil, where the roots become concentrated. The topsoil also is where vegetation gets most of the nutrients it needs to grow. When planting a garden, for example, it's important to rotate the topsoil so that it retains its nutritional value. If it does not get rotated, it will eventually be stripped of any nutrients that it contains in a process known as topsoil erosion.
With the right information, inspired ideas and, perhaps, a fabulous landscape designer, you’re on your way to creating lush and beautiful landscapes that add depth and color to your backyard. For expert help, reach out today.
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