Pools are more than just a place for swimming or lounging: They’re an integral part of the garden.
A good landscape design considers the pool as a water feature, rather than just a recreational space and incorporates it into the design process at a pivotal stage, notes Frederico Azevedo, award-winning landscape designer and founder of Unlimited Earth Care of Bridgehampton.
The addition of plants around the pool, says Azevedo, brings color into the water and helps integrate the pool into the garden.
“Even if I design a rectangular pool, I don’t want it to be just a length of water lost in the middle of the landscape, so I transition it into the garden, using strategically placed and scaled plant beds,” Azevedo says. “I blend the corners with rectangular flower beds or design a long plant bed to parallel the size of the pool, so scale doesn’t visually separate the pool from the flora.”
Flowers for reflection and screening
Views of a pool can be carefully curated by using flowerbeds placed strategically with an awareness of the views from the house, the pool house, and the rest of the garden, notes Azevedo.
Positioning flowerbeds right up to the edge of the coping can create views from the house and pool house of the water peeking through the flora, he says.
“This is my interpretation of a formal garden, which traditionally features geometric axes that end in ornamental elements such as fountains or ponds,” explains Azevedo. “Here, florally framed views of the water act as the centerpieces, and the axes are formed in the straight grass paths between the flowerbeds.”
Bordering a raised pool deck, white Calamintha, an herbal scented plant, repels mosquitoes and also veils the elevation of the deck so that it blends seamlessly into the garden.
“Terra cotta planters filled with purple Scaevolas accent the stairs and corners,” says Azevedo. “The far edge of the pool is balanced with a cluster of Annabelle hydrangeas.”
To paint the water in bright reflections, Azevedo framed one colorful garden in trimmed boxwoods, planted on a berm and raised above the pool. For another home, he created a flowerbed spanning the length of the pool to both provide full floral views for swimming and interrupt the rectangular flatness of the pool.
“In turn, the flatness of the hedge is disrupted by a pink crepe myrtle, trimmed to scale, which in August is awash in sparkling pinks,” says Azevedo.
Minimize to maximize the pool view
On a waterfront property, keep plantings minimal to allow the owner and guests to really appreciate the views, suggests Michael Derrig, landscape architect and owner of Landscape Details of East Hampton.
“The pool should ‘connect’ to the water. One of the ways to do that is to design the pool with an infinity edge that creates that connection,” says Derrig, who notes that low plantings, such as ornamental grasses, will thrive despite the salt and wind.
Surrounding the pool, Derrig minimizes the hardscape to introduce more lawn.
“Sometimes we place the pool in the lawn as a focal point. Greens and blues are the colors of summer in the Hamptons,” says Derrig, noting that chaise lounges can be placed right on the grass.
Derrig simplifies container plantings, often opting for succulents, a perennial request from many clients.
“We love to find unusual boxes, copper pots, and other antique containers for our clients,” says Derrig. “We also custom fabricate boxes right here in our shop in East Hampton.”
Around the pool: A brick border is better
A popular choice around the pool is a simple bluestone border with wide coping abutting the grass, says Ken Muellers, senior landscape designer at Hicks Nurseries of Westbury, which does work in the Hamptons.
Though aesthetically pleasing, bluestone retains a lot of heat.
“So practicality-wise it’s not really the best material for a pool coping or pool patio, because often you’re barefoot and doing the hot foot dance trying to get into the pool,” says Muellers, adding that depending on the other architectural elements of the house, brick would be a better option because it stays cooler.
Privet hedges, which are deer-proof, hide fencing around the pool and unsightly pool equipment.
For plant materials, focus on what blooms in summer — hydrangea, Knock Out and Carpet roses, ornamental grasses, and sun-friendly annuals, like SunPatiens and Lantana, advises Muellers.
To keep bees away, add a little buffer between plantings and the pool.
This article appeared in the Memorial Day 2022 issue of Behind The Hedges. Read the full digital version of the magazine here. Read more features from our magazine here.