Suggestions for pool landscaping in CT New Englandd

oldpatct(6)March 24, 2012

Hi All

What a warm spring. We are looking for ideas around our pool landscape which is beginning to look tired to us. We have a fence around our pool because it is the law in our area now but it sort of makes landscaping a pain.

I have added a couple of photos of the current pool landscape but are thinking of more than what we currently have. To us it seems very bare and are thinking of what specimens or mass plantings should we add. We had shade from a pear tree that was destroyed by the october ice storm (it was in the retaining wall well). Really looking for ideas at what plants, etc. we should be looking to add to the bushes and hydrangeas that are currently there and some of the tall grasses. We are open to ideas ... eg should we add a pergola etc. Thanks for any ideas (btw, we had a designer put in what is currently there but would love to see other ideas photos)

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Hey, oldpatct -

Any chance you can post those a bit larger? (I usually use the larger medium size on Picasa, 640x640. There's a drop-down menu that has the default as thumbnail, but has 4 other sizes.) I find these photos a bit too small to be able to offer any specific ideas.

A few general thoughts & questions:
Some shade would probably be welcome, whether from umbrellas, a pergola, etc.
Do you use the grassy area inside the fence or can that be planted or otherwise modified?
If bees bother you or guests, you won't want to have plants that will attract them close to the pool.
Consider the amount of organic stuff dropped by plants that you are considering. Something with berries will leave stains on clothing, furniture, and decks; plants that drop lots of leaves or blossoms or fuzzy seeds will tend to add maintenance to the pool or clog filters.
The fence is just asking for some vines except in areas where you need to be able to see the pool from particular vantage points, particularly in the spots where it is farther from the pool so as to not increase debris in the pool: clematis, climbing or rambler roses, or even annual vines like black-eyed susan vine or scarlet runner beans. I had friends as a kid who grew grapes on their pool chain link fence, but I don't think that would work with yours.

You may also find you get some general ideas as to type of pool landscaping that appeals to you by looking at pictures. You can google 'Pool landscaping' and browse, or below is a link to an album by Michele Derviss, a CA landscaper.

Here is a link that might be useful: Michele Derviss pools

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 8:43PM
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Hi nhbabs

Thank you for the suggestions. I have attached larger photos as you suggested and added one. Your comments are really appreciated and the vines on the back fence is a terrific idea.

In regards to your questions
- we have a bunch of large umbrellas that will be put out on the patio but are really missing our pear tree.
- we really do not use any of the grassy area inside the fence as it is sloped (hard to play volleyball) . BTWI love the grapes idea, I had uncles who had grapes growing that way as well.

Also, thank you for the link, I will take a look.

Thank you again for the suggestions and would welcome more. We are definately going to move the vine direction

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 9:36AM
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molie(z6 CT)

Besides a specimen tree, you could use some conifers� low growing and even slow growing that will spread along with taller ornamental grasses. The evergreens will pick up the greens of the white pine and evergreens in the background and will help to 'anchor' the planting area around the pool.

There are wonderful ornamental grasses but do some research as these often become hollow inside as they expand and then need to be cut down and dug up, a difficult task. Some grasses grow tall and columnar, like Karl Forester or Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus' , or have beautiful coloring like the newer UConn grass ( I think it's called Ruby Ribbons).

In early spring visit some garden centers nearby that specialize in grasses or evergreens. Check out the website for Katsura Gardens in Plymouth, MA. They have a wide selection to look at/read about.

Then, for color, you would always plant large pots on the deck as shown in the link to Michele Derviss pools.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 11:06AM
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Hi Molie,

Thank you for the great input. Terrific advice regarding the ornamental grasses, the Ruby Ribbons is gorgeous and will add it to the list. The idea of conifers is intriguing and we are really thinking it through and we are getting more excited as we think about the possibilities ... perhaps a garden path between the conifers as another idea ... looking at Katsura now.

Thank you again

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 7:19PM
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Nothing draws bees like grapes! I love the vines, but would not want them near a pool - or a gate. We had a grape-covered pergola with swings hanging from it when my kids were toddlers, and the bees were a problem every summer.

The fence seems so stark and so ... linear, that I think a wider planting, with some slight curves in its shape will do a better job of de-emphasizing it than just covering it with vines. I'd like to suggest that you consider adding shrubs along it - either an informal hedge (such as Annabelle hydrangeas) or a mixed planting of different kinds of shrubs and small trees of various heights. Then the fence will provide the backbone, but will be much less prominent.

You wouldn't have to tackle this all at once, just one section at a time - planning and planting shrubs does take some work if its done right.

One specific plant you might want to consider - this is the nicest woody plant near my pool - is a rosemary-leaf willow; I could watch its silvery foliage rippling in the breeze for hours, and guests always comment on it (I try to keep a few rooted cuttings on hand, because people ask for them all the time). Mine's about 8 feet tall, and I keep it somewhat in bounds with occasional pruning. It's one of the nicest non-flowering plants in my garden, and just seems to "go" with the pool.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 10:22PM
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molie(z6 CT)

Another specimens plant to consider is the Red twig Dogwood. We have a Cornus alba 'Ivory Halo' that is spectacular with white-ringed leaves in the spring and summer and beautiful bright red bare branches in the winter. It's not too tall and spreads. When the older, thicker, branches are cut back at the base, new bright red shoots come up. I cut back during the holidays and use the red twigs, mixed with white painted branches, in pots as holiday decorations so it's kind of a win/win situation because these 'trimmings' don't go to waste.

Although many sites say that it needs to be planted in a wet area, ours gets no special attention and thrives. It's easy to propagate just by laying down branches and covering with soil. Something like this would accentuate DtD's suggestion of softening the stark appearance of the fence and would contrast nicely with the rosemary-leaf willow.

Have you ever gone to Broken Arrow Nursery in Hamden, CT? Besides the Mt. Laurels for which the owner is famous, they have many unique plants and provide great support and suggestions.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 7:04AM
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Thank you Molie and Digging the Dirt for the terrific suggestions. I have looked at photos of the willow red twig dogwood and they look spectacular. These along with some conifers will really improve the landscape and a friend has suggested that they may have some heritage morning glory seeds (very large flowers) that could do very well on the fence in the background.

Once again we really appreciate all these great suggestions. We are coming up with a plan and will update this link as we make progress. Thank you again

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 10:37AM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b

Morning Glory can spread by seed very aggressively. Thus they can be hard to get rid of in places where you don't want them. Clematis vines (perhaps combined with climbing roses) take longer to establish, but will in the long run be much better for that fence and IMO much more attractive.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 11:11AM
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thank you Steve
Good point on the morning glory. The clematis are really a great approach as well. based on other forums i am looking at the options at Brushwood Nursery, Silver Star Vinery, Joy Creek and Hummingbird Farm for clematis

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 3:59PM
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I think you have some great suggestions for plants that tend to be lower maintenance. Some comments on plants suggested that I have experience with:

Other variegated dogwood shrub options include Cornus sericea 'Hedgerows Gold' (red twigs and gold variegated leaves) and Cornus sericea 'Silver and Gold' (yellow twigs and white variegated leaves.) Because they have some berries, don't put them too close to the pool. They may sucker, so account for that in where you plant them.

Annabelle hydrangea tends to be a bit floppy with its slightly weak stems and large flower heads and also suckers. I have it and rather like the floppy effect, but if you don't, there are many other summer blooming hydrangeas you can try. You can get other H. arborescens varieties that specify stiff branches, H. paniculata varieties (limelight, little lime, little lamb, pinky winky, pink diamond, the swan, tardiva, among others) or H. macrophylla (be sure to get one of the ones that blooms on new wood as well as old wood so that blooms aren't only in the spring.)

You can grow clematis on shrubs as well as on the fence, but you need to give the shrubs a year or two to settle (for fast growing shrubs) and pair the eventual size of the two so that one doesn't overwhelm the other. I'd avoid sweet autumn clematis since it tends to seed around rather aggressively.

My impression of your current pool landscaping is that it is rather a dots and dashes effect, and this may be some of the reason you aren't happy with it. You have some single plants and narrow beds with a row individual plants. I'd spend a lot of time looking at photos of landscaping in general as well as pool landscaping with a particular eye out for deeper beds. Having beds that are deep enough to allow several layers of plants will look more satisfying and provide more interest over the season. Do layout of beds in your yard with flour (easily erased) to show bed edges and rocks or plants pots to represent plants or if you're more abstract than I am do layout on paper. Because you will be viewing your beds from both inside and outside the pool, keep that in mind as you lay out your plants. I'd also probably keep most of the beds away from the pool rather than in a ring around it, though having plants either in beds or pots near where you will sit will be nice.

Here's a bed I put in that's 15-25 feet deep and quite long. I'm not suggesting that you use this for a model, but just something to get you thinking about deeper beds. The first photo (taken from the middle looking east) was taken only about a year after planting, but now in addition to deciduous and evergreen shrubs (which have filled in more) it has clematis, perennials, and groundcovers so it will have interest year round.
From June 2010

Here it is last spring as the bulbs and perennials were just starting to really get going (from the east end looking west.) Sorry about the poor photo quality, but I wanted to give a feel for the width. It varies in width at different places along the length of the bed, doesn't just taper as the photo seems to show and it was full enough by the end of last season that I don't expect to add more plants.
From May, 2011

I'm also including a link below to a thread that has a photo of one of Thyme2Dig's hill gardens about half way down. It's steeper than what you have, but may get you thinking about how to combine hardscape (boulders & steps) with plants. There are several other photos in the thread that show depth of garden beds from other folks as well, all allowing several layers of plants, often with paths of mulch or stone winding through them.

Here is a link that might be useful: What is Blooming in Your Garden - May 2011

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 8:12AM
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molie(z6 CT)

Clematis is a great suggestion for your fence. Though it takes about 3 yrs. for them to take off, they are pretty much 'no care' compared to roses, although I grow both and love them planted together. Some clematis will grow 20 feet! That's a lot of cover for a single plant, but their downside is that few bloom consistently from early summer to fall.

Climbing roses are more difficult to train on a fence because of thorns/cane issues but there are so many long-blooming roses and some pretty easy-care (mostly shrubs), like the KnockOuts or Oso Easy, etc.

It does make sense for you to go one section at a time as you tackle your overall plan. Check out the clematis and rose forums where you'll find great ideas. Whenever I go to those sites, I end up drooling.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 8:29AM
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Oo-ooh! Here's a thread with three photos of T2D's garden.

Here is a link that might be useful: Thyme2Dig's front hill bed

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 9:00AM
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Thank you nhbabs and molie for your great insights.

The plan approach is definitely how we are getting started (love the flour idea to get a better feel for the design) and going a section at a time is our plan right now.
Babs, the photos are gorgeous of our your conifer bed and the links (wow!!) really help to visualize. The year round interest is our goal as well. Already spending a lot of time in clematis forum molie, thanks.

We are so appreciative of everyone's comments. Have a great day.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 1:17PM
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molie(z6 CT)

One important thing to notice in both T2D's and nhbabs' gardens is the variety of colors, textures, and forms that they've chosen. While it might seem overwhelming to replicate their magnificent gardens, keep the suggestion to go one section at a time in your plantings. But what helps to 'hold' their gardens together is a focal point as your eye travels across their yards.

Also, you might want to begin with one plant that you absolutely love---an evergreen or deciduous shrub whose color and form grabs you---and have that repeated several times throughout your garden. Note how the three bluish evergreens catch your eye as you look across nhbabs' garden and the maroons and light green/yellows become the visual resting points in T2D's yard.

Whatever focus plant you decide to use, don't plant too many of these or they will lose their 'punch'. You have such a beautiful area to work with and a plan plus research (as to best things to grow in your area) will make this a fun project over several seasons.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 9:27AM
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One other thing to consider . . . soil. Since you have an inground pool, it's likely that there's been quite a bit of soil disturbance. Top soil may have been stripped or buried, so you may need to do some soil amending to have a successful garden. You might want to find a good quality source of compost that you can use to start beds. When I do this I have access to a tractor and a huge pile of the neighbor's well-rotted manure, but I imagine that there are places you could get a truckload of compost near you.

Google lasagna gardening, but in a nutshell, if you want to kill grass, lay down a layer of heavy cardboard or 10 or so layers of newspapers (NOT on a windy day!), wet down, cover with compost, and then cover that with mulch over the whole bed. Then you can plant as funds, time, and weather allow. I plop down a deep layer of manure, then a layer of newspaper to keep weed seeds in the dark, and then a layer of wood shavings for mulch. It's deep and heavy enough to keep the grass from coming up through and it's ready to be planted whenever I am ready to add plants. Having good soil is really key to having happy plants.

Another suggestion is to plan generally, putting in your layouts plant specifications like 'gold foliaged conifer about 10 ft', or 'summer blooming purple clematis.' Then visit nurseries, either actual (plants will be bigger, important for shrubs) or virtual (plants smaller, but you may find more variety if there aren't any really good nurseries near you) and then fill in specific plants after you've researched what you found to be sure they will suit your needs.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 6:23AM
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Thanks again Molie and Babs for the great ideas. We are thinking about adding blue arctic willows around the fence area for some uniformity right now, beautiful plants that grow 5 ft high and about 5 feet wide.. We have started visiting nurseries for the conifers and red twig dogwoods amongst others. the clematis hunting is overwhelming since there are so many varieties. Planning is our focus right now as has been suggested. Its going to be an active planning and planting spring this year no doubt. :-)

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 7:33AM
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To help you narrow down options, I'd suggest type 3 prune viticella clematis. They are great for starting with as they don't get wilt like some of the large-flowered clematis.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 10:34PM
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I was under the impression that you shouldn't plant willows near water sources because they are water seekers. Is that not true of this particular willow?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 5:38PM
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HI Annika,

These particular willows are bushes and max height is about 4 ft and 4 ft wideth and are not troublesome in regards to water sources etc. according to the nurserymen. If it were a large tree willow, it would be a different issue.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 4:18AM
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Love your pool area by the way. It is going to be a very gorgeous when you've finished.
I agree with some of the other members and their suggestion of conifers. A row of pencil pines would look very sophisticated. I also think that a row of pleached hornbeams or ornamental pear would look lovely, especially underplanted with something like juniper berry or a smart looking ground cover.

As you have that quite polished theme, some raised planter boxes (rendered or stone) with mass plantings of bulbs and perhaps some built in seating/storage would look striking and be quite functional at the same time.

Here is a link that might be useful: ebook: Pool Landscaping Ideas

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 10:05PM
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Thanks Frangapaneeee

Great ideas and the idea of pencil pines is very intriguing. Starting one section at a time and looking forward to the project. Appreciate the great link as well.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 3:54PM
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chiming in late to say the only thing I'd suggest from experience, VERY FEW flowering things! Bees + kids playing around the pool does not mix well.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 9:40AM
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