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Poolscaping -- Transforming Average to Outstanding

By Sandra Nelson


My daughter recently lamented that swimming pools are the new toilet paper this summer  —  not to be found anywhere. She moaned that she missed being outdoors, enjoying her surroundings and dangling her feet in the water while the kids splashed and played. Granted, she was talking about a kiddie pool in the middle of the backyard, but I could certainly identify with her feelings. Being at a pool in your own backyard is heavenly. 



Evidently a lot of Americans feel the same way.. According to the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP), as of January 2020, there were 10.4 million residential pools in the United States (the number has grown slightly since then), which means that 1 in 10 single and multi- family homes currently have private pools. Of those, over 50% are in-ground pools.



While relaxation, fun and even exercise top the list of reasons given for having a backyard pool, including one in the landscape offers some unexpected benefits as well. Physically, swimming boosts heart-health, improves bone strength and eases the symptoms of arthritis. Psychologically, a pool and its landscaping can do wonders for one’s mental health, reducing stress and alleviating anxiety. An inground pool along with a surrounding nature- based environment can become not only a sought after retreat for family and friends, but also a striking focal point of the landscape. 



Although decorating a pool can be as simple as adding a few pots of flowers, transforming the space into a personal paradise requires thoughtful planning, attention to detail and meticulous craftsmanship. Hiring a landscape professional with experience in backyard pool design can help make the process easier and the outcome more successful.



However, even before talking to a designer, there are a few things a homeowner should consider. 




In order to blend into a seamless outdoor element rather than a jarring outlier, the landscaping needs to mesh with the design of the pool, the architecture of the house and the existing environment. Most importantly though, the landscape can help bring to life the dream you envision. 



Today’s pools are not limited to standardized rectangles surrounded by strips of bland, grey concrete. Instead, they are designed in a multitude of sizes and shapes to suit the needs of the customer —  swimming laps or soaking up the sun on a raft —   and the confines of the terrain. Today’s poolscapes also reflect these trends. With the right choice of plant and hardscape materials, the pool area can be anything from a tropical paradise to a desert hideaway. Ask yourself what style of pool and landscaping suits you and your lifestyle  —  modern and architectural?  classic traditional?  native? woodland?  tropical? Mediterranean?  The possibilities are endless.




Landscaping for a backyard swimming pool can be limited to the immediate area surrounding the deck, or it can be expanded to encompass the entire yard, creating a dramatic scene. Larger, themed landscapes offer an opportunity for all-seasons interest, drawing the eye away from an unused pool in cold, winter months, while smaller, more compact landscapes can give an up close and personal burst of seasonal color. 




The word palette tends to be associated with color – what our favorites colors are or which colors work well together. While color palette is an important consideration in poolscaping, it isn’t the only palette to think about. Choosing the right palettes of softscape (plants) and hardscape (building materials) are also critical to the harmony of the design. For example, masses of huge, fan-shaped leaves and  brightly colored blooms seem at home in a tropical design but would be out of place in a prairie setting.






There is no question that a backyard pool and its landscaping requires maintenance. How much depends in part on design choices. Planting debris producing plants such as deciduous trees and fruit bearing shrubs can mean constantly fishing unwanted mess from the water. Some tender perennials may not be able to withstand the chemicals in the water and may need to be periodically replaced. 



Some hardscape materials can also add to maintenance problems. Mulch for weed and moisture control is often a standard in landscaping, but can be problematic around pools, winding up in the water and clogging filtration systems. Smooth surfaced tile surrounds look attractive, but can be slick when wet. . 



Whether you are installing a completely new poolscape or updating an existing one, seeking the advice of professionals can help you avoid costly mistakes. The design staff at Embassy, with their years of experience in landscaping pools of all types are anxious to help you fulfill your dream.