It’s winter, so the thought of jumping into a pool is probably not high on your agenda. But if you’ve recently built a new pool or renovated your old pool to give it some much needed pizzazz, now is the perfect time to finish your project with landscaping to make sure it’s a fantastic feature of your garden.
Pool landscaping has come a long way in the past decade or two. A pool is seldom just a pool now; it has become part of a larger environment that provides families with a lifestyle that delivers their favourite activities alongside opportunities for entertaining and being entertained.
So swimming is as popular as ever, but relaxing and exercising by the pool, entertaining and dining, gardening and even growing your own food are now regularly catered to when pool landscape designs are created.
There are endless choices in the styles and features you can employ in your pool area. Many people like the look and feel of a tropical resort, or perhaps a Bali inspired feel. Immaculate Japanese inspired gardens are popular for their simplicity and clean lines. Some like a bush garden effect with a swimming hole pool effect, or a more formal Italianate or French villa appearance. Whatever style you choose, there are some steps you need to take before you launch into the project.

Size matters

The first step is to decide what you can reasonably fit in to your pool surrounds. Back gardens are now usually a lot smaller than they used to be, so you’ll need to take care not to cram too much into your zones. It’s always better to leave more space than you first imagine you’ll need, to give it a spacious and relaxed feel. Try not to fill it with features that detract from your primary activities.
For instance, a spa or wading pool, attractive for many people, can consume areas that might be better used for a simple garden or a deck. A waterfall might look attractive but it can rob the pool of valuable swimming and walking areas.
If entertaining and dining outdoors are high on your priority list, you should create a design that flows naturally from the house to the pool area, and provides enough space for people to mingle comfortably without feeling jammed in. If you like parties of large groups you’ll need areas for seating, eating and relaxing in groups.
Don’t forget to take into account the restrictions of a pool fence, which is now covered by more rigid legislation. Most activities will need to take outside the immediate pool area, and especially barbecuing and eating. It becomes a nuisance continually carrying trays, drinks and utensils through locked pool gates. It’s also very unwise to have glass bottles or wine glasses by a pool, in case of breakages. Broken glass is virtually invisible in a pool, and can very quickly turn summer barbie fun into a medical emergency.

Call in the experts

If you’re going to spend a lot of money on a pool and its landscaping, it’s almost always a sound idea to spend a little more to engage a professional landscape designer. Their expertise will minimise ongoing problems, and will almost certainly give you a finished garden that utilises space and features far beyond your own imaginings.

Sun and shade

Pools may be a favourite haunt of sun worshippers, but a little shade can be a real blessing. You should consider establishing some shade in specific areas near your pool. Searing sun can drive people away from poolside activities if they can’t find some relief in shade during hot dry spells.
Shade can be created in several ways, and of course the most natural and pleasant way is to use trees to cast a shadow in the afternoon heat. Think about the tree species first, or you may spend more time cleaning leaves and bark out of the pool than swimming. While they don’t drop leaves, many palm species do drop berries or other seeds, are usually pretty ineffective at throwing shade, and offer the local wildlife little in the way of shelter or food.
There are many native tree species that will thrive in the Hills area and won’t create a lot of tedious work cleaning up after them. A visit to your local nursery will provide lots of ideas on how to add colour, shade and vibrancy to your pool area with trees, as well as offering food and habitats for local animals and birds.
If you have the space and appropriate architectural features, you might consider using screens or sails. These can fold up or be fixed permanently to fixtures, depending on your priorities. Umbrellas are the simple and inexpensive alternative.

Using hardscape

It’s very important to consider the hard surfaces and features that combine to frame your whole garden area. These can include boundary and pool fences, retaining walls, garden edges, seat walls, decks and myriad other possibilities.
Consider the overall effect of these features on your finished design. Use similar materials and colours in their construction to provide a coherent appearance. Tying their elements to your house’s look and feel will deliver a complementary space that will not only provide a fabulous living area but a return on your investment when it comes time to sell your property.
Using hard features creatively can discreetly divide your area into zones for different purposes, and create a sense of spaciousness and natural flow in its design. If kids are an important part of your life, it might be worthwhile considering a play area that is safe and kid friendly, yet near the adults so supervision is never compromised.

Green is great

Greenery provides the softness, texture and luxury around any landscape project. It also provides an excellent opportunity to use the many wonderful plants available from local Hills nurseries.
Take advantage of their expertise, and discuss your requirements with one of their staff so you know you’ll take home the right plants for the right places, and your finished garden will have a display of magnificent colour and texture all year.

Food, glorious food

Of course the most popular activities in a back garden include barbecuing, wining and dining with friends.
You have limitless possibilities for establishing a barbecue area, depending on how serious you want to get with your cooking equipment.
A simple platform to house a small Weber barbecue might suffice for some people, while others may want to go for a full outdoor kitchen, with bar area, kitchen sink and benchtops, permanent full roof cover, and music/video entertainment area.
This is where your budget can very quickly blow out as you keep finding items you think are essential for the area, but you’ll be surprised how little many of them will be used.
Take time to consider all these accessories, and make a serious inventory of the items that you really couldn’t live without. After all, the point of cooking and eating outside is to escape the humdrum of a kitchen while hanging out with friends in your fabulous entertaining area by the pool. Building another kitchen outside and feeling captive to it defeats the original purpose.

Take a seat

Think about seating for guests. Forcing people to stand for hours will pretty quickly drive them somewhere else to find a seat. So take time to plan comfortable seating areas where conversations and drinks can be shared.

Safety first

Your primary concern must of course be safety, especially if children are usually present. Pools can be deadly to young children if they aren’t supervised, and pool fence regulations have recently been upgraded, so before you begin you need to check with the council for your obligations.
Fences come in many different styles and materials. Traditional metal fences are the cheapest, and still look effective for more formal areas.
Glass fences are very popular, and are particularly effective at letting in light and views to the pool. They are more expensive though, so a little homework might save you some money.
Some plants can be thorny or prickly, or weep poisonous sap, so choose carefully before you plant them to avoid problems later.
Pool safety equipment is also a requirement now, so a small area for storing it is a good idea. A compartment can be built to house it, and serve as a seat or even a planter box with some creativity.

Start work

Winter is the perfect time to start work on your project. Many tradies are a little quieter, and the weather is conducive for some manual work.
And if you tackle it with enthusiasm, when the warm weather is back with us you’ll be ready to entertain friends in a vibrant new pool area that will wow your friends. ❐

Top 5 Pool Landscaping Tips

  1. Use a landscaping expert to get the most out of your pool project.
  2. Don’t cram your space with stuff. You’ll need open areas for activities.
  3. Use lots of plants and trees to add a luxury, green feel.
  4. Don’t forget to incorporate some shade into your design.
  5. Always safety first, especially if kids are present.