Cool pool planting
A backyard swimming pool is more than a place to get wet and cool off in hot weather. It’s an oasis, a retreat from the cares of the workaday world, a place that is your own private resort. Of course, think resort and images of plentiful greenery spring to mind. We’d all like to emulate this look at home, but a lot of the time the result tends not to live up to the dream. A quick trip to the nursery, some romantic (or impulsive) purchases and the pool area looks fabulous - for a few weeks. Then the rot sets in. Plants start to die and the pool filter is clogged with debris. Suddenly the oasis looks more like a desert.
Spring is a time of new beginnings, so why not turn over a new leaf, literally, in your pool area.
The first thing to consider is the type of pool water you have. Chlorine is a chemical that will kill some plants if they’re constantly being splashed. On the other hand, many plants cannot tolerate high levels of salt.
It’s also important to remember that pools tend to be built in the sun (for obvious reasons) but not all plants can tolerate those conditions.
If your pool is chlorinated, consider mondo grass, cordylines, golden cane palms and star jasmine as they can tolerate a fair amount of splashing without too many ill effects. That doesn’t mean they can be drenched in it day after day. Salt water pools need plants that can stand up to coastal conditions, such as Australian natives including westringia (coastal rosemary), coastal banksia, dianella and pig face. If natives aren’t your style, consider plants that have silver, furry or waxy leaves. Think bromeliads, agaves, aloe, yucca and cycads. Plants that are tolerant of either water type, as well as full sun, include cordylines, murrayas, agaves, acalyphas, erigeron daisy or star jasmine.
Hedges also look attractive around pools, but those with small leaves, such as buxus, can cause endless trouble with their small leaves, which not only float in the water but can clog the filter. Go for species with larger leaves. Another thing to beware of is plants or shrubs with invasive root systems as they can damage or block pipes as well as the pools structure. Steer clear of bamboo, umbrella and rubber trees as well as messy melaleucas and deciduous trees. Watch out for plants that are prone to pests and diseases as pesticides and pool water are a dangerous mix.
Another option is flowering annuals, which are a fabulous way to add some colour and keep things looking fresh season by season. They have the added advantage of not being too messy and being perfect for garden beds or pots. If pots are the way you’re going, consider thornless bougainvillea or mini citrus, including cumquats.
Of course for the ultimate resort look it’s hard to go past the fragrant frangipani. The down side to these coastal beauties is that they’re deciduous, but if you’re prepared to put in the work come autumn they’ll give you years of poolside pleasure.