By Denis Flanagan
Once you have made the decision to add a pool or hot tub to your backyard, the next step is to complete the scene with a landscape that suits your needs and creates colour and interest, without requiring too much maintenance. After all, you want to have enough time to relax and enjoy your new backyard oasis. Here are some basic steps to follow when landscaping around your pool.
Determining your landscape design
All gardens should start with well thought out design. You can do your own research by visiting websites, reading books or taking some courses; another option is to hire a professional designer. If you choose the latter, make sure you check out the person’s references and feel comfortable with them, to ensure a good working relationship.
Some general points to consider when designing a landscape include:
• Your own personal taste. Do you prefer a formal setting or an informal one? Do you like ornate, complex designs or clean, simple lines? Take a cue from the design esthetic inside your house; it’s a good indication of what you will enjoy outside.
• Colours. Many people have favourite hues or colour combinations. Again, this can be picked up from your lifestyle, your home’s décor or even your own personal fashion statements. Colourful plant choices are plentiful and, of course, can change with the seasons.
• Maintenance. Consider how many hours a week you can dedicate to tending your garden, or whether you’re able to hire a company to help with upkeep. These decisions will go a long way towards determining the complexity of your landscaping plan.
• Budget. It’s a touchy question, but it must be asked in the early stages of the planning process. Are you doing all or some of the work yourself? Can the work be phased in over time? On average, your total landscaping budget should represent approximately 15 to 20 per cent of the value of your property; use this as a guideline when you set your spending limits.
Ensuring proper soil preparation
There is an old saying—for a $10 tree you need a $20 hole. If you don’t invest in the proper soil preparation, you are more than likely wasting your money on plant material.
The first step is to have your soil tested (you can ask around at your local garden centre for help on how to do this). Once you have determined your soil type, you can then supplement it with appropriate additives such as peat moss, manure, compost, granular fertilizer, etc.
Ideally, soil should be worked 380 to 457 mm (15 to 18 in.) deep for most plantings.
Trees form the framework of a landscape plan and should be the first consideration in the planting process. For areas surrounding your pool and hot tub, you should choose trees whose growth you can easily control and that shed minimal debris.
Some of my favourites include paperbark, maple, copper beech and flowering dogwood.
If you are looking for a shade tree, consider lindens or locust; keep in mind, however, that these varieties need to be professionally pruned as they mature, which will incur extra costs in the future.
Evergreens play an important role in Canadian landscaping, too. White pines and hemlocks can give a very natural feel to an outdoor space, while cedars and yews can add a touch of formality, if that’s what the project calls for.
It’s especially important to consider evergreens if your hot tub or spa is used all year. Well-positioned trees can provide privacy, wind protection and an ideal shelter for visiting birds.