If you’ve decided to take the plunge and install a pool, but you don’t want to give up your lush garden oasis, Toronto
landscape architect Kate Fox-Whyte has some practical suggestions for achieving both. “I really like planting up close to a pool,” says Kate. “Obviously you want active space around a pool: a deck and places for people to walk and to lounge. But having plants near the side of the pool softens it, and there’s an interplay with the water.” Click through for some dreamy pools designed by Kate including her best advice for landscaping. Scroll down!
1. Think Privacy
The pool in this Toronto home has a naturalistic vibe, thanks to the black-bottom pool that dramatically mirrors the surrounding greenery. Large red and white oak trees provide shade, while a row of existing cedars on the opposite side act as a privacy screen. They are underplanted with Karl Foerster grasses and a combination of Barren Strawberry, a ground cover which produces yellow flowers. Carex Pensylvanica, a soft sedge grass, is used to fill in the gaps in between the taller grasses which are chosen for height and movement.
2. Camouflage Your Play Area
Next to the pool terrace is a custom sport’s court with a basketball net, which blends in seamlessly with the adjacent artificial lawn. A simple planting scheme of green hedging and mass plantings of Japanese Forest Grass and lavender create privacy and add movement. “The court’s green is purposely muted, and the beech trees are doing a good job of hiding the backboard structure. The Japanese Forest Grass tolerates shade and helps soften the edges and make the court sort of disappear,” notes Kate.
3. Don’t Shy Away From Artificial Grass
Adjacent to the Algonquin limestone terrace is an artificial lawn, great for shady areas and the owner’s dog. The faux turf stays green no matter what and it keeps grass clippings from ending up in the pool filter.
4. Don’t Forget Fragrance
A row of lavender plants near the pool deck provides a sensory note. “It’s nice to have it by where you’re walking, where you might brush against it and release the fragrance,” says Kate.
5. Use Plants To Define Zones
This contemporary garden in a North Toronto home provides plenty of recreational space for the clients’ four children. A 42’-pool and negative edge spa has a custom diving plinth and water feature, with a large lawn for sports play and vegetable garden with espaliered pear trees.
6. Break Up Hardscaping With A Mix Of Grasses And Roses
“People gravitate towards the classics, such as white roses and boxwoods which are a nice accent in a contemporary garden,” says Kate. A planting of ‘Little Bunny’ Fountain Grass adds movement to the end of the pool and is tough, yet tactile. On the upper terrace, Kate planted roses (Rosa ‘Sea Foam’ and Rosa Easy Elegance Champagne Wishes) with Deschampsia caespitosa ‘Golftau’ grasses. “It makes the roses feel a bit less formal and it gives a little movement. Rose bases aren’t always the most beautiful things — the grasses help to mask that,” says Kate.
7. Use Repetition For An Orderly look
A row of Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) trees are uplit for drama, capped by a White Redbud tree near the terrace (on right). Kate points out the trees don’t have a lot of floral interest but she chose them for their beautiful structure, which forms a nice backdrop as well as providing privacy. She underplanted the trees with tough, shade-tolerant periwinkle that sprouts purple flowers.
8. Yes, You Can Grow Veggies
A veggie garden can live happily within a pool setting. “The vegetable garden, which contains herbs and tomatoes, is located between the lawn and the pool and was something that the client really wanted. We planted espaliered pear trees up against the glass fence and used blueberry bushes to add as some structure and define the areas of the garden.” This lawn area is also a play space for the owners’children. A blackened steel planter is filled with boxwood, while another White Redbud tree is planted on the right to act as a bookend on either side of the home’s terrace.
9. Plant Near The Pool
When it comes to plants that can stand up to splash, Kate recommends grasses. “There’s so many types and they do give a lot of movement, and generally speaking are really quite tough. Another thing we do is mix in groundcover with the grasses to help to cover the soil and create a green mulch as opposed to wood chips — it just feels a lot more lush and it keeps the soil from migrating.” Fothergilla, a mid-height shrub that sprouts bottle brush-type flowers, and astilbe for summer color is planted behind the 18″ diving plinth.
10. Pick A Statement Tree
This Star Magnolia is visible from the house’s big windows. “When you enter the front of the house you see it through the house and it draws your eye out into the garden.” Kate chose a primarily white and green palette for the garden, emphasizing texture. “The Magnolia is underplanted with lamb’s ear (
Stachys byzantina) which is a paler, softer, textural plant to give a lot of interest that works with the tonality of the terrace stone. We always like white in shade gardens because it provides light and brightness to darker areas.”
11. Plant Vines
The pool cabana is softened with climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris) and Arctic Kiwi (Actinidia kolomikta), which is edible. “We used boxwood in this bed and throughout the garden to define different areas and give a little bit of structure.” In this garden, boxwood bushes frame both ends of the garden. Because they hold their shape and are slow growing, boxwoods are easy care. Kate also planted grass between the steps. “It’s a nice transition between the solid surface and the lawn.”
Author: Wendy Jacob
Jeff McNeil (McNeil Photography)