privacy screen for swimming pool

(Question)

I recently installed an in ground pool with fiberglass walls in my rear yard. The cement walkway around the pool is about 1meter from the common fence with my rear neighbour. Can you please suggest plants as a privacy screen that grows a minimum of 6 feet high, does not have an excessive amount of debris falling into the pool, while not diminishing integrity of the pool walls by its roots?

Thanks

(Answer)

When landscaping near a swimming pool we must consider several things. The most important being bare skin near the plant material when getting out of the pool. There is nothing worse than being prickled in the legs by juniper needles or poked with over grown shrubs and roses while trying to get on a diving board. Privacy from neighbors while using the pool is a concern as well especially if you have a see through fence. Choosing plants with soft texture, arching or upright branching habits, large leafing, dense structure, and the ability to withstand salt and chlorine exposure is key to landscape design around a pool .

A meter wide and meter depth of planting bed is quite large and sufficient for plants to thrive around a pool and would not damage the pool walls and structure when allowed to grow. Choosing a hedge with an under story planting is a great idea as it creates visual depth and hides the dark void at the base. Keep in mind that winter interest is not a concern, as pool use is spring to fall. This makes designing the privacy hedge very easy as the range of plant material you can use is endless.

Trees and plants to not choose  near a pool are Willow, Poplar, Sumac, Maples, Birches, and other water seeking trees and plants with vigorous roots such as Wisteria. The walls of the pool structure could be compromised if the roots reach for pool water and utilities. If you like an early spring or late fall heated pool your selection must be carefully planned out even further. Water seeking trees coincidentally also seem to be quite messy with willow leaves, catkins, fruits, and poplar flowers falling to the ground and in the pool. Any type of fruiting tree should be avoided to avoid attracting wildlife or swarms of pollinators near the pool during summer despite their taste and beauty. Swimming in a sea of bobbing crab apples from a fruiting pyramidal crab apple isn’t very nice either. Fruits and nuts always end up in the pool no matter how far away you plant them!

Tree or shrub hedging for privacy around a pool that are slow growing or easy to maintain are :

Hornbeams, Oaks, Dogwoods, Yews, Cedars, Boxwoods, Sorbaria, Privet, Ninebark and any non fruit or nut bearing Fastigiata varieties of trees and hedges are suitable. You can choose a dwarf variety of plant material, prune artfully, and dwarf any large variety by pruning as long as it planted with proper spacing and pruned correctly during the right time of year. The hornbeams, oaks, and dogwoods all look a leafy green during summer. Sorbaria is unconventional and has vigorous tender roots but it would not damage the pool, looks tropical, and has white flowers. Ninebarks are large, upright, colourful, and easy to prune.

Under story shrubs and plants for the base of a hedge are box woods, euonymus, shrub hydrangeas, and different varieties of shorter softer grasses. Hydrangeas fill in very quickly, are fairly low maintenance, and have nice flowers to look at while lounging.  An unconventional hedge of nothing but grasses is also an option as some grasses grow up to 2 meters tall and 1 meter wide. However, some grasses can scratch the skin and must be planted at the back of the hedge away from walkways. If you have a chain link fence keep in mind that non fruiting perennial vines such as climbing hydrangea (slow growing), clematis, and dutchmans pipe would all fill the void and backdrop of a chain link fence.

Evergreens and tender plants that are planted too close to the pool edge may suffer and struggle due to a variety of reasons. They need to be set back away from the edge of the bed closest to the pool. In fall and springtime, before opening and after closing the pool it is best to leech the soil by saturating the root zone of the plants and trees. Applying new compost to poolside plants can help them withstand the stress of being poolside.Washing the foliage with water to wash away any residual salt or chlorine from the pool spray and splashing is also good preventative maintenance. Plan your pool landscaping to accommodate pool covers, heating pads,utilities, and maintenance tasks like emptying the filters and draining. All of these activities can have wear and tear on plants and soil.

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Sources:

https://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/trees-shrubs/pruning-trees-shrubs/

https://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/landscaping/maint/woody_maint.html

https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/chlorine-toxicity-trees-and-shrubs