POOL­SIDE PER­FEC­TION

When land­scap­ing around a pool, be sure to select plants that not only look good but are ro­bust and prac­ti­cal too, writes He­len Young.

Australian House & Garden - - GARDENING -

Fine form

In pool­side beds that are nar­row, choose plants that will grow upright rather than over­hang the wa­ter. Fast-grow­ing plants will need con­stant cut­ting back, so look for slower grow­ers. Select plants suited to the amount of sun or shade in the lo­ca­tion and the cli­mate so they stay happy and healthy.

Keep weeds down with ground­cover plants or mulch. Mass plant­ings will re­quire less main­te­nance than hav­ing lots of dif­fer­ent plants; they will look more ef­fec­tive, too.

Easy care

Avoid plants that will reg­u­larly shed leaves into the pool, es­pe­cially lots of tiny ones. It may be coun­ter­in­tu­itive, but de­cid­u­ous trees that drop their leaves over just a few weeks are usu­ally ti­dier than ev­er­greens that can drop all year. Gum trees drop leaves, flow­ers, bark and fruit cap­sules, and cause stain­ing from tan­nins in their leaves. Tree ferns and she-oaks ( Ca­sua­r­ina) cast off co­pi­ous amounts of spores and pollen re­spec­tively, leav­ing a film on the wa­ter. Bam­boo is also sur­pris­ingly messy in terms of leaf lit­ter. Plants to rule out for in­va­sive roots in­clude fig and po­plar trees, the um­brella plant ( Sch­ef­flera) and fruit salad plant ( Mon­stera de­li­ciosa).

Splash fac­tor

Chlo­rine and salt pools make life dif­fi­cult for plants in the splash zone. Go for plants with thick, waxy or shiny leaves with in­built pro­tec­tion, such as Dianella ‘Lit­tle Jess’, Cor­rea alba, New Zealand Christ­mas bush ( Met­rosideros), banksias, New Zealand flax ( Phormium), coastal rose­mary ( Westringia), In­dian hawthorn ( Rhaphi­olepis), dwarf sa­cred bam­boo ( Nan­d­ina) and Pit­tospo­rum to­bira. Hibis­cus, hebes, gaza­nias, olives, mir­ror bush ( Co­prosma) and suc­cu­lents such as Cras­sula also work. Hav­ing raised beds next to your pool will help min­imise the amount of pool wa­ter soak­ing into, and dam­ag­ing, the soil.

Smart se­lec­tion

As well as the splash-tol­er­ant plants listed here, many lush, trop­i­cal-style plants suit pool­side con­di­tions and are con­ve­niently low main­te­nance. You could con­sider clump­ing palms, frangi­pani, cordy­lines, bird of par­adise, trop­i­cal rhodo­den­drons, gin­gers, ixo­ras, can­nas, ar­alia, liri­opes, soft-leaf yucca ( Y. re­curv­i­fo­lia) and gar­de­nias.

Safety first

There’s a lot of ex­posed skin in pool ar­eas, so try to avoid plant­ings with thorns and sharp edges. Also not rec­om­mended are plants that cause rashes on con­tact, such as many gre­vil­leas and eu­phor­bias. The slime fac­tor rules out a num­ber of oth­ers; you don’t want sappy aga­pan­thus leaves un­der­foot or a slip­pery car­pet of petals from camel­lias or jacaranda trees.

Com­pli­ance

For safety rea­sons, plants next to pool-safe fences must not be able to aid chil­dren in climb­ing. They should have soft stems or fo­liage rather than strong branches.

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