San Antonio’s long hot summers make it an ideal city for backyard pools – and there are plenty of them. It’s also the ideal place to landscape around your pool to make it a veritable paradise.
Backyard oases range from modest above-ground pools to elaborate in-ground havens. Because it’s a backyard fixture, you want your pool to be an attractive part of your private landscape.
The trend is toward installing native plants, but this is one area where you can break the rules, according to David Rodriguez, Texas AgriLife Extension Service agent for horticulture in Bexar County. ,
“You don’t want just native – you want excitement!” he said. And Rodriguez does get excited when he ticks off a long list of trees, shrubs, and plants that do well in San Antonio.
Trees? Think Small
Rodriguez recommends keeping trees near the pool small. “You don’t want huge trees,” he said. “Mix palms and banana trees – bottle palm, triangle palm, bush palm, fan palm. Try yaupon holly, Texas mountain laurel – they’re all good.”
He said evergreens are also a good choice. Most stay green year-round, and they tend not to shed leaves and needles like deciduous trees, which is important when it comes to pool cleaning. Rodriquez warns a locally popular tree to stay clear of near pools is the crepe myrtle, which he points out creates a real mess.
“You want tropical annuals and perennials,” Rodriguez said. “Try Cora periwinkle, whopper begonias, variegated tapioca, flowering Durante, an assortment of lantana, bougainvillea, dinnerplate hibiscus, Moy Grande hibiscus…” He stops mid-list to recommend going to the Texas Superstar website from Texas A&M, which offers an impressive array of plants that should thrive.
Several trees and bushes that add beauty to your pool area can also provide a tasty treat. “Mexican limes, lemons, bananas – even ornamental bananas are edible,” advises Rodriguez. “What’s better for a barbeque than fresh limes?”
Ornamental grasses are excellent landscaping accents. Rodriguez has a list of those, too. “Use dwarf umbrella grass for a tropical appearance. Also cannas umbrella, giant liriope, purple fountain grass. For taller grass, plant black stocking fountain grass.”
Rodriguez said for the DIY landscaper, most good San Antonio nurseries are well stocked with plants that will thrive, but he strongly recommends getting professional help to do it right. “Certified nursery professionals know good soil, which is very important. They’ll also know the sun requirements for your plants.”
Think safety first
Plants aren’t the only consideration when it comes to your pool. Because you want to control who can access your pool, fencing is crucial, either directly around the pool or around the entire yard. This is especially important if you have small children or if neighbors’ children wander about.
Proper lighting serves not just a safety purpose, but an aesthetic one as well. Consider the layout of your pool and where lights should be placed for adequate vision during evening or night swims. You’ll find an array of lights at retail outlets and online for posts, strings, trees, and pathways. LED lights operate affordably, and solar-powered LED lights might be a good option around your pool.
Many pool installation companies provide this around the pool at the time of installation, but it’s also important to keep in mind as you add architectural elements near the water, such as rocks or boulders.
Unless your pool is in or abuts your patio, you need to provide access to it. Walking across turf not only runs the risk of encounters with stickers and insect pests, it also leads to grass being tracked into your pool. Consider creating paths. Gravel paths may not be welcomed by barefoot kids and guests, but pavers or smooth river rocks will ensure a comfortable stroll. Paths are also a perfect opportunity to line the way with plants, ornamental grasses, and ground lighting.
Furnishings and accents
The days of the plain old lawn chairs are gone, and retail stores and online providers offer a wealth of outdoor furnishings in a variety of styles. Make sure your choices are washable or scrub-able and weather resistant. San Antonio’s blazing summer sun can fade fabrics, so a big umbrella might be wise for those pieces not tucked under a patio or pergola.
David Rodriguez is the Texas AgriLife Extension Service agent for horticulture in Bexar County. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in horticulture from Texas A&M University. He is active in youth gardening education, community adult horticultural education, and other community projects.