Re-landscape Mom's pool in SoCal (pics)

jenn(SoCal 9/19)September 6, 2010

My mom would like to spruce up the area around her swimming pool in southern California. She is 80, still active and strong, but doesn't do as much gardening as she used to due to a bad back.

She consulted with a landscape designer for ideas. The suggestions included breaking up some of the decking to create planter areas where the decking meets the wall. She does not want to have that much work done so decided to call it off.

So, I offered to get some ideas here and do the work myself, and she has agreed (so far!). We would like to begin planting in November.

I would like to create a design for her based on the following criteria (please click on the picture at the bottom to see all the pics w/captions):

-- Low water (her city allows irrigation only 3-4 days/week)

-- Easy maintenance

-- Heat tolerant

-- Pool friendly

-- Amended sandy soil, lots of sun

-- Any pots place around pool should be heavy enough to not blow over in winds

-- Planter boxes (or something) on brick step along the side of the garage

-- Soften and hide the pump enclosure

-- Color!

So far, my husband and I have suggested the following:

(1) In the narrow border at the far end of the pool, replace the current edging with a short (about 1 foot) brick enclosure (similar to the brick around the pool), add more soil, and replace all the plants (including removal of the palms)

(2) Place a large pot on each side of the corner of the pump enclosure, and another one where the enclosure meets the wall, to visually extend the narrow border all the way to the wall.

(3) Some type of planter boxes along the short step along the garage.

(4) Succulents (i.e. low water) inside the glazed pots on the walls

(5) Add an irrigation timer near the pump enclosure to water the border at the end and also the pots on the wall (if necessary)

My own plant suggestions (so far) include some type of Salvia and Agastache (hummers, color, low-water), Agapanthus (I know they are common but she likes them and they are nice plants for around pools). We welcome any and all suggestions. Thank you!

Please click on the photo to see all the pics:


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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

There are many kinds of lantana that will survive in those harsh conditions. Use upright forms where you want height, for example along a fence or wall, trailing forms for lower height. They come in many colors and color combinations and the only maintenance is an occasional trimming and shaping. They will drop fine leaf and flower litter, but shouldn't be excessively messy.

For larger leaves, potted canna, ensete, and musa could be attractive. Is your mother anti-palm or just anti-queen palm? Other types of palms could give a neater or softer look.

Can drainage holes be drilled in the ceramic pots? Trailing succulents would be attractive.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 2:00PM
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jenn(SoCal 9/19)

Thank you, catkim. She is not anti-palm at all... in fact (I forgot) she mentioned a dwarf palm for the narrow border. That might allow for shade plants beneath when the palms are mature. Myself, I'd rather see lots of color ---- Agastache, Salvia, Penstemon, etc --- using plants that love her sandy soil.

She loves Lantana and that's another one to consider.

We talked about drainage holes in the pots, and I also envision trailing succulents in them.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 2:55PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Hi Jenn,

I think that's a good back yard for a woman in her 80s- except for the Queen Palms. I'm with you- get them out of there. They will begin to drop litter soon and the pool will be a mess.

Your idea of raising the narrow bed with bricks- it would look much better. I also like the idea of a few large pots to give some height, especially over in the corner by the pool equiptment, but also on the patio.

The short step along the garage looks too narrow to me to put planter boxes in. Would the water drain into the pool from the planters? If you could put a wider raised planter box in front of the step between the two windows that might look nice. Or another huge pot- since that space needs some height too.

Plant choices- I'd avoid anything that requires trimming back every season. I also think the space needs as much green as possible. I would plant tall nandinas in the bed at the back, and pygmy date palms in the huge pots, with some sort of trailing iceplant or sedum that flowers. Maybe even ivy geraniums, since they flower almost all year and require so little care.

Depending on how much sun those wall pots get, I don't know how well most trailing succulents would do. Mine get sunburned in those conditions. I would plant either Sprenger Asparagus ferns or a deep green ivy, so there's some green on that wall.

Finally, I'd have something tall and skinny in that little patio bed- Mother-in-law tongue, if it's not too hot. Canna lilies would look good for most of the year, but they might not bloom in that much shade. The bed is so small I would probably just have one kind of plant in it.

I realize that these are all ho-hum plants, but there are very good reasons that some plants are ubiquitous. Your mom seems to like a tropical look, and these are low-care and except for the cannas, relatively water-wise choices. They will live in the reflected glare of concrete and water.

Have fun with your project!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 4:09PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

If your mom is willing to try other palms, I suggest any kind of Coccothrinax you can get your hands on -- no vicious thorns like a pygmy date, no big fat trunks like a queen, never blink at the cold, and they don't grow really fast, so you can have a personal relationship with their pretty fan leaves, rather than a telephone pole. Coccothrinax argentea, argentata, fragrans, excelsa -- look for them at palm specialty nurseries.

Coccothrinax argentea:

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 8:20PM
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3-4x per week is NOTNOTNOT low water. The ONLY time I ever used more is to establish grass seed and to ESTABLISH plants in the sun in the high desert. Once it's established, nothing gets watered more than once a week except for pots.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 11:48AM
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jenn(SoCal 9/19)

catkim: Nice! I'll add that to the list and see what she thinks.

reyesuela: I didn't mean that 3-4x/week is low water... I know it's not. I meant that the plants must not require a lot of water because of her city's water restriction to allow irrigation only a few times a week; therefore, water requirements must be below that, which may include potted plants. Potted plants tend to require more water, so we will keep that in mind as well.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 3:16PM
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I know of no plants that, if watered and placed properly, require water more that twice a week in the ground or three times a week in decent-sized pots with water-conservation potting soil.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2010 at 12:59PM
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