Goshen News, Goshen, IN

May 24, 2013

THE DIRT ON GARDENING: Choose your pool plants wisely


— Do you have a pool or a pond or do you plan on having one in the near future? Then you’ll want to choose your plants wisely that you’ll expect to have near or around the perimeter.

I speak from experience so listen closely!

While trees and especially flowering trees are a delight in the landscape they, not always but usually, cause the homeowner nothing but grief if growing near or placed near a pool or pond.

Who wouldn’t like the beauty of a flowering crab or a weeping cherry tree placed next to a pool? While the beauty is mind-blowing, the maintenance is a nightmare in the spring when trees bloom and pools and ponds are preparing to open.

Especially bothersome are star magnolias. They are the first to bloom followed by the standard pink/white variety that last maybe two weeks but literally turn the area into a sea of expired blooms below and around the surrounding areas that undoubtedly end up in the pool or pond.

Flowering crabs are just as bothersome because of the gazillion tiny petals that one endlessly must skim from the pool surface or remove from surface skimmers.

Pools notoriously open or are being prepared to open about the same time that these beauties burst with their glorious displays of unbelievable eye candy. Placed in the landscape at a safe distance they still have their appeal without the headaches in pool maintenance.

Better suited around pools and ponds might be conifers that retain their foliage through all seasons (with only minor shedding) and flowering ornamentals that have blooms that are easily dispensed of before becoming a nuisance. These, along with well-chosen perennials of one’s liking and even some annual bedding flowers, can give you enough color to make a statement while at the same time relieve you of that every-day maintenance of constant hand skimming.

Other plants that are appealing around a pond or pool are the many choices of grasses — from “Little Bunny” dwarf fountain grass to the giant zebra grass with its unmistakable yellow to cream bands on arching foliage. Porcupine grass, while similar in size and striping to its cousin zebra grass, stands more stiff and upright and resists strong winds to a better degree.

There are a multitude of other grasses available in all sizes and shapes, so it’s just a matter of picking those to your liking while remembering their growing habits and climate limitations.

Pampas grass is one of those that is difficult to grow in our area because they are typically grown in the southern states and rated for a warmer zone. I have seen them adapt to our zones 5 and 5b, however, they are usually in a protected spot.

Miscanthus sinensis is another one of the popular grasses — especially “Morning Lights,” which is very common throughout our area with its large clumping habit and draping narrow green fronds.

Other picks that are quite often used are papyrus and Hawaiian hibiscus. You can add to that some interesting conversation plants, including Jacob’s ladder or agapanthus. And if one has a rocky or mulched bed, use sweet potato vine (light green, deep mahogany, or variegated), euonymus or “ice plant.”

The common sense thing is to use “low litter plants” near or around pools and ponds to keep maintenance to a minimum and more time for enjoyment.