Above ground pools are becoming increasingly popular due to being a lot cheaper than in ground pools. Many people, however, struggle to make their above ground pool look nice in their yard.
Let’s look at a few landscaping ideas you can implement to improve your current above ground pool, or plan for a future one.
Before we do that, there are a few important points you need to consider to ensure the safety and health of your above ground pool.
Things To Know Before You Landscape Your Above Ground Pool
Installing an above ground pool is more than just placing a plastic pool on the ground. There are important adjustments the pool company need to make during the build, and things you need to consider when adding landscaping around it.
- When positioning the pool (if you haven’t installed yours yet) ensure it is visible from the house – so you can quickly see if anyone or anything may be in it unexpectedly.
- After the pool is built and before you put landscaping around it, ensure your council has inspected and approved the build (if required). The last thing you want to do is have to dig up work for a future inspection.
- Pools very much want water on the inside, not the outside. Water sitting under or around the base or sides of the pool can lead to moisture buildup and the material degrading quicker than it ordinarily would.
- The ground needs to slope away from the base of the pool wall, to prevent water collecting and pooling around the base or walls.
- Don’t use mulch around the edge of the pool – it holds moisture, can potentially damage the base or wall, and can leach over time, creating acidic soils that can reduce the life expectancy of the pool lining.
- Similarly, don’t plant a lawn or grass up to the edge of the pool – they again hold moisture, and attempting to cut or trim lawn next to the pool wall can be dangerous.
- Use gravel or stones around the outside base of the pool. Make this layer at least 1 foot wide, possibly wider. This prevents heavy rain or water building up around the base, as gravel and stones are much better at allowing water to drain away quickly than normal soil.
- Ensure the gravel or stones are not acid-washed – like mulch, you don’t want acid to leach over time and wear down the pool wall or base.
- If you are planting in the ground around the outside of the pool, ensure you have some sort of barrier between the plants (or lawn) and the gravel/stones. A weed mat will prevent plant roots encroaching into the gravel and potentially getting underneath the pool base, which could lead to it degrading, or form wrinkles in the base.
- You can add a more solid edge between the gravel and plants/lawn by using solid edging materials like timber, stones, bricks, plastic edging slats or other garden edging materials.
- When choosing plants, research and select plants that can handle the conditions. They may be exposed to stronger sun and wind, more radiated heat from surrounding materials, periodic inundation of water, and perhaps slightly more humid than the surrounding garden.
- You also want plants that can handle the chemicals you may use in the pool – they are likely to be splashed while the pool is in use. We’ll look more at some possible plant options below.
Now that you’re across all the things to be aware of with your existing, or future, above ground pool, let’s explore what you can add around it to help it look nice and blend in with your garden.
To help explore some ideas, I have a basic above ground pool from watsons.com that I will sketch/draw around to illustrate my points.
Where possible I’ll use real life examples but sometimes a sketch is just as good as an image.
1. Place Your Above Ground Pool To Integrate Into Your Surroundings
Perhaps a pick for those thinking about installing an above ground pool, rather than someone who has already.
The idea of integrating the pool with your surroundings basically means – if safe to do so (and you’d want to check with the manufacturer to ensure it is) – try to position the pool near existing structures like building walls or outdoor spaces like existing decks.
This obviously works better if you have a shape that will fit alongside or next to an existing structure – and if the pool won’t be too tall or overshadow it.
If you can place one side of the pool near an existing structure:
- It may work better from a design perspective – blending in with your yard more easily.
- It allows you to easily ‘hide’ one side (or multiple), meaning you can focus your attention on hiding or blending in the visible walls.
- If prepared and installed correctly, may reduce the likelihood of water pooling around the base – buildings generally have the ground slope away from them, so if positioned right, you can take advantage of that existing slope when placing your pool
- This is something you want the manufacturer/installer to help determine – you don’t want water to flow away from the building and collect under the pool
Let’s look at some examples aligning aligning with buildings and the site itself.
Integrate The Above Ground Pool With Existing Buildings
Above is a great example of using the surrounding buildings and boundaries to help position an above ground pool (I believe it’s technically semi-above ground, but the concept is still helpful).
Placing the short side against the building wall means you don’t need to worry about covering it at all. You still want to ensure it’s properly prepared to prevent any water collection and possible degrading issues, but that is something the installer will need to prevent and monitor.
Likewise, the vertical garden on the far side is a nice way of introducing a visual and physical barrier – again, meaning you don’t need to think of how to cover that side of the pool. This presumably is fronting a wall or fence of some kind.
The benefit of the vertical garden is the plants are separated from the ground surrounding the pool, so roots can’t encroach on the lining.
Finally all the designers needed to care about is the long, exposed side. In this case they built a simple long bench that allows them to cover a few uses. Lounging, entertaining and even a large step up into the pool. Perhaps the only concern may be people sitting there being splashed – but that’s something people can manage.
Integrate The Above Ground Pool With The Site Topography
These three images (one above and two below) are an example of using the site slope to your advantage. There is a small amount of excavation required to sit the pool into the slope, however the fill taken from the digging appears to have been used to soften the original slope, on the outside of the pool wall.
You can see in the section below the pool sits roughly half in/half out of the original ground level/slope. If you had a similar scenario – being on a slope – you could look to excavate and add a small retaining wall to protect the pool.
Add some good drainage at the base of the wall – so the water goes around the sides of the pool and continues down the slope. Leave enough of a gap between wall and pool so you can fit and investigate if needed. Then you can look at some of the ideas below to help cover the small gap.
2. Clad Your Above Ground Pool Wall In A Material To Match Your Surroundings Or Garden Theme
This is probably the cheapest way to blend the pool into your garden. It won’t take as long to work as plants, and some materials can be cheap to buy and easy to install yourself.
Timber, Bamboo – Even Shingles! – Cladding
Stone Or Tile Cladding
3. Plant Around Your Above Ground Pool
Perhaps the most common option people think of, this approach works well if you want to add something around the pool that can extend into the rest of your garden – unlike walls or fences.
Planting at ground level is cheap and you can choose from a wide variety of plants to match your conditions, style and architecture. Depending on where the above ground pool is placed, you can try to blend the surrounding plants into other neighbouring garden beds.
One thing to keep in mind when selecting plants is they need to be able to handle the conditions of being around a pool. They need to deal with being more exposed to the elements, as above ground pools are often placed in more open, exposed locations.
Another thing to remember is they need to handle any kinds of chemicals you use in the pool, as they are likely to cop some splashes throughout the summer.
Finally, as we touched on above, you want to have a barrier between the garden bed and the gravel area around the pool. This should prevent roots from making their way into the pool area.
Some plants that are suitable include:
- Ornamental grasses
- Perennials like Black Eyed Susan
- Kangaroo Paw
- Bamboo (in a lined garden bed)
- Small ferns or palms
- Bird of Paradise
- Succulents and cacti
The image above gives a reasonable example of how you could plant around an above ground pool, with a few things I’d change.
If you want to plant bamboo around the pool, ensure you plant it in a bed lined with root barrier – in both directions (towards the pool and between bamboo and any surrounding garden beds.
Another thing to think about is if the plants or trees drop leaves, blossoms or other things. Fishing vegetation out of your pool every week is likely to get tiring. Not to mention maintenance around the pool itself – which may require some delicacy.
4. Use A Trellis To Support Climbers Around Your Above Ground Pool
While planting a garden bed is one way to blend an above ground pool into a garden, an interesting shortcut is to go with a trellis and climbing plants.
Like with plants, you want to have your trellis offset by a foot or so from the pool wall. Perhaps enough space to access between the trellis and wall to perform any maintenance or repairs if needed. You can then set your uprights and add the latticework in between them.
What I like about this idea is if provides some coverage right from the start. Trellises can be pretty in their own right, so they’ll be a little bit more attractive than the pool wall lining. You can make it roughly the same height as the pool itself, or perhaps a little higher.
I would caution against making it too high as it may be difficult to trim and maintain. That said, perhaps having one side high to form a nice backdrop could be something different and interesting.
Not only does the trellis provide visual cover, it also supports an array of climbing plants that will quickly add colour and interest around the pool itself.
Just like with the garden bed, you want to ensure you have a barrier between the ground and gravel to prevent the climbers from reaching the pool.
This is especially important with fast growing plants like climbers or groundcovers, who, if you’re not careful, may make there way towards the water – in or under the pool.
5. Place Raised Garden Beds Around Your Above Ground Pool
In something of the natural evolution of the ideas above, a raised garden bed around your above ground pool ticks a lot of positive boxes.
It allows you to add height around your pool quickly. You can raise the perceived ground level by a foot or two even before you add plants.
Not only that, but you can select smaller – and cheaper – plants to plant in the boxes. While they may take longer to grow to full size than more mature options, the money you save may allow you to go with more plants overall. Or some more expensive or interesting options.
Another great benefit with raised beds is they contain any plant roots within them. If they have a layer or barrier beneath them, roots won’t encroach into the gravel area in or around the pool. This may mean you can go a little bit closer to the pool itself compared to some of the other plant options above.
You could look to add some trellises in them as well, to support climbing plants and add even more height – not to mention hide the pool behind them. Again, you probably want to allow some room around them to make maintenance easier.
One downside is they can be an expensive option to add around the pool. That said, there are plenty of prebuilt or modular raised beds you can use. Depending on the shape of your pool, and what part you want to plant in front of, raised garden beds may be a perfect solution.
6. Be Flexible Around Your Above Ground Pool – Plant In Containers, Pots Or Planters
Similar to the raised garden bed idea above, however you can make things more mobile by using containers, pots or planters.
As with the raised beds, this is an ideal approach in many ways, as you can maintain a gravel base and place your planters on top. Just be sure to not overwater the plants in the containers, or that the ground beneath them is graded to allow water to flow away from the pool.
I like this idea conceptually because it allows you to quickly add height to cover the pool wall without requiring footings like you would for a raised garden bed. Like the raised beds, it keeps plant roots within the container, preventing any encroachment from roots under the pool lining.
Finally you can move them around if needed – store them somewhere protected during winter, or perhaps alternate how you want the pool to look. Perhaps you choose different styles or looks and move your pots around to suit your mood or season. Or to suit the particular plants growing conditions.
7. Increase Your Pool Area By Building A Deck Around Your Above Ground Pool
This is probably the most effective way to blend an above ground pool into your garden. It allows you to build all the way to the pool coping without causing issues around the pool wall and base.
Depending on where you place your footings, this can also sit above a gravel zone a lot easier than other options. And you can be very flexible in your overall layout – going as large or as small as you like (or can afford).
You also have a number of material and colour options to choose from to match your style or existing architecture. Beyond traditional timber, you have eco or composite options. While they tend to be more expensive, they require less maintenance in the long run.
One thing to remember with surfaces near pools – you want a certain roughness to them so they provide some grip when wet. And you want them to be a lighter colour where possible – too dark and they’ll be too hot to stand on in the sun.
The images above and below show a fantastic deck built around a small semi-above ground pool in a small backyard. They’ve used the steps leading up to the main deck area as a bench seat.
8. Slope Up Or Raise The Ground Level Around Your Above Ground Pool
This approach again aims to reduce the perceived height of the pool wall. The idea is to have low retaining walls the sit a short distance from the pool wall. You can then terrace or slope the ground up to the wall.
This is a much more involved approach, likely requiring a lot of moving and shaping soil and earth. Not to mention potential engineering or permit issues if your retaining walls are above a certain height.
You’ll notice in the sketch below I added little slices through the slope to allow water to train out through the gravel base. You probably wouldn’t need anything this dramatic – a series of well placed and graded pipes through the slope would be enough.
This whole approach may work better if you partially excavate the pool area, and use the cut you take from that to fill the slopes around the pool. As mentioned, however, ensure no water can collect and sit under or around the pool.
9. Use A Combination Of Ideas To Blend Your Above Ground Pool Into The Garden
Perhaps the best way to hide or blend your above ground pool into your garden is through a combination of the ideas we explored above.
Depending on where the pool is located – and how much money you are willing to spend – you may opt for different approaches. It could be raised garden beds around one side, a higher deck around another, and maybe cheaper cladding on sides not visible from the house.
Finding ways to incorporate multiple ideas may make it easier to blend you above ground pool into the garden.
Extra Tips For Your Above Ground Pool
Don’t Forget Shade
Most people place these pools in open areas in their yards. If that’s the case for you, try to find ways to add some shade. It could be as simple as an umbrella, or perhaps nearby small trees, or built components like patios, pergolas, verandahs or a complete roof.
Don’t Forget Lighting
While you’ll use the pool most often during the day, it is still a large part of your yard at night. As such, you want to add lighting in and around the pool.
This not only makes it more attractive, but adds safety to the area – especially useful if people try to sneak in under the cover of darkness.
You could keep things simple and have some string lights above the pool. Or go more intense and have lights set around entertaining areas – useful if you have a larger deck.
You could also have uplights pointing to focal points like feature trees, or softer lighting amongst garden beds to add some nice ambience to the space. As always, adding anything electrical around water requires care, so ensure you follow the relevant guidelines if you plan on installing things yourself.
Don’t Forget Your Pool Fence
A final tip is to think about pool safety – in particular your pool fence. This can be a hard piece to add around your pool.
Sometimes it may pay to keep it further away from your pool, if you find ways to make it less conspicuous – say, between other elements in your yard, or in a more narrow section of the yard.
Depending on your local council rules, you may have a few styles or options available to you. Try to find something that will work with your garden style and architecture, but still within your budget.