Design ideas for ponds and pools in the garden

The September 2017 issue of Gardens Illustrated is a water in the garden special and includes ideas for adding a pond or pool to your garden design. Here you'll find inspiration from three designer gardens. 


Water is and asset in any garden, but whether you want somewhere to swim, a natural pond or reflective pool you'll need hardscaping to match. Here are the best design ideas for every space. 


Five key points for designing a pool garden from Dutch designer Bart Hoes

1 Materials Using concrete when building a pool gives you an unlimited freedom of design. For the area around the pool, Bart recommends using splinter-free decking, which can be cut into any shape and it does not get as hot underfoot as tiles.

2 Colour A grey finish on the pool’s inside provides a much more coherent and natural look in a verdant garden than the standard blue. The darker you go, the more of a ‘pond’ rather than a ‘pool’ effect you get.

3 Planting The old adage of ‘no deciduous trees around a pool’ no longer applies, thanks to technological innovations, such as skimmers and robot vacuums, that get rid of leaves and debris. By bringing planting up to the pool’s edge, you can alter even further the visual impact of the pool’s shape.

4 Shape Although your plot may dictate the pool’s area, it does not necessarily dictate its shape. Nowhere in this garden do you feel you are on a triangular plot. You can make a round plot look rectangular and vice versa, by choosing the pool shape you like and then blurring the outer boundaries with shrubs and trees.

5 Layering When designing a pool garden, think vertically. The water surface is always flat, so is the area surrounding the pool. If you line that with walls of tall trees, the effect is one of a box dug into another box. Plant a transitional, medium-height layer, such as shrubs or multi-stemmed trees. 


How to add a natural touch to a conventional swimming pool

The pool at Mas del Lum was a conventional swimming pool until Yolande converted it with the help of designers Tom de Witte and Corrine Lecluyse of Omna Lanscape. A separate planting area was added to act as a filter and the water pumped between this ‘cleaning area’ and the swimming area. Keeping the areas separate made this an easy option for adapting a chemical pool without having to completely restructure and redesign this part of the garden.

The planting area is lined with pebbles and planted with iris, reeds, mints and other aquatic plants, which are not grown in soil but anchored by their roots into the cobbles, pebbles and gravel that form the base.

Not only do the plants take up nutrients that would otherwise cause algae to flourish, but they also give the pond its own ecosystem – attractive to visiting wildlife – and help it blend in with the garden. “It is like swimming through silk,” says Yolande. “There are times when the water looks a bit green, particularly after a thunderstorm. It is still safe to swim in, but it doesn’t look as attractive as the crystal clear water we usually have.”

To ensure that the water does look sparkling for her bed-and-breakfast guests, Yolande has also installed a non-chemical cleaning system to back up the activity of the plants. Any debris from the surface of the water is skimmed off and the water passed through a series of filters that quickly remove nutrients and algae.


Tips for planning a mirror pool from Dutch designer Frank Heijligers

Position Think carefully about the most suitable position for your pool. Ideally, you want a spot where you’ll be able to sit by it in summer, but where it will also form a relaxing focal point from inside the house – this is where you’ll probably be looking at it for much of the year. Bear in mind the main views from your home and also the architecture of your house.

Safety A sunken mirror pool generates a wonderful reflective and relaxing effect, but isn’t always practical when you have very small children or pets. To avoid accidents consider a raised pool. Corten steel or zinc troughs can look very effective.

Design A mirror pool requires less maintenance than a natural pond, but it also demands well-designed furniture that’s both comfortable to sit in and is interesting to look at.

Cost Installing a mirror pool can be expensive. Depending on the size, materials and whether or not you want it to contain fish, it can cost from around £180 to the tens of thousands. You can reduce costs if you keep the design simple and, like Paul, you’re happy to dig it out yourself.

Size A pool is an asset in any garden, large or small, and can also enhance the sense of space – a rectangular pond makes a small garden look bigger. Dare to make a statement and don’t shy away from a generous size.


This article was taken from a longer feature in the September 2017 issue of Gardens Illustrated (251). 



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