10 Swimming Pool Design Tips

What To Consider When Planning A Swimming Pool

So assuming you have the resources and the space what should you consider before installing a swimming pool?

1. Firstly, will you use it?

Or at least use it enough to justify its existence. If your weather isn’t consistently warm and sunny are you hardy enough? Can you be bothered to drag a cover off the pool every time you want to use it?

2. Have you got the ideal site:

 Open but sheltered. Away from deciduous trees that will shed their leaves. With easy access to changing facilities and close enough to the house for convenience.
You will also need to connect services the site: water and electricity. How easy and costly will that be?

3. What will you use the pool for?

This will influence its shape and size. If it is just for a quick cool-off dip and a focal point to lounge around then a curved or shaped pool is a possibility.
If you want it for serious swimming exercise then it needs to be big enough, deep enough and ideally rectangular. This was a major factor that put me off. A pool less than 15 metres, 50 feet long, is not a good place to swim.

4. Are you prepared for the cost?

Not only of installation but also of on-going maintenance? Is that something you are prepared to do yourself, or will you employ the services of a maintenance company?

5. What will the impact be on the garden?

If visible from the house, will it be dominant and obtrusive?
A typical aqua blue swimming pool is pretty startling on a cold, grey day and looks out of place in a traditional country garden. It may be more inkeeping in a contemporary or Mediterranean setting.

6. You could consider a pool of a different colour

It doesn't have to be blue. A natural stone, soft terracotta or clay coloured lining may be far easier to incorporate in your garden design.
Will you use a traditional concrete construction, fibreglass or one of the various vinyl liners available? These are more frequently used today.

7. Natural or Chemical?

Have you considered a natural freshwater swimming pool or swimming pond ? These are becoming far more popular.
They definitely sit more comfortably in a naturalistic setting, but this is not the only possibility. Contemporary designs can be stunning.
No chemicals are used because the water filtration is achieved by aquatic plants. Much nicer to swim in; the only disadvantage: cold water!

8.will IT impact on the value of your house?

A swimming pool may or may not add value. It can be a selling point or it can be a disadvantage.
Your swimming pool could put off a buyer that does not want the bother or cost of a swimming pool.

9. What will be the implications if you change your mind?

Removing or filling in a swimming pool can be as difficult and costly as installing it in the first place.
You can’t just fill it in and plant in that location. You will have drainage to consider so the structure of the pool usually needs to be removed and soil, a lot of it, imported to fill the hole.

10. So, if I haven't put you off

Find yourself a good designer and get a specification sheet drawn up by an independent swimming pool engineer to include all the plant machinery and the materials you want to use.
This will mean every contractor will be quoting for exactly the same thing, otherwise it will be impossible to get a like for like quote. 

This one bit of advice alone could save you tens of thousands of dollars alone.

Consider keeping the pool a constant depth. I would recommend  4ft deep (1.2m) This is deep enough to swim in without scraping your knees and will halve the cost of your pool both in construct costs and in heating bills. 

The only disadvantage to this is that you should have a ‘no diving policy’ for the kids, but they will soon get over this.

If you want an electronic pool cover you will need to keep the pool rectangular, but this is also better if you want to use the pool for exercise and games like water volleyball.

Using a darker colour on a rectangular pool can also help disguise its use when situated close to the house.  If planned well, it can be designed to look like a formal pond when not is use.

Avoid ‘Roman Ends’ or  putting the steps in the centre of the pool as this ruins the ability to do lengths when exercising. Instead put them to one side so you can do racing turns without them getting in the way.

Always ask to see examples of contractors previous work in real life situations and try and talk to other pool owners to share their experiences before you take the plunge.

Do the contractors belong to a professional body?  If they do, check to see if they are covered by an indemnity policy just in case they go bankrupt.  Some professional bodies cover the cost of finishing the pool for the original agreed price.

USA The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals
USA Florida Swimming Pool Association
UK BSPF | The British Swimming Pool Federation
AU SPASA | Swimming Pool and Spa Alliance

Finally find an expert you can really rely on to do a good job and deliver a swimming pool that meets or exceeds all your expectations.


10 Professional Garden Photography Tips

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1. On cloudless days, try to visit the garden early or late in the day to get the best light. The ‘golden hour’ is consider to be some of the best light for garden images and many phone apps such as ‘Sun Position’ by Stonekick tell you the start and end times are for that day.

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2. A breeze is the garden photographer’s worst enemy. If you’re hoping to do some close ups, check the five day weather forecast, and try to go on a day when the wind strength is low – preferably 6 mph or below. Take a Wimberley Plamp (Plant Clamp) or similar device.

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3. As far as lenses are concerned, a couple of zoom lens incorporating wide angle (for overall, establishing shots of the garden) to medium telephoto up to 200mm (for detail shots) will cover the general garden views. If you’d like to take flower close ups, a 100mm to 200mm macro lens will be ideal. Photography flowerbeds at an angle when using a zoom as it will help compress the border and bring plants in the background further forward. Try and avoid shooting the borders front on as these will often lead to very unsatisfactory images.

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4. A reflector and scrim will be handy for close up photos if the light is bright. A reflector, to help bounce light back into the shadows and a scrim to soften the light and make your subjects appear to glow.

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5. Always use a tripod! Yes I know they are a pain, but they will help slow you down and fine tune your composition for both close ups and general garden shots. It also allows you to work single handed so you can hold a reflector while still taking the photograph.

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6. Only Photograph really perfect subjects. Watch out for damages petals, watermarked flowers or slug eaten stems. Try and find a flower that is perfect before you compose your image.

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7. Check your viewfinder before pressing the shutter. Watch out for plant labels, bits of wire, dead leaves, even fence edges

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8. If you intend to sell your images to magazines they will require a range of images from establishing shots showing the overall site to midrange images down to macro shots. It’s easy to get carried away with close up shots, but remember to look for some wider garden views as well.

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9. For wider views, try and including some foreground interest to give depth to your photograph just as you would with any landscape photograph

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10. Although spring and summer are best for flowers, there are beautiful shots to be found in gardens at other times of year too – autumn foliage is always stunning, or seed heads sparkling with frost on a winter morning. Another favourite of garden editors is to see the same garden photographed during all four seasons. So don’t forget to comeback at different time of the year and record how the garden changes.

Breaking News RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014 Medal Winners Announced

Chelsea Flower Show Medals Announced!

Congratulations to the Laurent-Perrier Garden, Best Show Garden, and all the award winners at the 2014  RHS Chelsea Flower Show!  I am of course delighted that I called the best in show winner in my MyGardenSchool predictions blog from seeing the show gardens yesterday!

Congratulations to Luciano Giubbilei - well deserved.

Chelsea Flower Show 2014

Chelsea Flower Show Gardens - Winners

Best Show Garden

The Laurent-Perrier Garden

Designed by Luciano Giubbilei

Best Fresh Garden

The Mind's Eye

Designed by LDC Design

Chelsea Flower Show 2014

Best Artisan Garden

Togenkyo – A Paradise on Earth

Designed by Kazuyuki Ishihara

Gold Medallists.

Great Pavilion

RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year 2014
Hydrangea macrophylla Miss Saori (‘H20-2’)

Ryoji Irie

Diamond Jubilee Award

South West in Bloom

President’s Award

Birmingham City Council

Best RHS Discovery exhibit

Sparsholt College

All Great Pavilion awards download (114kB pdf)


“A Game of Contrast” Former Students win Best Festival Garden 2014, RHS Malvern


This is a blog by former student Ana Mari Bull who along with former fellow student Lorenzo Soprani won Best Festival Garden 2014, RHS Malvern.

How many of us dream of creating a show garden as soon as we graduate, but are put off because of the lack of funding or sponsorship? Years can go by and you get more involved in building up your practice, but the dream is still there, tucked away at the back of your brain, behind the planting plans and construction drawings that need to be finished yesterday. As you take on more work, you can feel the dream becoming more and more distant.

This was how I felt last year; I was up to my eyes in work, so I turned to my friend and fellow student Lorenzo Soprani for help. We worked really well together and it made the lonely existence of a freelance designer more bearable. In turn, he would pass work onto me when I was quiet on the work front. We soon found that we were in fact collaborating on every project we did, so in effect had become one practice. Work started to dry up towards the end of last year and the dream started to wiggle its way back to the front of our minds.


Lorenzo picks up the story here, “It was late in January when my colleague and friend Ana and I decided to have a go at designing a show garden. To be honest I was not particularly busy and it is when the mind is at rest that those ideas spring to mind! But with not much income and no name so to speak to bring in financial backing, the chances of us being able to afford to do a show garden was still very much a distant dream. So having looked around for an opportunity I discovered that the RHS was re-launching the Malvern Spring Flower Show as the “RHS Malvern Spring Festival” and to celebrate that, they were giving away £3000 bursaries to help fund first timers in a new category of show gardens called the “Festival Gardens”. I decided fairly quickly to have a go and the design came very easily as having only 15 meter square to play with, the design needed to be simple. Once all the documents were sent off we did not think about it much, there was nothing to do apart from waiting and luckily for us the office phone was starting to ring again! It was on the 14th of March that we had confirmation that our design had been selected along with 3 others by the RHS panel.

Malvern Spring Festival 25 04 2014

At this point panic started to set in, as I feared that we couldn’t afford to do it. It was only at this stage in the process that we learnt the RHS where only giving us half of the bursary, the remainder would be paid at the end of the show once breakdown had been completed and the site was given the all clear by the organisers.”

With our design accepted so late in the day we had very little time to find the extra funding needed to top up the kitty, but it’s amazing how time pressures can make you focus. Having the RHS backing also helped enlist other sponsors.

The plants, hedges and all the hard landscaping materials were sourced, but we couldn’t find the specimen trees which were key to the design. It was now the last week in March, the end of the bare root season, and still we hadn’t found all of our trees. Finally, Lorenzo got a call from a nurseryman who had tracked down the last three trees from a nursery in Germany. It was the last day of lifting when we received an urgent email: are you taking the trees? All we had to go on was a poor quality photo. Without the trees we didn’t want to continue. We took them, hoping that these skinny looking ugly ducklings would turn into the magnificent swans we needed.

As well as having the RHS bursary, the designers of the Four Festival Garden were mentored through the build by the principal of a major design school in the area. The support and advice we got from her and from Nina Acton, the events co-ordinator for the Three Counties Showground was superb. For first timers, having someone on hand to reassure you is invaluable. The build wasn’t all plain sailing; the contractor who we had engaged to build our small wall didn’t turn up. It was at this stage that the fabled camaraderie which exhibitors say exists between those at the ground became apparent. A landscaper from another garden came over between jobs to build our wall, which he then also rendered for us, before being whisked off to finish the garden he was originally working on. Tools appeared when they were needed and disappeared just as quickly. The elves were at work. As we didn’t have a contractor we did all of the hard landscaping ourselves. I can’t take any of the credit for all the heavy jobs, which Lorenzo undertook as if he had been a professional landscaper for years. I can though, take half of the credit for the pebble path. Neither of us had done anything like this before. Having failed to find a video on YouTube on “how to build a show quality pebble path” we just got stuck in. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss. The plants arrived on the Wednesday afternoon; it took us all day Thursday to place them and then the Friday to plant them up. We were on schedule. The plants had time to naturally reposition themselves before judging on the Wednesday and we were able to primp and preen to our hearts’ content. We were more than lucky with the weather during the build; the week of the show was quite something else, and judging took place in torrential rain and extremely high winds. Malvern is windy at the best of times, but this was excessive. From eight in the morning until nine at night we waited, wet, cold, and buffeted by the wind, for the medal announcements. Luckily one of the larger show gardens had built a sunken dining area with a pizza oven which had been burning all day, so as the evening drew to a close we all huddled together to keep warm. When the results finally came in, just after 9.00pm we were too tired to take it all in, as all we wanted to do was go home to a hot bath. The wonderful thing about RHS Malvern was that the next day, two of the judges came round to each of the gardens to talk through why we received the medal we did. This was so helpful. They were really engaging and very generous in their comments. We learnt a great deal as to how the panel think!

If anyone is thinking of taking their first steps into the world of show gardens, then RHS Malvern is the place to start. The support is fantastic, the setting is beautiful and the experience is very rewarding… Though now we’re hooked and can’t wait to do another one!

Don't’ forget to pack your thermals!

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