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  • Writer's pictureZach

Landscaping the Pool Deck Plant Beds and Backyard Fence Line

I've been itching all summer to be able to landscape. Obviously, with all the pool construction, the smart choice was to wait until that was complete, so we spent the summer planning. Kiersten loves a simple classy look and when looking for inspiration online, the pictures we ended up both liking both were filled with boxwoods, hydrangeas, Russian sage, and Karl Reed Forester Ornamental grasses. To help get an idea of what we wanted to plant in the beds near the house and along the fence, and just how many plants we'd need, Kiersten worked up different ideas in Photoshop.

Planning Our Landscape Beds with Photoshop Sketches

Around the deck we wanted a plant that would be green from spring to fall. Boxwoods would provide year-round green. Unfortunately, near the house would be a poor location for hydrangeas because they love morning sun. As you read, you'll see we found a perfect place for those hydrangeas. And I'm sure you can guess what color of hydrangea we went with.

Back of house with sketch of plants and pool area

In the space between the concrete and the house where the pool equipment pad is located, we decided we will mulch that whole area and turn it into a large plant bed to help block the equipment. Next spring, we hope to find a redbud tree to plant in the center of the area to add some spring color and give some shade to the equipment. The boxwoods would continue into that area to continue with the flow.

back of house with photoshopped plants in landscape border

Looking from the deck out across the pool to the back fence line, we knew we wanted to add plants and trees to fill in under the current old pine trees after a little bit of grass. This would provide us with privacy and hopefully beautiful landscaping. This area has sun early morning until about 2:00 in the afternoon, making it a perfect location for hydrangeas. Towards the back I wanted to fill it with more spruce and evergreen trees. Not being in full sun, these may be difficult to grow, but hopefully just slow to grow. My theory is as they grow I can trim the spruce trees above them to make it almost like a forest-looking border.

photoshop sketch of back tree line

Planting Boxwoods Between the Pool Deck and House

At the end of July, I began searching for the perfect boxwood that would go around the deck in anticipation of starting the project soon. The tricky part was that I would need almost twenty of the same size and kind. We didn't want a boxwood that would be huge and didn't want to pay for a fully grown one. Since we are planting ourselves and not working with landscapers, I knew we would have frequently shop all the garden centers to catch when new plants came in. We happened to be at a hardware store that got a full load in during the middle of August and we bought every one before the pool was even in. I had to water these for almost a month, because I needed to wait for the cement around the pool to be complete.

The boxwood we went with is called the Baby Gem Boxwood. The Baby Gem is a dwarf form of the popular Japanese boxwood. It's compacted form so it has far less clippings ever needed. It has dense green foliage year around with small leaves. It can grow in full sun and partial shade. Most importantly in Iowa it should be safe all the way to -30 degrees. Depending on how tall you want it, it can grow up to four feet.

baby gem boxwoods ready to plant

Planting these was one of the easiest parts. It took us far more time to figure out what we wanted and how to space them.

Zach planting baby gem boxwoods

To plant I simply took them out of the pot, loosened the roots, and had them put in a hole at the same level as the plant. I made sure to mix a little bit of compost with the planting just to have good soil.

baby gem boxwoods planted near the deck

Once all were planted and approved by Kiersten, I covered everything with mulch. Mulch keeps moisture in the plant, and keeps it warmer in the winter.

baby gem boxwoods planted near house with mulch on top

Amazing what just adding a few little green plants can do for making this area look so much more finished!

view across pool to newly planted boxwoods

Landscaping Along the Back Fence Line

After landscaping around the deck it was time to tackle the back fence line. Finding the perfect hydrangea would be key for the back. Every garden center has some hydrangeas, but the hydrengea I found while researching that we wanted is called the Incrediball Hydrangea. My guess is over the next few years these will be everywhere. The Incrediball Hydrangea comes from the famous Annabelle Hydrangea, but is much stronger and easier to grow. It produces huge basketball size white balls, that go from mid summer until fall. The biggest challenge would be finding enough of them locally. I did find several online that I could order, but the reviews were not great. Once new plants arrived at the garden centers for fall, I finally found some! Most garden centers only had a plant or two, so I had to go all over.

incrediball hydrangea at earl may

The problem people always had with the Annabelle hydrangea was that they always flopped. The Incrediball Hydrangea was created to have strong stems that won't flop. The height and width are both four to five feet. The best part about this hydrangea is blooms grow on both old and new wood. Many hydrangeas you have to really be careful about what branches you trim. In early spring you simply trim these back by 1/3 and let them go.

incrediball hydrangeas ready to plant

After shopping at literally every garden center in town, I found enough to space them out and place them right in the front of the back view. The hope is this will give a beautiful white flowering hydrangea hedge from years to come.

plant bed area before planting

Like our Photoshop idea, we spaced these out so that we could plant a few other things within the hedge too.

spacing out hydrangeas before planting

Planting the hydrangeas was difficult because of all the roots from the huge evergreen trees. The soil was also very compacted from all the big trucks, but eventually I was able to get them all in the ground.

zach planting back plant bed

I had planted several spruce trees towards the back line (you might remember that from my natural fence border post from spring) but I moved a few for mixing and spacing purposes. Something we realized pretty quickly was that the fence runs at a slight angle in the back because we had to bring it inside our property line quite a bit to get in front of the big spruce trees. It's almost an optical illusion compared to the concrete so we measured the front of the bed to be even.

newly planted plant bed with mulch

After the hydrangeas were planted we filled in-between them with Russian Sage. This would provide another summer and fall color that would fill in the back. After the Russian Sage we placed Karl Reed Forester orenemntal grass. Russian Sage grows bushy and about four feet tall. The Karl Reed Forester Grass will reach 4-6 feet tall. All three should help provide color and fill in the space behind the grass.

plant bed with hydrangea, Russian sage and grass

Hopefully next year I can show you 11 feet of nice green grass in front of the plant bed. Plants do take time, but doing it this way saves us a lot of money. If you can keep them alive the first year, the following year they will go crazy. One of the best things about these perennials I selected is there is zero upkeep during the year. I'll simply cut them all back in the spring, and hopefully watch them grow.


we're kiersten and zach

Follow along with us each week as we work to make the very 2000s home we bought during the middle of a pandemic more “us.” We’ll share everything from quick fixes to more permanent changes, along with projects you can do in your own home. Zach will also share all his lawn and garden advice as he starts over on the yard.


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