April 10, 2009

Now that spring is here, it’s time to think of installing a hot tub for the summer months ahead. As soon as you’ve selected your Hot Spring Spa from Olympic Hot Tub, you can start planning the garden around it. The ripples from your hot tub garden makeover might just wash over the entire yard – making your dip into personal health an investment into improving your real estate that will grow more valuable each year.

Here are our top ten tips for landscaping around your hot tub:

  1. Create some privacy with outdoor garden walls. You can choose anything from bamboo screening to a section of wood or lattice fence or a dramatic pavilion from Sequoia Spa Shelters. Enclose three sides of your hot tub, or just plant tall hedging shrubs nearby. Enclosing the hot tub does more than just provide privacy. It also blocks the wind and the noise and creates the illusion of a retreat or an outdoor garden room.
  2. Select plants for fragrance. Scents can relax the mind and body almost as much as a good soak in warm water. Fragrant shrubs such as Sweet box (Sarcoccoa rustafolia) do well in the shade and provide evergreen cover while sun-loving shrubs such as lilacs and lavenders add scent-ual appeal in full sun. During winter months add our Being scents to the water to remind you of summer.
  3. Go vertical with vines or bamboo. Tarzan and Jane had the right idea. You can enjoy the romance of the jungle look, too. Fragrant vines like wisteria and climbing roses should be positioned nearby but not directly over the spa. (Floating petals may sound romantic, but they really aren’t the best additions to your filter system.) Use the evergreen clematis (Clematis armandi) or green and white Algerian ivy if you want a vine to add year-round privacy to your garden walls.
  4. Consider leaf texture and shape. The spiky texture of New Zealand Flax (phormiums) can be used to mark the entry steps to your outdoor retreat or soften the mood with rounded foliage and globular blooms. Placing sunflowers or mop head hydrangeas in the same planting area as pointed flax makes a pleasing contrast of texture that adds a lively beat to your hot tub area.
  5. Add pots for seasonal color. Use pots of color near the hot tub for added fragrance, color and flower power. Here’s a practical tip to steal from the professionals at fine hotels and spa retreats: Set large pots around the edge of the spa with no drainage holes but with a few inches of gravel or a brick set in the bottom. Now add plastic gallon pots of color already in bloom from the nursery. Just slip the blooming plants, pots and all into your large pots. You can easily replace these blooming plants when they fade or the season changes. The gravel or brick in the bottom of the outer pots means the roots won’t be sitting in the drainage water that collects. Because the outer pots have no drainage holes, you won’t be dealing with excess drainage every time you water the pots.
  6. Add hanging baskets. Extended brackets can be fixed to your screening fence or exterior house walls. Place the brackets low enough so that the hanging baskets will be easy to water and easy to enjoy while sitting in the warm water. A good soak surrounded by flowers at arm’s reach – what could be more like paradise? Just don’t place a hanging basket directly over the hot tub. You don’t want petal and leaf debris in the tub with you.
  7. Accessorize – Candles, soft lighting, even a chandelier hanging from a tree branch. Provide a covered area to store or hang fluffy towels and even consider an outlet for plugging in a heated towel rack. Add a hot tub tray for drinks and snacks.
  8. Some plants to avoid. There are a few plants to avoid near hot tubs. You don’t want to encounter thorns, bees or wasps on the way to the tub. Barberry, thorny roses, and pyracantha may be too sharp, and fruiting berries and ripening apples and cherries tend to encourage bees and wasps. Messy trees and shrubs will make maintenance a nightmare so think twice before planting pine, popular or sweet gum trees nearby.
  9. Think safety first and add handrails to steps or hot tub sides as well as rubber-backed mats and non-skid strips on surfaces that may get wet. Remember that you will be using this outdoor space with wet feet at night. And you may have your hands full with a tray of cool drinks or warm appetizers. Good lighting is especially important during the winter months.
  10. Pick a theme! Don’t forget to fulfill your fantasy. Pick a theme before you start your landscaping and choose plants to fit your theme. Jungle fever means tropical foliage and potted orchids, country gardens call for climbing roses and a perennial cottage garden took, while a formal spa look would have clipped topiary and classic garden art with perhaps a wall fountain and surrounding surfaces of tile or stone. Once you have a hot tub, you have the beginnings of a beautiful outdoor space. Now get growing.

The ideas above adapted from Marianne Binetti’s book “Easy Answers for Great Gardens – over 500 Tips, Techniques, and Outlandish Ideas”. For more ideas and to order the book, visit her website.

Binetti’s favorite plants for landscaping around spas
For fragrance: Lilies, lavender, roses, lilac, honeysuckle, hyacinths, wisteria
For screening: Rhododendrons, arborvitae, laurel, pieris japonica, heavenly bamboo – nandina domestica, leucothe.

We’d love to see your hot tub garden. Send in your photos to inspire others.  Don’t feel that creative spark or no time to plan and plant?  We can recommend the right landscape designer for you.  Just ask!

SANUM PER AQUA. Latin for Health through water.