I never expected to design an orchid garden pool landscape. But then I visited a new landscape design client. I quickly realized that just past their front door was a gorgeous swimming pool. How do you landscape a front entrance that’s a pool lanai?
Most swimming pools in Florida are surrounded by garden beds with tropical plants on the inside of their screened enclosures. But this pool lanai was surrounded by four bare walls.
Deciding on a design theme was easy when I found out my client was an orchid lover. I decided that I wanted to display an orchid garden on the tiled walls. But how to connect them together and take care of them properly and without a lot of maintenance? That part would be a challenge.
The Orchid Garden Pool Landscape Design
Up to the challenge, I searched for driftwood that would securely hang on the walls. I wanted to attach the various orchid species, tillandsias, bromeliads, and ferns just like they hang from trees in their native ecosystems.
Most people don’t know orchids are epiphytes. In their natural tropical habitats, they don’t grow in soil. They grow in trees. That’s why, when growing orchids in pots you should use orchid potting mix, not soil. Orchid planting mix contains bark and wood chips, which orchids love.
I found two large pieces driftwood. One 8-foot-long piece had the perfect arch that would fit the size of the centered spa. Another piece that was approximately 6 feet long would arc in the other direction. I trimmed the back of the cypress wood so the pieces would fit flat on the wall and could be fitted together.
Centering the wood, I bolted the two pieces onto the wall so that they looked like one piece. It’s important to remember to make sure the bolts and the walls are sturdy. That way, the driftwood does not move once attached to the wall. I knew the driftwood will get heavier with the weight of the wet moss and orchid plants.
A Natural-Looking Design
The orchid garden pool landscape was really starting to take shape. Next, I assessed the height of the individual orchid blooms to determine where to locate the wire eye hooks for the pots. Spacing the orchid plants in a natural looking way took some time and effort. Some orchids were placed close together, others further apart depending on their mature size. The process took a little moving around—and a lot of changing my mind.
I didn’t want the whole “tree of orchids” to be a branch covered with clay pots. For that reason, I attached some orchids and tillandsias with wire directly onto the driftwood. Then I covered the wire with sheet moss. Once the orchid pots and plants were attached, I added hanging sphagnum moss in front and behind the driftwood to create depth and dimension.
A low-volume irrigation system was installed on the top of the wall to make sure the orchids were watered correctly. It was designed to spray water over the plants and their root systems. Proper drainage was assured with holes in the clay pots, allowing some roots to hang freely. Days, timing, and amounts of water applied was calibrated for proper humidity and evaporation.
The screened enclosure fans in the orchid garden pool landscape helped increase airflow to prevent disease. To ensure the health of the plants, the watering schedule changes with the seasons. In the summertime, there is no need to add supplemental water due to the normal seasonal rainfall.
Beyond the “Tree of Orchid Plants”
My clients were so pleased with the orchid plants in their “Tree of Orchids” display! The next phase was to expand the pool nook area. This area had been a garden potting area for my clients’ orchids. Now it would be transformed into a “Hall of Orchids.”
The wall was opened up, which extended the 5-foot by 5-foot area into a 5-foot by 20-foot hallway. A screen door was added, and that gave the new area access to the back yard.
As more orchids were collected, they were hung from the wood-like slats down each side of the hallway. When the orchids bloom, they can be moved out onto the pool lanai to enjoy from the living area. Then they can be moved back into the hallway to rest. Pea gravel was selected for the floor to allow drainage for the watering of plants.
Editor’s Note: Interested in adding orchids to your outdoor or indoor landscapes? Check local garden centers for live orchid plants, or Buy Orchid Plants Online.
The elegant display of driftwood with orchids can now be enjoyed from the moment guests are greeted at the door. The orchid garden pool landscape can even be enjoyed year-round from inside the home.
It should come as no surprise that this new poolside Florida landscape is one of my favorite designs.
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