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Tropical Getaway, Everyday



How marvelous would it be if, after a long day at work, you could come home and be immediately transported to a tropical paradise: piña colada in hand, listening to the tranquil sounds of a waterfall and the rustling of a gentle breeze through the palm trees overhead?

It’s not an impossible dream. With proper planning, you can have a place to get away from it all by turning your own backyard into a tranquil tropical oasis. If you’re wondering where to start, a natu- ral swimming hole provides the perfect inspiration and centerpiece for a tropical theme. Start with the swimming hole and you’ll find everything else falling right into place: the surrounding hardscape and patio areas, tropical landscaping and, finally, furniture and accessories.

The Blue Lagoon

As the tropical theme foundation and main focus of the entire yard, the design and construction of the swimming hole is of primary importance. Fortunately, by its very nature, a swimming hole is already tropical.

According to Bill Ehler, owner of Natural Design Swimming Holes in Auburn, “The normal design elements that make up our swimming holes—waterfalls, shallow sandy beaches, rock formations that extend below the water and terminate in the white sandy floor of the pool—all are reminiscent of many tropical coral reefs and island paradises.”

As the starting point for an overall tropical theme, you’ll want to make sure the swimming hole is the proper scale for your space and will allow for the tropical atmosphere that will surround it. Within that space, however, you can let your imagination soar. Consider a warm elevated beach spilling over into a waterfall with a grotto underneath that can be illuminated at night. Visualize the turquoise blue of a shal- low beach gradating into the sapphire blue of deep water.

All of these features and more are possible, custom designed and made out of durable structural concrete and formed into natural-looking rock formations.

Sandy Beaches & Patios

Once the swimming hole has been constructed, next comes the sur- rounding hardscape. This should be planned for functionality, of course, but can still retain decorative tropical aspects as well. Ehler recommends loose sand beaches and dunes, or “soft patios,” to be


incorporated in and around the swimming hole to transition between it, the patio area and surrounding vegetation.

Rather than having one large expanse of concrete—which looks unnatural and stark and is apt to get very hot—consider breaking up the pool deck and other hardscape/patio areas into smaller individual living spaces, or “islands” divided by turf and/or other plantings. On one island, there’s the dining area, on another, the fire pit and conver- sation area, and so forth.


One can’t have a true tropical setting without lush plantlife, of course. Fortunately, plenty of appropriate vegetation is able to thrive in the local climate. The Sacramento region is in zone 9 of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, which means typically long growing seasons and

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