Q: Help! I have moved into a new home with a swimming pool and NO shade. I live in hot, dry, windy west Texas (Midland). I have 2 pots about 3 feet tall and the opening at the top about 2 foot. I put elephant ears but have since learned they get too much sun. They get just about all day sun. These pots sit on the pool deck. I thought about a Crepe Myrtle but don’t want to fight the flowers dropping in the pool. I can’t do any sage because I am allergic to them. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated!
Thank you, Trina Abney
A: Well, the first thing the Grump would do in your situation is go on a summer-long cruise, but that’s just me. So you need shade tomorrow? Get a nice, big patio umbrella, set it up, and let’s talk.
What you should plant are some good, fast-growing shade trees, keeping in mind that Midland’s dry, windy climate will keep them from growing as fast as they would elsewhere. I suggest either Chinese pistache (Pistachia chinensis) or lacebark elm (Ulmus parvifolia). Both grow quickly, form a nice canopy with lots of headroom underneath, and tolerate dry, alkaline soil like you have. In addition, Chinese pistache turns red, orange, and gold in fall, while lacebark elm boasts beautiful gray, orange, and chestnut flaking bark. Neither one produces flowers that will blow into the pool. I don’t think the planters you mention are big enough for these trees to grow to any size. So try planting the trees in the ground as close to the pool as you can get, preferably on the south and west sides, which will block the sun’s hottest rays and also the prevailing west wind.
For the planters, I’d go with ornamental grasses. Their graceful foliage and plumes look very natural next to water, plus many of them tolerate drought and need little care. Try Lindheimer’s muhly (Muhlenbergia linheimeri), Gulf muhly (Muhlenbergia caplillaris), Mexican feather grass (Nasella tenuissima), Ravenna grass (Saccharum ravennae), or maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis.).
Here’s a link to more info about dry weather plants for Midland-Odessa: http://www.nowheat.com/grfx/gard/xerimodessa.htm
Q: Thank you so much! I had not thought about ornamental grasses.
By the way we have 2 umbrellas on the deck and a place to put 4 in the pool. Too hot out here to not have shade. Thanks again