Top Tips For Designing A Pool, Carmen Johnston Gardens

In the past year, outdoor living and swimming pools have become a top priority for homeowners and here’re some of my top tips for designing a pool.

Function First – Tips for Designing A Pool 

Pool time creates lasting memories for friends and family but you really have to be thinking long-term when designing a pool.  Today, you may have young children but how will you use the pool in ten years? A shallow end may be a priority right now but where will you put sun loungers and an outdoor dining table?  Contemplate the expected length of the chaise lounge and be sure your pool deck can accommodate your furniture needs.

When my team and I assist in designing the shape and help site in the pool, I also like to make sure one of my pet peeves is addressed – 360 degree access.  You do not want to limit your pool accessibility for ease and safety reasons.


pool deck, Carmen Johnston Gardens

Pool Material

There are a lot of great options for pool material and you have to choose the right one for your budget and priorities.  Personally, I prefer gunite, a concrete blend of sand, cement and water applied over reinforced steel bars using a high-pressure hose. Gunite is considered to be the structurally dependable option.

Different textures on the bottom of the pool affect color.  I am a bit more traditional in my preference and love a timeless blue.


classic blue pool, Carmen Johnston Gardens


Soften The Pool Edges 

One way I like to soften the edges of the hardscape surrounding the pool is with planting beds. This is a great place to layer in evergreen shrubs like Wintergreen Boxwoods and then add in annual color in the summer.


Tips For Designing A Pool, Carmen Johnston Gardens

Artificial Turf 

Have you ever noticed how grass and mulch can get into the pool from kids playing or everyday living.  Maintenance can be tough with a real grass edge around the pool and I like to suggest artificial turf.  If you can select one with a cooling element, definitely do that.  It can get really hot.


poolside turf, Carmen Johnston Gardens


Finishing Touch – Container Garden 

Go big or go home with your containers!  Small pots turn into crock pots in the summer.  Pick a bigger container so it will also retain water better. Less is definitely more impactful when it comes to planting your container gardens around a pool. Terra cotta pots are some of my favorites!

Here’s a previous post on some of my favorite container gardens.


poolside container garden, Carmen Johnston Gardens


In new construction, if you want to prevent losing the water from the container, we like to use drain boxes. This will also keep the container from your pretty deck.


drain box, Carmen Johnston Gardens


Connect With Me Today! 

I’d love to see your pool inspiration and will be sharing some of mine on Instagram and Facebook as well as answering some of your questions!  Be sure you subscribe to my blog for all the latest tips and inspo.


Country Living container, Carmen Johnston Gardens

There is nothing more welcoming for a guest than a pretty front door container and I’m thrilled I got to create this for the Country Living  June issue, now on stands!

Country Living Front Door Beauty!

My sweet friend Barbara Hale generously allowed us to use her stunning Columbus home’s front porch as the backdrop for the March photo shoot. My team and I were honored to work with nationally renowned photographer, Mali Azima, who has done it all from Veranda to the Wall Street Journal!


Country Living magazine shoot, Carmen Johnston Gardens

So honored to work with so many talented people on the Country Living magazine shoot!


When I first started collaborating with Country Living editors, I knew I wanted to create something using a container that would provide all summer long beauty which you could easily recreate.  A bonus was getting to share my favorite gardening items from hat to fertilizer!


Country Living magazine, Carmen Johnston Gardens, June 2021

Here’s my June story in Country Living but have you joined their Country Club?! Click here to see all the amazing all-access benefits. 


Front Porch Container Tips

Container gardening is a good solution for shade or sun areas.  Here are the tips for how I created this vignette.



  1. Think Outside The Pot!   I love to collect hand-woven, vintage baskets. It doesn’t have to be terra cotta or plastic.  Head to a flea market, antique shop and be on the look-out for something unique. Line it with heavy, duty trash bag.  Take those empty pots the plant came in, flip upside down within the basket to give you height.  Now get started.


  1. Stuff & Shove! Be sure you don’t scrimp on the soil.  Good soil is like good nutrients for your body. When you begin, I call this stuffing and shoving as I use larger planter material in the center adding height and then anchor the ends and soften the edges with plants which flow over. The brighter, the more colorful, the better!


  1. Step It Up! Containers don’t have to be on the ground. Elevate your vessel!  A lot of people think your container has to be on the ground when you water it.  You can find a vessel which has a built-in spot to capture and retain water without causing any damage.


Getting more gardening tips and inspo by checking out my appearance this week on Nashville’s Talk of the Town with my good friend, Meryll Rose, by clicking here. 


Creating A Container Garden, Country Living, Carmen Johnston Gardens

Front Door Challenge – Deadline – Noon EDT – May 21

Last week, I issued a front door challenge with a sweet reward coinciding with my June story in Country Living magazine!  My Instagram influencer friends Sarah Elizabeth Ray, Noell Jett, of Jett Set Farmhouse, and Sara McDaniel, of Simply Southern Cottage, helped get me started by sharing their gorgeous homes! I want you to create your own dreamy front entry and enter for a chance to win a $1,000 cash prize!  The second place winner will receive a FaceTime front door consultation with me and another $250 Home Depot gift card!

Once you’ve created your entry, post it to your Instagram and/or Facebook and tag me @CarmenJohnstonGardens, use #CJFrontDoorChallenge and tag the influencers and Country Living too!  You can also do this on your stories.  So many fun ways to spread the cheer!

On Friday, May 21 at 2:30 p.m. EDT, I’ll be live on Country Living’s Instagram sharing all my pro tips for front door beauty!  Immediately following on my Instagram, I’ll announce the winners of my Front Door Challenge!

Connect With Me!

Gardening and designing outdoor living spaces gives me so much inspiration but so does my friendships with you!   Please share your inspiration and questions via my social media at Instagram and Facebook. Summertime is calling and we have so many other fun adventures ahead and want you to join us!