Answer: Pygmy date palms are a good choice; their root systems will be deep rather than wide and the roots won't extend out past the fronds. This will give you an idea of where the roots are as your palms mature. Plants chosen to landscape swimming pool areas should meet three requirements. Branches, foliage and flowers should be smooth, not bristly, prickly, sharp or thorny, the plants should be as litter-free as possible, and they should be able to tolerate splashes of chlorine treated water. In your Southern California garden you can choose from dozens of potential plants. Palms and tree ferns are first choices in trees, Acacia and Firmiana simplex (Chinese Parasol Tree) are next on the list. Camellia, Lantana, Viburnum davidii, Fatsia japonica (Japanese Aralia), Junipers and Pittosporum tobira are all good choices for dense hedging or shrubs, and flower choices include Lily of the Nile, Alstroemeria, Colocasia (Elephant's Ear), Coreopsis, Gazania, Daylily, Kniphofia (Red-Hot Poker), Limonium, and Gaillardia. With these suggestions in mind, you should be able to put together a functional and attractive poolside landscape. For detailed cultural information on these plants, plus some other ideas, consult Sunset Western Garden Book (ISBN# 0-376-03851-9).
I can't make a recommendation for a landscaper. You might want to check with neighbors for referrals or contact your local Cooperative Extension office (look under County offices in your phone book). They often keep a list of reputable landscape contractors.
Best wishes with your landscape!
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