A Natural Oasis
Columbia's first green pool
Adding to the natural beauty of the Tuckers’ pool is the sizable waterfall spilling into it, made with boulders from Winnsboro, as well as flat-stacked stones and river rocks.
Photography by B. A. Waddell
Americans have gone green in regard to everything from construction to travel to clothing to food preparation. But a green pool? When the Tuckers wanted to create a pond-like environment on their Lexington property, they opted for a natural alternative instead of the traditional chlorinated route.
The Tuckers had transformed an existing house on a four-acre lot into a spacious arts and crafts style home. Also on the property are a guesthouse, a glass greenhouse and garden area, and a detached garage. Earth tones, stones and curvaceous beds filled with a variety of plants already were prevalent around the home before the couple assigned The Clearwater Company in Irmo the task of building the pool of their dreams. It was important to the family that the pool area – which encompasses at least a half-acre and flows from the left of the garage rather than the back – meld with the ambiance of the place. “After meeting with Clearwater, we knew we had the best partners for the project,” the Tuckers say. “We were very pleased to have them tackle the ‘unknown.’”
It was important to the Tucker family that their pool area – which encompasses at least a half-acre and flows from the garage – meld with the ambiance of the place.
“So many people are interested in going green,” says Mike Elsey, co-owner of The Clearwater Company. “A natural pool without chemicals was appealing to the Tuckers. As far as we know, it’s the first all-natural swimming pool in South Carolina.”
To accomplish such a project, Mike and his business partner, Mike Abee, enlisted the help of Mick Hilleary, a natural pool consultant with Total Habitat, located in Kansas. Wes Stillinger from Lexington Lawns and Landscaping worked on the land and vegetation surrounding the pool. “It was a collaborative project,” says Elsey. “We worked to make it as close to a freshwater pond as possible. It basically works like a giant aquarium.”
In order to avoid using chlorine, a giant filter pulls water into a second filter, which then zaps the water with ultraviolet light to kill bacteria. The water is pumped back into the pool via a waterfall. The right variety and density of water plants must be established along the pool’s edges to keep algae at bay, which takes about two full years. Until then, the pool requires monitoring and cleaning to keep algae from building up. Elsey says homeowners must have patience when installing this type of pool.
Even though the pool was installed only a year ago, the vegetation and variety of stones surrounding it appear to have always been a part of the landscape. Adding to the natural beauty is the sizeable waterfall spilling into the pool and a rockbed stream flowing from it.
The waterfall is made with boulders from Winnsboro, as well as flat-stacked stones and river rocks. The figure-eight shaped pool has a depth of 12 feet at one circle and three to five feet at the other. At the shallow end, river rock and granite stone cover the larger filter. Surrounding the pool are crab orchard stone slabs from Tennessee that form a circular patio for outdoor furnishings, including a two-seater Nags Head Hammock Swing with a frame that matches a pergola leading to the sliding paned glass doors of the garage.
Surrounding the Tuckers’ pool are crab orchard stone slabs from Tennessee that form a circular patio for outdoor furnishings, including a two-seater Nags Head Hammock Swing.
A myriad of plants dress the pool, waterfall, and land, including Japanese maple, nandina, river birch, magnolias, papyrus and dwarf bald cypress. Water lilies and elephant ears are the primary plants living inside the pool. Colors in the plant life and the rocks coordinate with the house, as well as the fence surrounding the pool. The wooden frame for the fence, stained a deep earth brown, matches the one-quarter-inch concrete reinforcing wire. Although very durable, the wire’s rust color blends with the natural surroundings.
Mike Elsey, who started Clearwater 27 years ago with Mike Abee, says they enjoyed working on the natural pool because of the uniqueness of the project. “We do some really special pools ... negative edges, different shapes and sizes ... but this one was cutting edge,” he says. “We learned so much about what plants were required, and just what we needed to do to make this as natural as possible. It’s definitely one of our cornerstone projects, and we expect others will be interested in this type of pool as more people look for alternatives to the traditional swimming pool.” They’re also proud to note that the Master Pools Guild has awarded them a 2011 Gold Award in the Natural Swimming Pools category for the work they did on this pool.
The Tuckers hope that others will be inspired by this project, noting, “Having a chlorine-free ‘pond’ allows for incredible wildlife opportunities – the frog chorus is phenomenal in the summer – and it provides a clean swimming area for our children to enjoy and learn about nature.”