Spa-at-nightWhenever a client utters the magic words ‘hot tub’ my heart immediately sinks. I cannot stand them, especially in UK gardens! For me they are an eyesore that can be difficult to incorporate successfully into a garden.

My biggest issue with them is they can often stick out like a sore thumb. You have to have good access, so it makes them very difficult to screen.

So as you can imagine, I’m not really someone that spends time on websites checking out the latest design of hot tubs and spas. One of the Successful Garden Design readers, however, is. Danielle, wrote to me a few weeks ago on the topic and basically challenged me to change my mind.

She’s written the article below listing her tips and tricks for making a hot tub a garden feature, not an eyesore. Will she convince me on the merits of hot tubs? I’ll let you know at the end of the article!

Over to Danielle…

Designing a Relaxing Backyard with a Luxurious Spa

A hot tub can be a great addition to your backyard patio, as it provides a wonderful way to reconnect with your spouse, enjoy quality family time, and relax after a long day.

In-ground or above-ground?

When it comes to incorporating a pool or hot tub into your landscaping, there are lots of options to ensure your design is cohesive. The first decision to make is whether you want an in-ground or above-ground spa.

One of my favorite looks is to sink a hot tub into your deck so that the top of the spa aligns with the top of the deck. This can be accomplished with both custom, in-ground spas and vaulted, portable models. This look allows for a streamlined look and prevents the body of the spa from clashing with or overshadowing your yard’s existing design.


With this option, your deck’s railings can serve as an excellent privacy screen. If you choose to sink your spa into your deck, make sure to leave easy access to the spa’s structure for annual maintenance and servicing.

As an alternative, you have the option to install your spa above ground. Most spa manufacturers offer a wide range of colors and finishes for both the exterior and interior of the spa. If going this route, be sure to request samples or swatches of the materials to coordinate with your fencing and other landscaping fixtures.

Add a touch of personality

Some simple accessories can go a long way in making your spa feel like a retreat. Add some large pots of greenery and flowers for a tropical look, or as we head into the autumn months, decorate your spa area with some pumpkins and other seasonal accessories. Create an ambiance of relaxation with decorative pots, a colorful rug, and even a stereo system.

Around my pool area, I’ve added grapevines to grow along my fence. What I love about this look is it hides the fence and provides me with a little extra privacy. Include some tiki torches and a glass of wine (side note: only plastic glasses should be brought to the pool area) for a wonderful night under the stars.

Location, location, location

When choosing where to place your hot tub, pick a place where you and your family will have easy access to encourage the most use.

I’ve positioned my hot tub close to my home. I prefer to use it in the winter, when my backyard is covered in snow, so I want to make a quick dash to and from my house. When positioning your spa, find a place near a door for fast re-entry. If the door is near a bathroom, even better, as you’ll avoid tracking water throughout your home.


Don’t forget the health benefits…

After a long day at work, a hot tub can help you relax and improve your health. Hot tubs are a great way to slow down, reduce stress, and sleep soundly. Studies ( have also shown spending time in a hot tub can strengthen your heart and reduce the effects of arthritis. Before using a hot tub you should always consult with your doctor.

My conclusion!

She’s rather persuasive, isn’t she! I hadn’t realised the health benefits were so great and I must admit I am rather taken with the round spas and those that are installed at the same height as the deck. She’s also definitely won me round with creating a material-clad pavillion style setting with lighting.

So congratulations Danielle, you have persuaded me hot tubs are not the most evil thing put on earth to test garden designers to the limit! The newer models, I begrudgingly will say, can look pretty good, but I’m still going to hate the older style ones!

BUT do be warned, features alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

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Rachel Mathews
Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 30 years. My mission is to de-mystify garden design and make it easy for people to successfully design their own garden - without needing to spend a fortune!

    3 replies to "Hot tubs – garden designer heaven or hell?"

    • Karen Maskall

      well if your water has chlorine in it which it most probably has then its dangerous to soak for long periods in how water.. …. chlorine is a toxic chemical and unless there is a filter to purify the water … not so good at all

    • Successful Garden Design

      That's true Karen. I must admit I tend to put coconut oil on as a barrier whenever I go swimming in chlorinated water, not sure how ideal that would be for a hot tub though!

    • Karen Maskall

      Successful Garden Design sounds like a good idea in principle but as you say probably not so good in a hot tub s it would melt and then eventually clog things up… HOWEVER… I think chlorine evaporates out eventually so the heat will probably make it evaporate even faster… you could be in with a chance then eh?

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