What do you think of when you imagine how your courtyard landscaping will look?
I see an enclosed paved area of interlocking bricks or paving stones, a rustic gate, lots of terracotta pots spilling over with succulents, pocket gardens with diminutive plants softening the edges, and thyme planted amongst the pavers to make a soft pungently scented carpet.
Courtyard ideas center mostly on what purpose your courtyard will serve – will it be an entry way, forming a place of welcome from the busy outside world, a place to pause and catch a breath and slow down before entering the dwelling? Or a small sheltered walled garden out of the prevailing winds, a place of calm and tranquility?
Either function of a courtyard presents slightly different needs.
Courtyard design ideas run the gamut of the Alhambra – an Arabic palace of great beauty and intricacy, with ponds, fountains and lush gardens to display unusual plants that normally wouldn’t grow in the harsh climate of the Sahara desert; to a simple Japanese style grotto, with moss growing over rocks, raked gravel walks and stepping stones, with a Japanese maple weeping over a deer scare.
Courtyard landscaping can fall anywhere between the oasis and the simplistic.
A protected area between two walls of your house should ideally be
warm enough to sit and enjoy a cup of tea and a book in the fall and
spring – you won’t stay long if it’s too chilly. A sun trap is a great way to extend the seasons; small bulbs will start earlier in the spring, and cool autumn nights will be kept at bay for much longer.
If the courtyard will be mainly used in summer, shade and shelter from harsh western sun and strong winds will be essential.
For winter use, a courtyard off a sun room will be a sun trap where you can watch the birds visit feeders while being protected from cold winds, and will get used much more than an out of the way isolated and cold place.
Inspect the area you’re thinking of making your courtyard, and imagine it in all seasons. It’s unlikely that it will suit every time of year, but if your courtyard landscaping includes a tree that blooms in the spring, and has incredible foliage colours in the fall, then you need look no further.
A comfortable bench or rustic chair is important as a destination in your courtyard – place one in front of a bed of spring bulbs for a much needed pick me up.
Visually, a courtyard will have either real walls, or ones that your imagination provides. These can be shrubs or small trees outlining the area, or a trellis with vines screening the area for privacy. The micro climate that even a few shrubs can create will make the temperature much more comfortable in all weather. During rainy seasons, a courtyard is best seen from indoors or from a covered porch – some of the most comforting sounds are the dripping of rain from the eaves and gutters.
Use these courtyard design ideas to give your home a beautiful outdoor spot to enjoy.
Thyme lawns or steps are drought resistant and tough enough for any environmental challenges.
It used to be that once in a while these kinds of plants would come to the fore, and successfully maneuver dry summers, but now it's obvious that these are the most suited to what is becoming the norm.
Seeing how beautiful these unique landscapes are and how well they perform in challenging conditions will encourage others to find unique plants to use in their own xeric garden.