Courtyard Gardens: Private, Verdant Enclosures
Private, verdant enclCourtyard gardens tend to be small, shady and lacking in deep soil, but that’s not to say they don’t have potential. With a little care and imagination, a simple courtyard can be transformed into a pretty, plant-filled pocket of privacy. Courtyards, by definition, don’t have a view. The courtyard is the view – from inside the home. The key to successful courtyard design therefore lies in creating a space that is as attractive to look out as it is inviting to spend time in. osures
Words by Natasha Were.
Before embarking on creating your courtyard haven, consider the basics: access, water, and light. How will you get equipment, plants and materials out to your courtyard? Are the doorways wide enough? Is there an outdoor tap for irrigation? And is there exterior wiring so that you can install lights and enjoy the space by night as well as by day?
Because they tend to be smaller in size, it’s often best to design a courtyard around one focal point – be that a water feature, a seating area or a central tree – rather than confusing the eye with multiple points of interest. If space allows, a simple flagstone path or repeating patterns, materials or planters, will all draw the eye through the space.
The lack of wind in enclosed gardens makes them ideal for growing more delicate plants, thus creating a lush and verdant space. But while the temptation may be to cram in dozens of plants, this can result in a busy, chaotic appearance. Limiting your choice of plant varieties will keep a clean uncluttered look, and in smaller spaces, growing vertically, or using tiered planters, achieves a sense of dense foliage without losing precious floor space.
Creative, layered lighting will transform a courtyard from a dark, forbidding place at night, into something magical. Consider low-to-the ground solar lights along pathways, simple rope lights under benches or tables, up-lights on trees or larger plants, and overhead lights above a dining table. Or give your courtyard a garden room feel, hanging multiple strings of bulbs across the space to create a canopy of twinkling lights.
Set the Tone with Colour
The choice of colours, in both accessories and plants, will depend on the atmosphere you are aiming for: create a profusion of life and colour with plenty of bright, flowering plants and multi-coloured pots, or opt for a simple two-tone scheme of green and white, or wood and stone, for instance, for a spare and elegant look.
For long, narrow courtyards, break up the sightlines with vegetation or raised beds that reach from the sides into the centre, to divide the space into a series of zones, such as a barbecue and dining area, a seating area and perhaps a pool or hot tub section. In smaller patios, it can be effective to keep the central space empty, and limit plants to the borders, to give an open, airy feel.
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