A courtyard is whatever you want it to be as long as it feels like a private sanctuary. Landscaping details play a large role in defining the atmosphere of small courtyards, so choose a theme you can live with for a while, or create one that's versatile if you prefer to roll with the changes. Either way, attention to the nuances of privacy result in a courtyard that feels like a world of its own.
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Escape to another realm with a courtyard boasting plants and accessories from specific regions. For example, create a classic Italian courtyard with a small fountain in the centre. Surround sidewalls with pencil boxwood shrubs or dwarf Nandinas. If side walls are short, add height and more privacy with a wood trellis and climbing vines such as jasmine or morning glory. String two lines of bistro lights overhead from wall-to-wall in a "x" pattern for an Italian cafe atmosphere.
Create a Mediterranean theme with evergreen herbs including rosemary and lavender. These herbs can reach heights of four feet, making them ideal for added privacy and aromatic enhancement. Rosemary has a white flower in late spring and lavender features a purple flower that blooms through summer. Fill planters or small flower beds with white rocks for a Moroccan feel.
If your courtyard is shrouded in shade, add a grow light to optimise plant thriving conditions. Set it on a timer for bright light during the evenings.
If you have a minimalist aesthetic, concentrate on simple landscaping features such as decorative stones and rocks. Border side walls with a curved bed of pea gravel and place a distinctive volcanic rock in a corner. Look for easy-care plants such as shade-loving monkey grass or moss.
You can change your plants anytime with built-in planter boxers on courtyard walls. Planter boxes can also double as border accents featuring seasonal bed flowers or tall, showy flowers such as sunflowers or gladiolus, which create additional privacy.
If you have a patio with all the makings a small courtyard, without the privacy, add your own walls using nature's bounty. Plant bamboo to surround the patio. Bamboo varieties reach heights of 45 feet and have aggressive root growth. Control bamboo by cutting and removing clumps before they have a chance reach maturity.
Another option for a courtyard wall is the dwarf Italian cypress tree, averaging 12 feet. Planted four to five feet apart, Italian cypress trees provide privacy and acoustical improvement for noisy areas.
Give your courtyard a canopy effect with flowering Crepe Myrtle trees bordering the edges. Stagger Crepe Myrtles for visual interest, and plant varying colours such as red white and pink. Crape Myrtles also provide shade for ground coverings and annuals.
For a fully enclosed courtyard with concrete or stucco walls and no roof or covering, opt for elegance with formal English garden plants. Roses bushes and wisteria vines will add romance to your courtyard. Choose dwarf rose bushes and keep them flourishing with fertiliser. Let wisteria vines climb at random. Use heavy gauge wire across the top of the courtyard to train wisteria to form a canopy overhead.
Install a small gently flowing fountain in the centre of the courtyard. Fill it with lily pads and make the fountain the focal point of the courtyard. It's well worth the investment because it's simple, chic and keeps courtyard maintenance to a minimum.
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