Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Courtyard Design Tips

Increasingly, gardeners are faced with courtyards with limited space and light, but these areas can be transformed as this garden in here shows - it's got wonderful inspiring ideas.

But by the application of a series of design principles and techniques, a small courtyard can been turn into a beautiful versatile space. I'm going to look at some of those design techniques and how you can apply them to your garden to get similar results.

The first technique I really like is the use of a mirror. It can make the garden look twice its size. But more than that, it reflects autumn and winter sunlight into the garden, overcoming the problem of shade.

One of the best ways to get the most from your courtyard space is to divide it into different areas. The courtyard I visited is only 5 metres by 20 metres, but it's made to look much bigger by creating different areas - A Partier Garden next to the Master Bedroom, a Gravel Garden next to the guest bedroom and then this are here which includes a dining room table and an outdoor sitting area and that means the garden not only looks bigger, but it's visually interesting too.

When it comes to designing your courtyard garden, think about how you're going to use it and be practical. This outdoor dining area is really close to the kitchen and sitting area, so people can get to it really easily. A further effective design element here is the use of this paving material. It has a relatively smooth texture, but it's used in large pieces too, so it doesn't look too busy in this restricted space. And where it's changed into this gravel, there's a consistency of colour. In fact, that colour runs not only through the paving, but also into the walls of the house, the pots and the fabric for the furniture. In my mind, that brings a wonderful unity, light and also a really good sense of spaciousness. 

The way in which plants are grouped can affect your courtyard design dramatically. For example, down here, we have Chinese Star Jasmine that has been used as a groundcover. Behind it is Yellow which not only gives a contrast in texture, but a contrast in height. And then behind it, the Bay Hedge. So the 3 layers give a lovely sense of depth.

The garden maintains a wonderful sense of greenery through the year, in part because there's Boston Ivy on 3 walls. Now this is deciduous, but there are enough evergreen parts here to maintain that foliage quality right through the year. And the other thing is that heights are kept low here so that the garden beyond is borrowed to be part of this garden. That concept of the borrowed landscape is a really important one when you're designing a small space.

The key principles for designing small spaces then are to try and create a series of sub-spaces which are functional and practical to try and create a palate of colour in paving and house and unity, to use evergreen plants so that it looks great through the year. And if I can add one more - it's to avoid clutter because space is so important.

Information contained in this fact sheet is a summary of material included in the program. If further information is required, please contact your local nursery or garden centre.

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