Courtyard Gardens – Overview

Courtyard gardens are garden spaces which are enclosed on 3 or 4 sides by walls or buildings. They can also be an outdoor space which is bordered by multiple houses or a house, fence and garage. Some courtyards are completely open to the sky while others incorporate garden structures, such as pergolas on which to grow vines and to create shade. Generally, courtyards are quite small though there are those, such as the ones found in urban areas between large buildings, which are quite large. Courtyard gardens are common in urban areas, where homes are closer together.

Some houses are designed to have a courtyard enclosed or surrounded by the house, enabling it to be seen from different angles, and so that it appears to be part of the house. Courtyards are an ideal use of a small space that may not be big enough for use as a work or living area – simply turn the area into a decorative feature. Larger courtyards may have areas of lawn, but smaller ones are generally unsuitable for lawns, with patios being a more suitable choice.

The Beauty of Privacy

As a result of its surrounding walls, a courtyard is commonly a private space. Its walls also provide shade and protection from wind, loud noise or unsightly views. In fact, almost all views within a courtyard are inward. During the hot summer months, large courtyards which consist primarily of paved surfaces can get quite hot. This can be an advantage in cooler months, but during the summer it can get a bit uncomfortable. Reducing the size of the paved area and leaving space available for planting can prevent some of the heat build up within a courtyard. The amount of shade a courtyard gets varies with the size of the space and the height of the walls. Most courtyards experience at least some shade during the day.

Watering the planted areas of a courtyard is especially important as they will often not get sufficient natural rainfall, particularly if there is some sort of arbor of garden structure above the space. This is also true for those plants that are close to walls or fences. Hand watering the garden is usually adequate but irrigation may be necessary for larger spaces.

Water can also be made a feature of courtyard gardens, through the use of small ponds, birdbaths, or even small fountains.

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