Courtyard Garden Full Of Plants
(Image credit: a40757)

Gardening in unique spaces takes extra creativity and inspiration. Knowing how to create a courtyard garden may not be intuitive, but with a little imagination and examples of existing gardens, you can easily design a beautiful, functional outdoor space for this purpose.

What is a Courtyard Garden?

There really are no limits, as long as it is in a courtyard, for what makes up a courtyard garden. A courtyard is any outdoor space enclosed by the walls of a house or another building. A courtyard garden may be fully enclosed on four sides, with a gate or another doorway for entry, or it may be three-sided. For instance, you may have a semi-enclosed space as an entryway leading to the front door of your house.

Gardening in a courtyard can be done any way you like, from a formal French-style garden to a more free-form cottage garden or native landscape. Your garden will be limited only by the conditions in the courtyard such as space, lack of soil, and even sunlight due to the walls. Design around these and you can create any type of garden that suits your dreams and home.

Courtyard Garden Ideas

There are limits to courtyard garden design, but with a little creativity, you can work with them to create something great. For instance, if your courtyard is entirely bricked over, design a container garden. If you have high walls, plant strategically and use shade-tolerant species.

Here are some courtyard garden ideas to get you started on your design:

  • Use containers: Even if you have soil in the courtyard, containers of various sizes will provide different levels to get more use out of vertical space and to create dimension.
  • Create a living wall: Use the walls of the courtyard for even more garden space. Train vines and climbing plants up walls or hang containers on them. Living walls also create additional interest.
  • Try dwarf trees: Space is at a premium in courtyards, but for shade, fruit, and a tall element in your garden, try a dwarf tree. Dwarf fruit trees are great options for a courtyard.
  • Find a theme: A small, enclosed space is a perfect venue for a theme garden. A Japanese garden, for instance, could include bamboo, bonsai trees in containers, and a Zen rock garden.
  • Put in a fountain: A fountain is a classic element of a courtyard garden, lending the feel of an oasis to the space. Just be sure to find one that fits the scale of your courtyard and isn’t too big or too loud.
  • Use evergreen shrubs: Small, evergreen shrubs will grow well in containers and give you more bang for your buck because they will provide year-round greenery.
  • Don’t forget lighting: You’ll likely want to spend a lot of time in this garden, so consider some outdoor lighting for those summer nights.
Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.