Courtyards can be tiny affairs no more than 100 feet square up to spaces with 1,000 or more square feet. Courtyards greet visitors when they enter a home or serve as a central outside gathering place. Courtyard walls may be part of the home, garage or fences. Smaller homes and townhouses may have only the courtyard for their garden area. Courtyards are also a nice touch when located off the dining room for protected alfresco dining.
Courtyards are ideal for a water feature. A tiered fountain surrounded by potted chrysanthemums in a sunny area or gardenias if the area is shaded provides the restful sound of falling water. If the courtyard is narrow, hang a wall fountain instead of the tiered fountain. An above-ground pond with water lilies floating on the surface and perhaps a few fish doesn't have to be large to make a point. Be careful about using in-ground ponds in an area where people walk. The pond may be difficult to see in the twilight hours. Even a jar with a bubbler fountain adds the soothing sound of water to the courtyard.
Place large planters on either side of the entryway with tall plants forming the walls. Evergreens like cedar would be a good choice. Vines growing up lattice are another choice. If there are between six to eight hours of sunlight, grapevines would be a good choice with the bonus of fruit. Place two large topiaries on either side of the walls. Add a bench and perhaps a small sculpture to serve as a focal point. An urn planted with geraniums and ivy makes a nice focal point as well. Change the container plantings to reflect the seasons.
The courtyard theme could be colors. Flowers and furnishing all blue or orange and red are an example. Another theme might be a country. Select an oriental theme with Japanese accessories or Mexican with bright colors, serapes and pottery. Even a flower has the potential to become a theme. Use rose-patterned materials for cushions and furniture upholstery in pinks and rose colors and of course roses growing in containers. A nice touch would be a rose-covered archway at the entry of the courtyard.