Landscaping a courtyard enhances the appeal of any outdoor space, but preparation and careful thought must go into a finished product. Climate, altitude and region will determine what type of plants look best for your courtyard, as do materials the courtyard is designed and built with. Several considerations must be addressed before you purchase your first plant or decorating item for your courtyard.
Measure your courtyard space to determine what will fit. Whether you want a fountain or a small fish pond, large planter containers or seating, you'll need to know the square footage (measure length by width) before you start shopping. Measure the height of the walls to determine what types of objects or plants, including lattices, that may look good and not overwhelm the garden space.
Determine how much sun your courtyard gets on a daily basis, and whether it is morning or afternoon sunlight. Some plants prefer morning sun, while others do fine in the heat of a noonday sun. Determine the sunlight exposure of your courtyard as well. Southern-facing garden areas tend to do better than northern facing gardens depending on your geographical location. Choose plants or trees that will grow well in the sunlight available in your courtyard.
Choose a variety of containers for plantings in your courtyard setting. The type of container you choose should match your overall house and courtyard decor. The fun thing about containers is that they are only limited by imagination. Small miniature daisies can be planted in an old boot, while petunias can overflow the sides of an antique wheelbarrow. Urns can hold clusters of basil or other herbs, while large pots may provide space for a variety of color and species.
Containers offer versatility and mobility, and plantings can be changed or altered from season to season. Whether you use store-bought containers made of wood, ceramic or plastic or objects laying around the yard, such as a tin watering can or empty toolbox, containers offer courtyard gardeners the opportunity to be whimsical and free-spirited when it comes to choice, size and color combinations.
Decide on a focal point for your courtyard. Often, this focal point can be a fountain, a bench or a tree. Trees offer shade and shelter and a variety of options for courtyard gardeners. For example, a small courtyard may offer suitable space for an Amur maple, which often grows to about 15 feet in height, or birch trees, both found in single-trunk varieties with smallish leaves that offer color changes throughout the year. Larger courtyards may provide the perfect environment for flowering trees like a crabapple or linden trees. Evergreens and birch trees prove hardy and drought-resistant in most locations and regions.