Q. HOW CAN I CREATE MORE PLANTING SPACE IN MY SMALL COURTYARD?


by Liz Potter |
Q. HOW CAN I CREATE MORE PLANTING SPACE IN MY SMALL COURTYARD?

Well-chosen containers add colour and style, says Louisa Gilhooly

Courtyards offer all sorts of gardening challenges. They’re often small, shady and overlooked, with little soil or planting space. On the plus side, they can also be sheltered and warm – a precious, intimate space in which to relax.

Here, a large expanse of gravel driveway has been divided up with containers – planters, troughs and gabions – to create a small modern courtyard garden by the front door. In effect, it’s a garden within a garden.

Containers are the ideal way to increase your growing space if you can’t access the soil. But while it can be tempting to cram in lots of different container types and plants, it’s far more effective to limit the style, colours and plant choices for a more streamlined, harmonious look.

Most of us have accumulated a random collection of pots over the years – be they large, small, plastic or colourful 1990s’ ceramics. But, with a little thought, containers can make a far more positive contribution to a garden’s overall design – especially when you take into account the style of your house, its age and exterior fittings.

When choosing materials, remember that frostproof terracotta and clay pots are attractive but breakable. Plastic and fibreglass pots are more robust; they’re also lighter weight, relatively cheap and come in a wider range of colours. Wooden tubs have natural texture, can be painted any colour, and help protect plant roots from rapid temperature swings. Lead and zinc tubs are durable but can be expensive; faux lead is lighter in both weight and price, and can be hard to distinguish from the real thing.

Think about where to place your pots and what size they should be. Larger pots hold more compost, so hang on to moisture for longer in dry weather. They can make a bold design statement, and help delineate a boundary or control direction of travel. They look handsome flanking an entrance, and act as a strong focal point aligned with a pathway or window, bringing much- needed height into a small space, while allowing for layers of planting underneath.

Almost any flower, shrub or small tree can be grown successfully in a pot – provided you water and feed them regularly. Herbs, hardy perennials and ornamental grasses are ideal, boosted with colourful bulbs and annuals. Select plants to suit the amount of sun or shade the container receives and water thoroughly and regularly. For larger, long-term shrubs and trees, loam-based compost is easier to re-wet and a layer of mulch on top helps retain moisture.

Q. HOW CAN I CREATE MORE PLANTING SPACE IN MY SMALL COURTYARD?
Q. HOW CAN I CREATE MORE PLANTING SPACE IN MY SMALL COURTYARD?

OUR DESIGN: Containers have been used to add colour, style and planting space

The Planting Plan: orange, apricot and purple flowers bring cohesion…

Q. HOW CAN I CREATE MORE PLANTING SPACE IN MY SMALL COURTYARD?
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15 photos
1. Malus 'Evereste'
1 of 15

1. Malus 'Evereste'

1 Malus ‘Evereste’ Crab apple offering cup-shaped white spring blossom in May and blushing red fruit in autumn. Pollution tolerant. Prune after flowering to maintain pleached shape. H and S7m (23ft)

2 Amelanchier lamarckii Multi-stemmed plant ideal for large pot in sun or part shade. White spring blossom, edible June berries, stunning autumn colour. Prune to size. H10m (33ft) S12m (40ft)

3 Taxus baccata With dark green needles and bright red arils on female plants, sleek yew makes attractive hedging in sun or part shade. Slow growing; prune to size. H20m (66ft) S10m (33ft)

4 Rosa ‘Schoolgirl’ Fragrant apricot-orange fully double climbing rose blooming July-Sept. For sun or part shade in rich, moist, well-drained soil. Ideal for a sunny house wall. H3m (10ft) S2.5m (8ft)

5 Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ Fountain grass with fluffy flowers July-Sept. Useful as a foil for daisies and other perennial flowers. Best in sun. H1.2m (4ft) S1m (3ft 3in)

6 Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ Aromatic flower spikes in brooding purple, June-Oct. Clump-forming perennial best in full sun and a light, moist but well-drained soil. H50cm (20in) S30cm (12in)

7 Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ Bottle-brush spikes of purple flowers July-Oct and fragrant foliage. Perennial that prefers full sun and a well-drained, fertile soil. H1m (3ft 3in) S40cm (16in)

8 Iris ‘Natchez Trace’ Dramatic bearded iris with coppery-brown, velvety looking flowers May-June. Suits full sun or light shade but needs a well-drained soil. 85cm (34in) S30cm (12in)

9 Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’ Purple catmint flowers June-Sept with aromatic foliage. Ideal for edging a sunny or part-shady bed and moist, well-drained soil. H60cm (2ft) S50cm (20in)

10 Achillea ‘Terracotta’ Sun-loving perennial whose umbels turn from rich terracotta to a pale biscuit colour, June-Sept. Plants need full sun and a moist, well-drained soil. May need staking in rich soil. H1m (3ft 3in) S40cm (16in)

11 Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue’ Perennial globe thistle bearing spiky, spherical heads studded with silver-blue flowers on tall slender stems in August. Plant in sun and well-drained soil. H90cm (3ft) S45cm (18in)

12 Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ Delicate apricot-orange cup-shaped flowers with lightly scalloped petals May-Sept on slender upright furry stems. Thrives in sun and well-drained soil. H60cm (2ft) S50cm (20in)

13 Agapanthus ‘Poppin’ Purple’ Striking evergreen perennial with purple-black buds that open

into vivid purple flowers July-Sept. Prefers full sun and a rich, fertile, well-drained soil. H60cm (2ft) S45cm (18in)

14 Erysimum ‘Apricot Twist’ Short-lived perennial wallflower with a long supply of bright orange blooms emerging from dark buds March-Sept. Best in sun or part shade and well-drained soil. H and S30-45cm (12-18in)

15 Erigeron karvinskianus Mexican fleabane bears a succession of dainty white daisies that mature to pink, May-Oct. Low-growing so ideal for path edging and spilling over walls. Prefers sun and a well-drained soil. H30cm (12in) S1m (3ft 3in)

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