Don't let the fixed walls of a courtyard stymie your creativity. Be as flexible as you would with an indoor wall, since you actually have more flexibility outdoors. Paint the walls or cover them with weatherproof art. One of the advantages of being outdoors is being able to grow plants on a wall, add a hanging fountain, and add large gas or candle sconces for lighting.
Because a courtyard has limited floor space, using the walls is a good way to add life and color. There are several ways to add green to walls.
Espalier. This is the word used to describe training a small tree or shrub against a wall in a specific design.
Trellises. Whether a permanent one made of wood or a simple one made from wire, trellises support climbing vines and offer an alternative to espalier for covering a wall with green.
An advantage to a permanent wood trellis is that, if it is designed and built properly, it adds relief to the wall and looks good even when plants aren't on it. A trellis may be an attractive solution if you grow annual or deciduous vines, which will leave the walls bare for part of the year.
The plants will need something to grow in. If planned for from the beginning, you can leave a cutout in the floor of the courtyard and plant the vines or shrubs directly into the soil. Otherwise, you will need to build a raised bed or, depending on the size of the plant, grow it in a container.
You can also use individual containers and decorative brackets to hang plants on the wall. Use a mix of upright and trailing plants.
Microclimate. Determine how the climate within your courtyard differs from the rest of the garden so you can choose and tend plants accordingly. The protection of the walls and limited air movement create their own microclimate. Although there is less danger of freezing or damaging wind, there may be a higher incidence of fungus due to poor air circulation and lack of sunlight.
Continued on page 2: Courtyard Accents