This article contains affiliate links
It can be challenging to distinguish if a courtyard garden is a specific style or merely a spatial arrangement. However when you are inside a courtyard garden you recognise it as such instantly.
There is something special about the enclosed atmosphere of an outside courtyard space.
It is probably for this reason they feature in garden design from across northern Europe to Africa.
Courtyards have the walled enclosure of a room but the open sky of a garden. This has always made them an effective transition from inside to outside.
In hot climates such as Morocco courtyards provide cool, airy, spaces protected from the heat of the day. In England, country courtyards are places to glimpse as you walk down a village street.
Whatever part of the world you’re in courtyard gardens provide a stillness which is both charming and alluring. Here we will provide 25 tips to implement a courtyard theme to your garden this summer.
Choose your theme
With so many types of courtyard garden from across the world you will need to establish your style.
You may not wish to follow any historical or cultural precedent at all choosing something much more bespoke. This could be a contemporary garden or one which mixes up different styles.
You may have been on holiday and were inspired by a courtyard garden abroad. Try to collect precedent images of the style you love and plan out how you will implement your scheme.
It is most traditional for courtyard gardens to be surrounded on all sides by walls. However you may not necessarily have that circumstance within your garden already.
If you do not have the budget to start erecting large walls don’t worry. You can create enclosure in a number of different ways to create a courtyard effect.
Some of these include raised flower beds, trellises, hedges, green walls and slatted fence panels.
Choose your surfaces
What surfacing you use in your courtyard garden will depend on the style and effect you want.
If you wish to recreate a Moroccan courtyard then external tiles with Arabic patterns are ideal. If you want to create a contemporary modern space then smooth black slate or porcelain is better.
Remember to break up continuous surfaces with visual texture and contrast. For instance breaking up your paving with a bold border or pattern is very effective.
If your existing garden is very open or overlooked by neighbours pergolas can provide you extra enclosure.
These structures can be custom built to accommodate any style or theme. They can also be clad out completely on one side if you wish to block out a bad view or neighbour.
Pergolas give you the option to hang extra lighting, heaters or even speakers to your courtyard space.
Choose your walling
If you courtyard garden is naturally endowed with solid, masonry walls you may want to choose an effect.
If you are lucky enough to have natural stone work very little will beat that for aesthetics. However if you have concrete or brick you may want to clad them to fit in with your theme.
For Mediterranean courtyards a smooth, white, render is fitting. External tiling can be very effective in Arabic styled courtyards.
Benefit from microclimate
The great thing about courtyard gardens is they are enclosed enough to manipulate the climate.
If you have a compact area which is semi enclosed both lights and outdoor heating can be very effective. This is the perfect combination for parties and dining with family and friends.
Furthermore sunny walls can create heat traps which allow you to grow more exotic plants.
Soften walls with raised planters
As many courtyards have surrounding walls all the way around, raised beds provide the opportunity to soften hard surfaces.
This can be done by building a parallel wall in front, all the way around the perimeter. This can be done with timber sleepers, brickwork, block work or natural stone.
These can then be filled with soil and planted with plants to match your theme. These raised planters can then also provide convenient seating all the way around the courtyard.
Create focal point
The great thing about courtyard gardens is they allow you to fix your attention in an enclosed space. This provides an opportunity to set the stage for an exciting focal point.
There are many ways to do this! In Islamic gardens water is used as a central feature which can be enjoyed for its reflective properties.
Water fountains can create central focal points which stimulate the senses; these can also be illuminated with lights for extra effect.
Get a log burner
There is something very magical about sitting by a fire as the day draws to a close in the garden. Courtyards have always been a place to congregate in the evening to enjoy food and drink.
This makes them the perfect locations for installing a garden log burner. These can help to warm a courtyard at night and some you can even cook upon.
Install a water feature
Water features can really bring excitement and drama to a courtyard garden. These can range from an integral part of the gardens hard landscaping or a smaller installation.
There are so many interesting water features on the market today and very easy to install. They can easily be set into raised beds or sunk down into patio spaces.
A familiar characteristic of courtyard gardens is they have enhanced acoustic potential. Due to being often confined on all sides sounds can have an amplified volume with some ehco.
This makes them perfect for enjoying a whole manner of sounds. This could be for enjoying the sound of a water fountain or music from garden speakers.
Today these are easy to connect directly to the internet on your smart phone. You could even play jungle sounds for a unique night time experience.
Courtyards being so close to the home are excellent places to enjoy at night. For this reason they are great candidates for installing some extra garden lighting.
Lights can be used to illuminate the whole space for a gathering or just light up focal points. If you do not have mains electric outside you can put up solar lights instead.
Choose the correct planting
As courtyard gardens do not necessarily come from one climatic region it can be difficult to select the correct planting.
Your planting should work with whatever courtyard garden theme you have embraced. For instance, if you have chosen a Mediterranean theme olive trees can look very effective.
Contemporary themes benefit from formal hedges, block planting and architectural forms.
Relax with garden sofas
If there is one thing that unifies most courtyard gardens it is that they are an amazing transition from inside to outside.
The enclosed nature of these gardens makes them almost like outside rooms within the landscape. Therefore it’s easy to extend this idea further by creating an outside living room for warmer seasons.
This can easily be achieved with outdoor garden sofas, we have linked to an informative article on them here.
Enjoy tables with fire pits
No matter what style of courtyard you create it is always fun to include some novelty elements. As courtyards are the perfect places to socialise why not include a table with a built in fire pit.
These tables can really inject some energy to a space especially at night. Not only are they alluring to look they can also act as a patio heater.
Put up an outdoor television
There is absolutely no reason why you can enjoy yourself any less in a courtyard than inside. Maybe you could consider a little bit of outside entertainment?
New outdoor televisions are completely waterproof and can easily be installed to the walls of courtyard gardens. What better way to enjoy the game with a few friends over this summer?
Lounge with garden hammocks
Once your courtyard space is completed you are going to want to spend as much time enjoying it as possible. One of the best ways to do this is by simply lounging around in a hammock.
It is amazing just how comfortable some of the garden hammocks are on the market today. The attachments for these can be bolted to walls and simply unhooked when not in use.
Create a dining area
A great thing about courtyard gardens is they have the potential to create the perfect dining experience.
Surrounding walls provide shelter from prevailing wind and become easy environments to heat at night. Sounds and smells fill the space creating a holiday atmosphere which will have you reaching for the drinks cooler.
Courtyard gardens are probably the best garden theme for outside dining there is.
Create a bar
Now that you have embraced the lifestyle of outside living why not take it the whole way. Garden bars are not as complicated and elaborate to create as some may expect.
They can be as simple as a wall prop with shelving and a raised bar area to sit at. With some creativity and some pinterest images you will soon get some great inspirational ideas!
Incorporate garden heaters
Courtyard gardens provide an extra opportunity to be even more comfortable outside. This means more fun summer fun in the fresh air.
Your enclosed courtyard garden will ensure the heat from your patio heaters will make outside as warm as inside.
Getting the most from your garden heaters means you can extend the summer party season to autumn and maybe even winter.
Install a garden oven
For the ultimate night time experience in your courtyard garden why not install a garden oven? If positioned correctly they can add heating and a theatrical element to a dining area.
The smell of cooking food and warming flames will have your guests salivating all evening. There are so many exciting garden ovens on the market today, we have linked to an article on the subject here.
Add style with egg chairs
If you have decided to go with a modern courtyard style how about placing some outdoor egg chairs? These stylish chairs can really add some novelty to a seating area.
Even in more traditional or cultural garden designs egg chairs have a strange ability to work with any theme. These can be standard egg chairs or hanging versions which can be bolted into walls and structures.
If there is one type of courtyard garden which is world renown it is the Moroccan styled courtyard.
These gardens have a combination of Mediterranean and Islamic styles, radiant with colour and brilliance. Moroccan courtyards really allow you engage the senses with decorative tiles and vibrant colours.
Why not play some Arabic music and cook a Moroccan recipe in tagines for the night? Heaven! Read our extensive article on Moroccan courtyard gardens here.
Utilise garden mirrors
Courtyard gardens provide the perfect opportunity to put up outdoor mirrors. These can not only allow you to check your personal presentation but can also make the space feel lighter and larger. For more information on garden mirrors we will link to a great article here.
Install a jacuzzi
If you want to create a courtyard garden which you will savour why not install a Jacuzzi?
If at this point your friends and neighbours are not completely jealous, you may as well put the cherry on top. Outdoor jacuzzis are not as lavish and unattainable as some believe, they are readily available and easy to install.
Go on, why not make your courtyard garden just like a spa weekend away?
'As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases'
Paul Nicolaides has over 30 years of recreational gardening and 20 years of professional landscaping experience. He has worked for landscape contractors including design and build practices across London and the South East. In 2006 he qualified with a BA Hons degree and post graduate diploma in Landscape Architecture. In 2009 he founded Ecospaces an ecological landscaping practice which aims to improve social cohesion and reduce climate change through landscaping. In 2016 he founded Buckinghamshire Landscape Gardeners which designs and builds gardens across Buckinghamshire and the South East. This blog aims to provide easy problem solving information to its audience and encourage others to take up the joy of landscaping and gardening.