Resurrecting A Courtyard Garden
A number of years ago, I inherited a large garden which included a courtyard garden immediately outside the back door. Unfortunately this looked very un-inspiring, dank and dreary, dark, and immensely depressing!

My first task was to cut everything back to see exactly what was beneath, above and around me. It was fortunate that the hard landscaping was pretty good, a paved crazy paved path which wove between low, lazy ‘S’ shaped raised beds, about 8” (20cms) in height and built in local stone. Weeds were rampant and other invasive plants included ivy, celandine, campanula and numerous ferns sprouting out of every crevice.  All very pretty, but preventing other plants from flourishing. Although the courtyard was west facing, natural light was a little limited by high trees to the left and the brick wall of next door to the right.

Because the cottage was situated adjacent to the River Rother and the Ashford Stream ran around the back garden, the water table was never less than 4" (10cms) below the surface in the main garden, but the courtyard garden could be quite dry, so both these factors were very important in deciding what to plant.

Once cleared, the usual suspects were planted, ie Bergenia, Hostas, Pulmonaria, Astilbe, Brunnera and Heuchera. In the centre of one of the curves I grew an Hibiscus, in another a rather beautiful white Spirea. There was an ancient wisteria on the wall to the right which was more trunk than flowers but the trunk was useful to entwine an Alpine Clematis which flowered twice a year and then had the most exquisite silky seed heads.

Towards the end of the courtyard, I planted a series of large Azaleas, primarily flame and orange in colour, highly scented and placed quite specifically to catch the evening westerly sun. A Fatsia Japonica was also planted, primarily for its large glossy green leaves, five-petaled flowers arranged in clusters with dark black berries. It needed to be kept under control because it could so easily have taken over, it definitely had Triffid ideas if left to its own devices!

In the pots, I grew a Daphne to give scent as well as a dwarf Syringa for the same reason. A herb garden was grown in a large wooden tub and a Blueberry bush in another. A birthday present of a Buddha found a peaceful setting amongst the foliage, the colour of the stems blending in rather nicely,

I learned that the environment might be small but with careful planting and pruning, no size shrub is out of bounds. Mind you, part of the fun of gardening is the trial and error, the successes and even the failures… I finish with a quote by Albert Einstein… ”Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

Pamela Peacock
East Meon Garden Club