I’ve just returned from Spain where we finished planting the Courtyard Garden. You may remember at Easter, we put in the bones of the planting scheme. By bones, I mean the main feature plants, the ones that add permanent structure and form the backdrop to the softer, flowering plants. Well, now we have just put in the flowering star performers.

If you are new here and want to see how it all began, watch the garden design process video.

The Main Focus

The job of any plant in the garden is to add beauty and wow factor. The plants are the icing on the ‘well-designed’ cake. Getting the planting scheme right for a small garden is really tricky. The lack of space means you have to be really careful with your choice of plant.

How To Think Big in a Small Garden

With a large garden, you have plenty of room to add as many plants as you like and experiment with different varieties of your favourite plants. In a small garden, the lack of space makes every choice of plant critical. Every plant you put in a small garden must really earn its place there. So how do you choose?

Important things to think about are how the plant looks all year round, but how big it gets and how good it looks next to the plants surrounding it. For this Spanish courtyard garden, we want to create a tropical flowering jungle look.

Size Does Matter!

Although we have tried to be careful with the size of the plants that we put in, in order to create a jungle effect we have put in a few plants that get larger than the space we have allocated them, so some things will need to be pruned regularly to stop them from becoming too enormous. Hopefully, we’ve got the right balance between jungle and correct plant spacing. It is very easy to get carried away and put in too many plants, not allowing them to grow to full size.

Choose Plants That Create The Look You Want

We’ve chosen a selection of plants primarily for their foliage and architectural qualities. Things like palm trees and phormiums make for wonderful shapes and all year interest. And in between these architectural specimen plants we’ve planted lots of flowering perennials and annuals to fill in the gaps. The enormous pink flowers are Hibiscus bushes.

My parents have got a little bit carried away with the number of bedding plants that have gone in to fill the gaps, but all in all I’m very pleased with how the garden has turned out (I’m pretty certain there is no room now for the threatened pansies and daffodils! – big sigh of relief!). Later in the year, we will be repeating the use of the blue Agapanthus. Repeating some of the plants around the garden adds more clarity to the scheme.

Choose The Right Plants For The Conditions

Because the planting borders are essentially containers, we’ve installed a drip irrigation watering system. This is the most efficient way to water plants without wasting valuable water reserves. There’s a pipe connected to a timer that feeds the water for two minutes, every three days, via tiny offshoot pipes to each plant. We’ve chosen plants that can cope with the heat and minimal water. But even so, until they are established they will need to be watered regularly.

What To Learn Some Simple Plant Tips (that even ‘brown fingered’ people can master!)?

If you’d like to learn the cheat’s way to become a plant expert, check out the 5 Minute Plant Expert. You’ll learn how to become a ‘Plant Whisperer’ quickly and easily with a simple method that anyone can follow. 



Rachel Mathews
Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 30 years. My mission is to de-mystify garden design and make it easy for people to successfully design their own garden - without needing to spend a fortune!

    4 replies to "How To Plant A Small Courtyard Garden"

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    • Jenny

      Your garden parents must be thrilled with the finished courtyard. Now if you could just order up a mediterranean climate for all of us. My plants would definitely wish for some nights below 75 degrees. I used your video tips on how to measure a small area in my garden. Then my garden blogging friends came over and I gave them all a scale drawing to work on. Lots of ideas to mull over before I begin in the fall. Thanks for the tips.
      .-= Jenny´s last blog ..TWO- THREE- FOUR AND ONE MORE =-.

    • Rachel Mathews

      Thanks Jenny! Yes my parents are very pleased with how it’s turned out. I struggled a bit with the Med climate, I can’t imagine worse!

      Really pleased that you’ve found the video tutorials helpful, hope you’ll keep us posted on how your design works out!

    • landsca

      Beautiful courtyard. Particularly like the ‘breathing space’ that there is to contrast the two main areas. The planting is lovely – hot but not overwhelming. The scale of the paving also works well. Great for a small urban space.

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