Saturday, March 10, 2012

Captivated by courtyards ...

Do you know what it means to love New Orleans?  That question may have been posed in song lyrics, but I must say that those iconic garden courtyards are at the top of my list of items to love.

Garden District courtyard in New Orleans.

The temperate climate throughout the South makes outdoor living and entertaining possible most of the year. Add the humidity along the Gulf Coast, and you have optimal conditions for lush plant growth within the protected courtyards.

New Orleans courtyard image via Cote de Texas.

I'm sure part of my courtyard lust is their symmetry. That sense of order is calming, the vegetation is rejuvenating, the sound of water is so refreshing and the artistry of the hardscape is inspiring. 

New Orleans courtyard image via Dean J. Birinyi.

But, it's not just New Orleans that lays claim to beautiful courtyards. When it's time to create a space for sheer pleasure, courtyards have been a staple of southern designers from every coastal state along the Gulf of Mexico and up the mid-Atlantic coastline.

Charleston courtyard image via Fine Gardening.

Pools of water and lily pads add more than character to many courtyards. Along with lush plantings, these water features create a serene environment for rest and reflection.

Image via Southern Accents.

Those early Greeks and Romans knew a thing or two about courtyard design. While most of our modern day courtyards are scaled down versions of those early public spaces, they still embody the walled enclosure, green space and gathering areas that create a soothing sensory experience.

Image via Guild of Landscape Designers.

I find courtyards with an equal combination of sun and shade the most pleasant. Too much of either makes the space less hospitable for guests and plant variety.

Image via International Design Awards.

Because they are sheltered from the elements, a variety of plants can take up residence in a courtyard where walls minimize cold winds and the hardscape creates a heat sink to warm tender vegetation.

Image via Southern Living.

Be they ever so humble, even small courtyards provide a visually pleasing space for entertaining and relaxation. 

Image via Vertumni.

No matter how small the courtyard footprint may be, each and every one makes me happy!

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