Courtyard gardens can be challenging to design, but once you've chosen the direction you want to head in, you'll be able to turn your courtyard garden ideas into reality.
Don’t worry, though, Marshall's is here to help you achieve your courtyard garden dreams. Our team can give you expert, trusted advice and get you on your way to confidently building a wonderful courtyard garden for your home.
Take a look at the courtyard garden ideas listed below for some inspiration on how get started.
1. Utilise space with vertical planting
Installing trellises and fences along your courtyard walls allows you to grow various plants vertically. Choosing a fragrant climber such as Jasmine is a lovely way to ensure a beautifully scented courtyard in the summer while retaining greenery through the cold winters.
If you want a herb garden in your space, then a vertical planter or hanging herb garden is a great choice. Vertical and hanging spots also work well for salad plants and edible flowers.
For a unique spin on the verticle garden, you can make a vertical succulent garden. These are low maintenance and will create interest in your courtyard garden. Vertical succulent gardens can be used as a feature wall - consider installing it in the space above the seating area.
When creating a standard vertical garden, it is best to limit the variety of species - less is more in this instance. Having too many different types of plants on one wall can be overwhelming in a small courtyard.
2. Design a relaxing tropical oasis
Spending your days at work can be difficult, which is why having a lush, green space to unwind in is great for your mind and soul.
Add some escapism to your weekends by planting your outdoor space with various tropical plants and installing island-style furniture in the courtyard.
Think monsteras, yuccas, honeysuckles, and passion fruit plants - the latter two could be grown along a small pergola to add shade over your seating.
3. Create an outdoor living area
Extend your living space into your garden by converting the courtyard to an outdoor living room. There are many beautiful outdoor couches available and a variety of other outdoor furniture options that can make the space feel comfortable. Bask in nature by adding a variety of potted and hanging plants.
Be sure to add some warm lighting to set the mood in the evenings. You can also convert the space into an outdoor cinema by setting a removable screen up against the wall (or just by painting the wall white) - you'll soon be hosting the best movie nights in the neighbourhood!
4. Stay secluded with shaded areas
Adding trees to your courtyard creates height and provides necessary shade. Potted trees are an excellent option for smaller gardens.
Trees provide an additional layer of privacy if positioned carefully. You can plant tall trees to create a screen between your space and the neighbours' windows.
Planting fruit trees is another way to create a screen. Not only will this provide you with some shade and great privacy from prying eyes, but you'll also get to enjoy sweet-smelling blossoms in the spring and delicious fruit in the summer and autumn!
5. Keep things cosy with a fire pit or fireplace
Adding a fireplace or fire pit to your courtyard creates interest, provides warmth for the cooler evenings and provides a lovely place for relaxing with friends. Chatting with loved ones while sitting around the fire toasting marshmallows is a great way to spend an evening!
If you'd prefer not to have a working fireplace outdoors, you can still add an ornamental fireplace that can double as a spot for wood storage.
Whatever type of fireplace you prefer, all look excellent when installed in the centre of a stone circle. This paving feature will instantly make the fire pit or fireplace the star attraction in your garden.
6. Add an Alfresco dining area
A courtyard garden is perfect for setting up an alfresco dining area. If your space is small and you'd prefer to have it as a multi-purpose space, using compact dining solutions such as a half-sized table or foldaway options is a great idea.
Alternatively, if you want to have a small table in the space but also want to host dinner parties, then an adjustable dining table could be the right solution for your courtyard garden space.
7. Introduce potted plants in unique containers
Potted plants are a fantastic way to add interest and create a visual story throughout your courtyard space. They're also perfect for any area of garden paving as you won’t need to dig up pavers and try to start your garden at ground level.
To add a bit of fun, or to enhance the design of your space, choose exciting containers for your plants. For example, an old chest or wheelbarrow has great shabby chic appeal.
Incorporating a statement piece into your courtyard garden draws attention away from how small your garden might be. Having a variety of pots and beautiful plants will also help add height to your space.
8. Include garden lighting for more romance
To extend the use of your cute courtyard garden beyond daytime hours, why not add some fun or chic outdoor garden lighting to the space?
Whether you want to create a warm and cosy atmosphere or a light and bright entertainment space, a few strings of fairy lights won't go amiss. Small solar lights are a great addition to the planters and pots, especially in tiny courtyard gardens.
9. Find your zen
A Japanese-inspired design scheme is perfect for a courtyard garden, letting you create wonderful place in which to set up an outdoor meditation space. Improve your mood by immersing yourself in nature. Fill the area with plants, and add a gentle water feature to create a peaceful environment.
Adding a covered and raised seating area with comfortable garden furniture or outdoor cushions will give you the space to relax and follow your chosen mindfulness practices.
10. Choose a simple and sleek finish
Going for a more modern look with sharp edges and simple details may suit your interior design style and can be easily achieved in a courtyard garden.
You can avoid feeling overwhelmed by choosing a limited colour palette or keeping things looking sleek. Neutral tones can be best, with grey garden paving and brown garden paving being popular colour choices.
Limit the number of plant varieties you choose to plant as well - too many different plants can become distracting. Instead, choose different heights of plants to ensure visual interest without compromising the style of your luxe, modern-looking plant display.
11. Add layers and levels for visual interest
Adding various layers and levels is essential for your courtyard garden design to tell a story and have a good flow. You can do this through your planting scheme and choice of garden furniture.
Installing planter boxes is one of the best courtyard garden ideas. Not only do they make creating a garden much easier, but they also add a variety of levels to the space. Choosing terraced planter boxes can add more interest.
You can incorporate different platforms into your courtyard garden and use these platforms to designate the different areas of the space - dining, lounging, garden etc.
One of the best ways to make more of a small space is to add another level to make your garden look and feel larger. This can be done with raised beds and garden steps to create an additional plant area.
12. Plant a kitchen garden
Prefer to put your courtyard to work? Then why not plant a kitchen garden. This is easy to do in containers and will produce fresh, garden-to-plate produce for your meals.
It's recommended that you start small while you learn the art of vegetable gardening. Choose one or two veggies to begin with, and then add to the selection as your confidence grows. Tomatoes and beans are a great starting point.
Be sure to pay attention to planting times, as different veggies only grow at certain times of the year. If you have a small greenhouse, you may be able to produce a wider variety, but this is not a necessity.
A veggie garden is one of the more popular courtyard garden ideas, and various kits are available to make the start-up easier. However, it is not difficult to begin by yourself.
Starter courtyard garden ideas include creating a herb garden, a salad garden, a salsa garden or a sauce garden. You can also add edible flowers to the beds to make the space more colourful. Herb gardens are often the most straightforward, but a salsa or sauce garden is also an excellent place to start - these include tomatoes and peppers, amongst others.
13. Use paving and materials to create zones
To create the illusion of space and make your small courtyard feel bigger, we recommend using a variety of flooring to create different zones.
A paved lounge seating space separate from your alfresco dining area is a great way to add depth to your courtyard garden.
Installing a wooden deck in your courtyard garden can make it feel more spacious and create a lovely contrast with the natural stone pavers. Designated spaces also help to ease the mind - if an area is used solely for relaxing, you'll naturally feel more relaxed when using that space.
Utilising seating with built-in storage is also a practical way to improve the look of your courtyard garden and ensure that you maximise the use of the available area - no need for a shed if you can store your garden tools in a bench!
14. Make a child-friendly area
Adding a play kitchen or a sandpit is a fantastic idea if you have kids. It’s good for children to spend time outside. Creating a space that is just for them encourages imaginative play and will help boost their confidence and development.
Make sure that you have a cover for the sandpit to keep their toys safe. Turning a wall into a chalkboard adds to their fun and helps to keep them busy while they relax on the outdoor furniture.
FAQs about small courtyard ideas
What do you put in a small courtyard?
This depends entirely on what purpose you want the space to have. If you'd like to set your garden courtyard up as an entertainment area, adding your own private cinema with comfortable outdoor furniture, an outdoor bar, and a fire pit will ensure guests have a great time.
Including lush greens in your garden design for your tiny courtyard helps to create a peaceful and relaxing space. Add a corner sofa, and you'll have created the perfect spot to unwind after a busy day at work.
Alternatively, you can turn your courtyard garden into a kitchen garden by planting vegetables, herbs, and fruit trees in pots and planter boxes.
How do you create a beautiful garden in a small space?
Using garden walling, you can create a variety of beds in your courtyard garden. If you match the garden walling to your paving stones, you'll be well on your way to having a beautiful garden. Next, add your plants. Use the "thrill, fill, spill" rule when filling pots.
Choose a plant that grows tall in the middle of a free-standing pot or at the back of a bed. Next, choose plants that spill over the edge of the pot or bed - any trailing plant of your choice will be good here. Lastly, you'll select a few short filler plants to fill any empty spaces between the two previous plants.
Install some lighting and seating, and you'll have a beautiful courtyard garden!
How do you style a small garden?
A small garden can be easier to style than a large one, as you don't have as many decisions to make! Creating a garden pathway can be a great way to lead visitors through the space if your garden has some lawn. Create interest by using various pots and planting boxes of different sizes and heights.
Adding a small garden bench with a side table can make a lovely spot for you to relax and unwind - who said garden paths were just for walking?
What are the best plants for courtyard gardens?
Choosing the right plants for your courtyard garden is important. When creating your garden design, you must consider how much sun the area gets. If it is very shady, choose plants that thrive in the shade. Many tropical plants do well with shade.
If the area is sunny, you'll have more variety to choose from. Planting some trees for shade is recommended, and adding flowering plants is a great way to create a joyous courtyard garden.
How do I make my courtyard garden cosy?
Creating a cosy courtyard garden is easy! Be sure there are plenty of nooks with comfortable seating, cushions, and snug blankets. Install boxes beneath any windows facing the courtyard to soften the walls.
Add warm lighting and a fireplace or fire pit to increase the cosiness and make the space friendly for nighttime reading or fireside chats.
What is a tranquillity garden?
A tranquillity garden is a space in which you can relax and unwind. It is ideal for an outdoor meditation space and should be kept as a tranquil space free from stressors.
You can easily turn your courtyard garden into a tranquil garden. Start by using hard landscaping materials to create structure. Once this is established, add evergreen plants, some flowering plants, and other greenery that brings you peace and joy.
Choosing low-maintenance plants will make the garden easier to look after, and adding a water feature adds to the quiet and secluded feel of your tranquil courtyard garden.
Plan your small courtyard garden with Marshalls
It can be tricky to know what to do with a small courtyard garden - from utilising the space to choosing which types of decorations to use.
Hopefully, this article can provide you with an abundance of ideas to help you create a space that fits you perfectly.
For more information check out our other articles on budget small garden ideas and small garden design ideas to transform your outdoor space.