Tuesday 29 March 2011

Courtyard Musings 3 - 'Firing the Imagination'

Have spent this glorious weekend 'pimping' my courtyard fired up after my recent trip to Morocco. If you want to learn about Courtyard Gardens then Morocco  is definitely the place to go.

I was blown away by it and returned senses on fire, keen to take up where I began with my own humble courtyard rennovation even at the expense of all the other chores that need doing at this time of year.

 Apart from being thoroughly exciting, stimulating and at times a little bit mad this recent trip has helped me to refine my thinking by learning from the lessons of  the relaxed beach style at Surf Maroc.

Hot reds and pinks with low carved tables, natural stools and table lanterns

Surf Maroc is fun, colourful and relaxed.  A chill-out zone after a hard days surfing.  I am now considering low couchette seats rather than high dining style.  It will suit my large, noisy surfy family and inject a sense of fun whilst also reflecting our bohemian recycling tendencies!  However, because of our damp climate we will create blanket box style seats so that throws and cushions can be stored at night and in wet weather. 

Deep blue is one of the signature colours of Morocco

I have already amassed a colourful collection of rugs, blankets, throws, cushions from other wanderings.  Now I feel emboldened again to use fabric to inject colour and texture into what will be 'an outdoor room' in the true sense. Brick red, orange, rust, ochre will be my colours of choice as the warm end of the colour spectrum will suit the duller, greyer skies of our northern hemisphere climate.

Riad Dar Krystal was the exact contrast of Surf Maroc.  A truly calm interior, a sanctuary away from the bustling streets of the ancient Marrakech Medina.  All was exquisite good taste; carefully positioned plants, lamps, tables, low seating areas with the all important water feature invitingly tucked into a private corner.

What most impressed me though was the use of lighting.

To gaze from your room on the first floor down into the twinkling lamps of the courtyard below was very reassuring.  Subtly positioned uplighters illuminated the beautiful palms and olives and created intricate patterns on both the floors and walls. Beautifully ornate lamps stood sentinel with just a tee light within. Eau de Nil paintwork, railings and window guards throughout helped to create that cool, shadey ambience, much needed in a city that can reach 40 O c in high summer.

My courtyard will also be viewed from the sitting room so re-positioning our external lighting arrangements needs to be done post haste.  I would like to re-create that magical scene. Fortunately, I already have two Moroccan wall lamps and will re-arrange the plants with up-lighters.  These can also mark the way to the rear entrance without that awful 'security light colditz' feel that is my present arrangement.

Plants and planting are normally my first priority when beginning a new project but I think I have finally learnt the meaning of the term 'restraint' from this trip.  All  the courtyards I visited had a restrained but well chosen number of exquisite specimen plants that were carefully placed.  Choice plant specimens would often be symbolic like the Olive, Palm or Citrus grown in classic Maroc pots.

On the coast, succulents, cactus and sedums were used as these are much better able to withstand the bright sunshine and coastal conditions .

 Fragrance is an essential ingredient and will come from Rosa Mme Alfred Carriere which will twine around the newly installed wall fountain. Evergreen Trachelospermum jasminoides plus my own sowings of Nicotiana sylvestris, Lilium regale and Gladiolus acidanthera will inject further fragrance by day and night. Their white flowers will work superbly in the shadey corners.

With new carefully placed embellishments and invigorated planting I hope to transform my old tired courtyard into a truly inspirational magical space influenced by my travels but also mindful of my own character and location.

Fortunately  I have to plan a courtyard design for a new client soon so will have even more opportunities there.......


At 29 March 2011 at 18:11 , Blogger Søren said...

One of my main projects - at least the one with the greatest impact on our enjoyment of the summer house - is the courtyard between the house and the tiny annex. As the house and annex are wooden, with wooden fences closing off each end of the courtyard, we probably will never be successful if we tried to create Moroccan serenity, so we're going for lush and packed with potted plants, with only a tiny seating area in the middle with room for a round table and two chairs.

Still, there's something satisfying about planning a courtyard; it relates somehow only to itself and it's borders, and can be completely disassociated from the landscape around. You can get away with stuff in a courtyard that you could never pull off out in the garden proper.

At 29 March 2011 at 21:38 , Blogger Diana Studer said...

Our Amaryllis are so strongly scented, that a whisper as you walk past is pleasant, but it is NOT a flower to sink your nose into. Have also been warned not to pick them. Not house trained ;~)

At 30 March 2011 at 10:18 , Blogger Chris said...

S: You are so right - working on the courtyard has been very satisfying because it is self-limiting and if I'm honest more than a bit self-indulgent! I will very soon have to drag myself away to tend to all sorts of other gardening matters.

Lush plantings sound good to me..

EE: Thanks for the tip!


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