Sassy Spanish Courtyard Garden

Every now and then a landscape project comes along that is soooo in my wheelhouse that designing it and implementing it doesn’t feel like work at all. This was one of those tasty little projects.  Right away, the homeowner and I clicked—on both a personal and design level—and good stuff always comes out of that.

Their were two main challenges to this garden design. First, the front yard was much larger than the teensy back yard, so that meant I needed to flip the design around and put an outdoor living area in the front. This leads me to the second challenge: the giant coast live oak in the front (which as we all know, are royal pains in the ass to design around). I immediately envisioned a courtyard created from permeable materials (good for oaks), a swooping, curved seating area that played off the wicked curve of the new French door, and some of my favorite plants (all of them able to look fab with little summer water and the dappled shade of the oak canopy). Oh, and it had to be really funky and cool with some booty-kickin’ colors thrown in for good measure.

Instead of talk about it, I’ll take you on a photo journey of the project, start to finish. I think it turned out pretty flippin’ sweet!

THIS IS THE TRACE PAPER CONCEPT DRAWING I MADE BEFORE FINISHING THE FINAL CADD DESIGN. NOT MUCH CHANGED FROM ORIGINAL CONCEPT TO INSTALLED GARDEN.

THE “BEFORE” SHOT. OLD CONCRETE. IVY. BROKEN BRICK. ‘NUFF SAID.

3-D RENDERING OF THE COMPLETED COURTYARD. I ALREADY HAD MY SIGHTS SET ON GETTING A FINISHED-GARDEN PHOTO WITH PETEY THE BEAGLE IN IT.

POST-INSTALLATION: PETEY WAS IN THE MOOD TO LAY DOWN, NOT STAND UP, BUT I STILL THINK HE DID A HALF-WAY DECENT JOB OF PLAYING THE PART!

DETAIL CLOSE-UP OF THE TWO DIFFERENT GRAVELS AROUND THE OAK. I WAS GOING FOR A SHARP AND ANGULAR LOOK, TO COUNTERBALANCE THE STRONG CURVES IN THE SEAT WALL AND ON THE HOUSE.

THE NEW FRENCH DOOR AND LANDING.  THE SAME GLASS MOSAIC APPEARS IN THE GUEST BATHROOM. I GET MY KICKS OFF OF REPEATING ELEMENTS THAT MAKE A (SOMETIMES SUBCONSCIOUS) CONNECTION BETWEEN INDOORS AND OUTDOORS.

TO ADD A PERSONAL TOUCH, THE FAMILY’S INITIALS WERE FABRICATED IN METAL AND EMBEDDED IN THE PATIO (THANKS, DROP METAL!) OH– AND CHECK OUT THE GROUT: IT’S PERMEABLE–YOU CAN POUR WATER RIGHT THROUGH IT! PRETTY COOL, PERVIOUS PRODUCTS!

THE NEW ENTRY GATE IS LASER-CUT ROLLED METAL WITH A BRONZE FINISH. IT MATCHES THE SCREEN ON THE CURVED SEAT, AS WELL AS THE SIDE YARD ARBOR INSERTS.

I DECIDED TO TURN A KORNEGAY CONCRETE PLANTER INTO A FIRE PIT. I THINK THE GRAPHIC QUALITY OF THE CONTAINER, AS WELL AS THE PURPLE FIRE GLASS, MAKE THIS THE FOCAL POINT OF THE WHOLE GARDEN.

THIS ABUTILON ‘TIGER EYE’ REPEATS THE BOLD COLOR PALETTE OF THE HOUSE. AND IT’S ONE OF MY MOST FAVORITE PLANTS, SO IN IT WENT.

EVERY GARDEN NEEDS SOME BLING, AND THE GIANT AQUA AND COBALT CHUNKS OF GLASS SCATTERED ABOUT FIT THE BILL.


THIS SIDE YARD AREA USED TO BE GREY, UGLY CONCRETE–WALL TO WALL. I HAD THE CREW SAW-CUT IT UP INTO JAGGED-LOOKING CHUNKS, STAIN IT TERRA COTTA, AND FILL IN THE JOINTS WITH GRAVEL. TOTALLY SUSTAINABLE AND AFFORDABLE. 

VIEW FROM THE FRONT PORCH. THE SPILL FOUNTAIN DOES DOUBLE DUTY AS A DRINKING FOUNTAIN FOR PETEY THE BEAGLE.

 THIS WAS ONE OF THOSE MAGICAL LITTLE PROJECTS THAT COME TOGETHER (ALMOST!) EXACTLY AS PLANNED, WITH SPECIAL THANKS TO THE VILLAGE GARDENER FOR INSTALLING IT, AND FABLE, INC. FOR FABRICATING THE METALWORK.

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