Ideas for shady courtyard gardens

Ideas for shady courtyard gardens

Struggling with a gloomy courtyard garden? Be inspired by our planting and design ideas.

Courtyards have specific growing conditions that might seem daunting at first. Surrounded by walls, they’re typically shady and dry. As well as growing plants that suit the growing conditions, you can employ techniques that bring light to the courtyard and even create the feeling of a larger space.

...you can employ techniques that bring light to the courtyard and even create the feeling of a larger space.

Be inspired by our tips for gardening in shady courtyards, below.

Courtyards have specific growing conditions that might seem daunting at first. Surrounded by walls, they’re typically shady and dry. As well as growing plants that suit the growing conditions, you can employ techniques that bring light to the courtyard and even create the feeling of a larger space.

Advertisement
...you can employ techniques that bring light to the courtyard and even create the feeling of a larger space.

Be inspired by our tips for gardening in shady courtyards, below.


Grow shade-tolerant evergreens

Ideas for shady courtyard gardens - grow evergreens
Ideas for shady courtyard gardens – grow evergreens

Grow shade-tolerant evergreen ferns to provide a long season of interest, particularly in winter. Browse our list of 10 ferns to grow.


Grow plants with pale blooms

Ideas for shady courtyard gardens - grow pale flowers
Ideas for shady courtyard gardens – grow pale flowers

Plants with pale flowers and foliage, for example cool blues and whites, show up much better in shady areas than dark colours. It’s a good idea to opt for light-coloured garden furniture and features you might have, too. Browse our lis of white-flowered plants for ideas.


Use perspective tricks

Ideas for shady courtyard gardens - use perspective tricks
Ideas for shady courtyard gardens – use perspective tricks

It’s possible to create a false sense of space with perspective tricks. With plants, try rows of ever decreasing box balls, which make the area seem longer. Add false depth with striped paving, such as rows of brick, laid closer the farther they are from the main view. Prevent oppressive shade by using a trompe l’oeil, or ‘perspective trellis’, with a mirror behind.


Use garden lighting

Ideas for shady courtyard gardens - use garden lighting
Ideas for shady courtyard gardens – use garden lighting

Garden lighting can help to brighten up some the darkest areas, and help to illuminate plants. Powerless options include tin can lanterns or glass jar lanterns. Outdoor fairy lights are a good option, too. You can even buy illuminated pots and planters.


Make a water feature

Ideas for shady courtyard gardens - make a water feature
Ideas for shady courtyard gardens – make a water feature

A wall-mounted water feature adds movement and suggests a water source lying beyond; opening out the space. You could also add water in the form of a low pond. It will reflect the sky and help bounce light into the gloomiest corners.


Grow shade-tolerant plants

Ideas for shady courtyard gardens - grow shade-tolerant plants
Ideas for shady courtyard gardens – grow shade-tolerant plants

Hostas, tree ferns, foxgloves, tiarella and more will thrive in the shady and damp conditions of a courtyard. Also consider low-growing, silver foliage plants like Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’, that will lead the eye to ground level, expanding the space. Discover more ground cover plants for shade.


Use matt or eggshell paint

Ideas for shady courtyard gardens - use matt paint
Ideas for shady courtyard gardens – use matt paint
Advertisement

When choosing paints for objects or walls, go for very dark matt tones if you want to make the object seem to disappear. To bounce light around, choose an eggshell finish. Pale but warm shades work well for walls. Gloss paint might seem obvious, but permanently shiny surfaces can look wet and unappealing.

Don’t create a foliage shadow

Avoid planting dense canopy trees or rampant climbers, which can quickly reduce light levels in an already shady area.

Courtyards have specific growing conditions that might seem daunting at first. Surrounded by walls, they’re typically shady and dry. As well as growing plants that suit the growing conditions, you can employ techniques that bring light to the courtyard and even create the feeling of a larger space.

...you can employ techniques that bring light to the courtyard and even create the feeling of a larger space.

Be inspired by our tips for gardening in shady courtyards, below.

This is Secret Garden content

This content is exclusive to subscribers. If you are not a subscriber you can access this content by subscribing to Gardeners' World.

Unlock now