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On a Chalk Hillside May 2019

Creating a Mediterranean Courtyard
What does the term Mediterranean Courtyard evoke in your minds’ eye?  Is it something like this from Portmerion Village in Wales?:-

Or perhaps one of these two ideas from within the Temperate Biome at the Eden Project:-

Although looking very different in style in all these cases there is hard landscaping in honeyed tones on the floor and a rendered wall behind.  We wanted something that also included aspects of our experience of the Mediterranean, including plants as well as structure. When we created the patio and pond in our garden, which I have described previously for you, we were digging terraces for these part way down a steep grassed chalk hillside divided abruptly by the previous owner at a Lonicera nitida hedge and a block-built shed, before the slope plunged ever more steeply into what we used as our vegetable garden, and then in the bottom third, the orchard.   The whole garden would be in view from the patio above the pond, through the pond terrace and down to this Lonicera nitida hedge so had to be harmonious in terms of materials and style, yet divided into different planting and seating areas.   
Our plan was to remove the hedge and build a wall in its place so that it was attached to and the same height as the shed which would form the backdrop for a Mediterranean courtyard with our fig Ficus carica ‘Brown Turkey’ which we had brought with us from London in a pot in its own planting hole trained out against the wall.  As this wall (and fig) would face west this would be the most sheltered and sunny area of the whole garden.  To further enhance the courtyard’s Mediterranean credentials it would also house our Olive tree - Olea europaea.  The wall and the side of the shed would be rendered and painted so it looked like all one wall.  It would reference the walls of the pond terracing by having brick-built pillars for the gate through the wall to hang from using the same bricks.
In 2005 we had cleared more of the area in front of the hedge and made our first hospital bed to put in plants that had been moved from London in pots the year before and which needed to be put into the ground pronto.  This bed had been extended over the intervening years to accommodate more plants.  Naturally this exact spot is where we now proposed to put the Mediterranean courtyard…  Here’s a view from the pond in October 2009:-

We left the bulging hospital bed alone initially and in the summer of 2010 got on with grubbing out the hedge and removing the enormous mass of ivy from the border on the right.  When describing the garden plants we found here when we arrived I said that in that mass of Ivy it looked like we had a climbing white rose.  Well, when we cut the ivy back (which, it turned out was holding up what was left of next doors’ fence,) we discovered that not only was there a white rose (NOT a climber, just desperately seeking daylight) but also a very poorly pink rose, and a red rose as well.  The latter two did not survive.  Although I have tried to find out what rose this white one is, I am rather stumped.  I am plumping for a not very scented Rosa 'Boule de Neige'.  Here it is flowering in early June last year:-

We also found underneath the ivy a Euonymus fortunei Emerald 'n' Gold:-

Hopefully this picture shows you both the new line of the utility path (top right) as we replaced it in stages, which we moved out round the Fatsia japonica which was expanding over the old utility path; and the state of the neighbours fence still held up by Ivy on their side, even after we had removed it from our side.   
The next photo shows you the full to bursting hospital bed running left to right up to the Golden Rod (Solidago) in full flower at the end of August 2010.  As I have mentioned before this is one of the plants that was here when we moved in, and seed of which I sometimes send to the HPS seed distribution, which goes in 'the mix' as I am unable to tell which Solidago it is – as you can see it is one of the tall sorts about 4’ high.  You can see the wall trench as a dark line in the soil dug where the Lonicera nitida hedge was, and the shed that the wall was going to abut:-

By mid-September the wall was built to the right height, and over the next few months was rendered and painted, the utility path was replaced down to the new gateway in the wall, and the hospital bed was cleared.  A new hospital bed was created in one of our vegetable beds in our allotment area at the bottom of next doors’ garden to accommodate all these plants.   Here is the progress in the area in early May 2011:-

This shot shows you that the wall and the side of the shed are now all one structure, with a brick gateway (soon to have a wrought iron gate in it) part way along.  The wall has been rendered and painted Ashen Green, so that the eye is not jarred by a bright white or cream colour stopping you seeing the view above it.    Here is a shot from the patio above the pond also from May 2011 to give you an idea of what I mean:-

If you look at the wall of the pond patio visible bottom right you can see the same bricks topping the wall as the gate posts, and that the patio wall is painted a cream colour.  Looking up the garden from the Courtyard you see cream colour walls, looking down from the pond patio you see Ashen Green.  
By the end of June we had levelled the space that the courtyard was going to be in, and laid out the footings for the retaining walls to hold the slope back on all sides, and in July the walls were laid and you can see below the half water butt inserted into the ground for the fig to be grown in to restrict its root growth:-

No we didn’t forget to put blocks where there are gaps – there is to be a step up to a path towards the hose reel as there is a water tap there against the fence.  The other gap towards the middle top of the picture in the opposite corner of the courtyard to where I am standing to take the picture from is to be an entrance to the courtyard from the garden above, more about which another time.  In the following photo taken at the end of September the fig is planted, the honey coloured paving is in, and the walls are topped with the same bricks as the walls retaining the pond terrace, and the gateway:-

Here is a shot from September 2013 looking across to the Golden Rod showing all the pots of exotic plants on the courtyard:-

The following picture from October 2014 shows how the courtyard is a main seating area, how well the fig is coming on, and that with the painted window frame the wall now looks like it’s part of a dwelling:-

As this article is getting lengthy I shall pause here and tell you about the fig, and the planting in the square bed behind the Datura top left of the courtyard next month.
Sheila May

Posted by Sheila May

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