Courtyard Design Before and After

There's been a dead patch of grass in front of my courtyard that's been bugging me for some time, especially since its been too hot lately to accomplish anything of significance without dying of heat stroke.

So in lieu of actually doing anything out there, I'll show you a photoshop rendering of what I'm planning on accomplishing as soon as it gets cooler, by paving a bit and planting monkey grass as a minimalist groundcover. 


Though the rest of the entry garden is coming along nicely, the barren gap of grass is an eyesore.  The run of the mill sidewalk is boring and doesn't encourage the visitor to slow down and enjoy the journey a little.  Here's what I hope to do:


This is just a rough photoshop rendering, but it gives a good idea of what I'm going for.  I'm aiming for a small scale version of Raymond Jungles' landscapes, or maybe a miniature "Yellow Garden" at the Bali Hyatt.

The groundcover I'm going with is liriope, which has lush dark green foliage, will tolerate sun before the tree's canopies fill in, and barely needs any trimming.  The accompanying perennials like lemongrass, agapanthus, russelia and spider lily all have a similar effect of fountainlike foliage and when they fill in they'll form a tapestry of texture that flows well visually.  I even plan on naturalizing some of my rain lily seedlings along with the liriope, which also have grassy foliage.

I can't do much about the ho-hum sidewalk, but I can add to it, accentuating the curves and create some interest by laying pavers amongst stones.  The liriope will eventually start to fill in the cracks between the pavers, charmingly blurring the boundaries between the planting and hardscape.  I will place solar lanterns along these curves, along with a bromeliad or two to invite closer inspection.  I also need to repave the courtyard the right way, and install a micro irrigation system for the bananas, papaya and birds nest fern.

Here's another view of the hideous patch of grass.  Who put that there?

This area will also be getting an overhaul.  The weedy lantana will be removed, as will the dwarf burford holly in the foreground, which I'll replace with more liriope, agapanthus and spiderlily.

Its not all bad though!  Here are some nicer corners of the front yard.

The lemongrass makes an effective screen, looks dramatic, and mirrors the cascading effect of the other groundcovers employed in the entry garden.

Behind the lemongrass, my musa "blue java" otherwise known as "ice cream banana" is thriving and growing like there's no tomorrow!  The bold leaves will frame the view of the entry garden and provide drama.

This cold hardy radicalis palm looks very tropical, especially when paired with bromeliads.  There are a few stoloniferous broms at the base in the shadows too!  Ummm... I also need to fill in some more rocks in this area.  Eventually.

Here are some photos of how the courtyard garden looked before!

March 4th, 2009

March 4th, 2009, Later in the day.

 December 28th, 2009

February 8th, 2010 after a rough winter.

May 10th, 2010

July 18th 2010

Be sure to read my other posts about the courtyard!
My Bromeliad garden is oblivious to the season
Tropical Courtyard
Lady Gaga the fern


  1. Looking good! I've never heard of a radicalis palm. Just how cold-hardy might they be?
    Raymond Jungles..great designs
    Bali Hyatt Yellow Garden...yep, great designs as well. Do you have Made Widaya's book on Tropical Design? Simply the BEST! I'd take any garden on any page in that book.

    Happy Growing and thanks for visiting us at Tropical Texana/ Houston
    David (your Texan Gartendoppelganger )

  2. Love your photoshop "after" picture, can not wait to see the design materialized. Your courtyard really had a big transformation from before. Wish your ice-cream banana can survive the winter. Since it is close to the house wall, maybe it can get some warmth from the house.

    I used variegated liriope as one of my flowerbeds' border, looks quite nice.

  3. You have really put some work into this area and it looks great. You are right to replace that grass though. The idea to put more liriope on the other side of the walkway will really pull both sides together. Can't wait to see the "real" renovation.

  4. That radicalis palm is perfect for that spot - Just to add a suggestion - have you thought about Mondo grass (Ophiopogon)to replace the grass? In Oz it grows well in cooler areas. It looks great and I look forward to seeing the next phase.

  5. Wow, that was great to post all the before photos too so that we can see and be reminded of the transformation. I love the extra pavers next to the path to soften the lines, excellent idea. I think lariope does wonderfully there - I used to have it lining my path in Jacksonville, and it flowers too! Just a thought - what did you do with those benches? - might be nice to incorporate one of those back in.

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  7. David, Melanie and Family:
    The radicalis palm is supposedly hardy to 8a, and mine didn't flinch in our 20 degree nights this winter. They are a must in any "non tropical but still tropical looking" garden!
    I'm glad you appreciate Raymond Jungles and other great tropical garden design! I don't own any books by Made Wijaya, but I've read all of them and check them out from my bookstore job and library often. Awesome stuff.
    So glad I found your blog!

    Thanks! Ice cream banana is supposedly pretty hardy, but you guessed it, I did site it close to the house for ultimate protection.

    I can't wait to complete the real renovation! It might take a while since plants, rocks, pavers and sand do still cost money, but I'll be working with the super cheap liriope, concrete and marble chips.

    Good call! I have mondo grass in the shadier spots of the courtyard garden, but they can't take the full sun like the liriope. If I could do it all in mondo grass I would though!

    I keep forgetting you were in Jax before! The benches were both warping and rotting away, but I do hope to include a minimalist chair or bench against the window eventually. I might just build one!

  8. Wow Steve, look like you have found ways to have all the plants you love in a special style :-D Have fun landscaping your garden!

  9. How fun to see the courtyard in progression! Lookin good. Of course, my fav part is that lovely brom!!! Hehehe.

  10. Wow, looking forward to see how it all goes. I wish I plan as much as you do! When I go to the nursery I end up with all sorts of stuff, which are not on my shopping list (what shopping list!).

  11. Mondo grass may help on your garden scheme. Yes/No. Why?

  12. Wow, I'm super-impressed by that Photo-shop rendering. How great it would be to see such realistic predictions of those ideas in our heads. I think the liriope is a great choice for grass replacement. I wish I could dig up more grass and put in groundcovers. The courtyard is looking good in those latest photos.

  13. Before and After pictures are the best! You can see the results of hard work and time. I can see a water fountain and the benches back in that corner for a soothing sit....

  14. Stephanie:
    Yeah, its hard to make so many different plants look unified! I'm working on it...

    I wish it would put out more than one pup already! I would send you one if only it were more prolific!

    I have specific plants for specific places in mind, but finding those plants is the hard part! I guess a good garden is always changing!

    I have to use liriope because of the sun, but hopefully it will unify the planting scheme and create more impact.

    If I had it my way I'd have just a bit of grass in the shape of a river to serve as a walkway.

    Glad you discovered what your plant was! I do plan on eventually adding seating but my mom has a power wheelchair so its kind of built in for her! I don't think I ever sit down when I visit personally... I'm too busy chasing lizards and watching birds.


Please feel free to share your questions, ideas and suggestions!