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Courtyard Makeover


French dressing


This courtyard makeover matches the style of a Parisian café with the colours of rural France to create a charming space. Linda Ross tells how the space translated blah to ooh la la!




In small spaces it’s important think big. One big idea will give the garden a focus. You can personalise it by harmonising every element into the ‘big idea’ and so long as you don’t stray from your theme and it will all come together. Simplicity is the secret. The owners of this garden wanted the style of a Parisian café. Essential ingredients for the look include iron furniture, terracotta urns of lemons and lavender and fabric that reinforces the French theme.

With the grand idea decided upon, other issues need to be addressed: shade, sun, privacy, screens, fences, uses, levels, plants, kids’ needs, pets, access and furniture. We decided to divide our 9m x 3m courtyard into thirds. Two matching lawn areas, allowing people to move out and children to play, balance our central 3m x 3m paved area.


Central cafe style seating. Photo - Linda Ross


Sometimes it’s hard to visualise the fragmented jigsaw pieces of the garden design together. We like to shop with a digital camera. At home download the images so you can see what goes with what. Print them out. This will help you make the right decisions.  



The basis of our courtyard design is a central paved square. A grid pattern was overlaid onto the floor of the courtyard; paving squares were laid and Greek oregano and peppermint were planted between the squares. The paving makes up only a third of the whole space, the rest being grassed. A small square of grass is essential even in small courtyards – it’s much softer than paving and can be trimmed easily with a hand mower. Grass reduces glare and helps to green the scene.



A feature pot sits in each corner of the paved square. These egg-shaped, ceramic pots are planted up with simple topiary spheres to give a symmetry and formality to the courtyard. We chose the lemon-yellow glaze to fit our colour scheme and match the lemon-yellow daisies. We painted the timber screen to match the pots.

A row of ribbed terracotta urns enhances the Mediterranean flavour. Simply planted with citrus, they help to disguise the fence. Potted lavender offset the urns.



Harmonise your courtyard design by matching every element with your ‘big idea’. Ribbed terracotta urns are planted up with daisies, lavendula and citrus. Photo - Linda Ross 



A round lemon mosaic table is the main feature of our garden. It is matched with four iron chairs and a decorative arch that hangs on the fence. This table fits well with our feature pots. The arched screen on the wall also fits with our ‘big idea’. Simple charcoal chairs have a sophisticated curve that matches the curve of the arch.



French gardens don’t have to be red, white and blue. These colours come from the landscapes of rural France; fields of lavender and sunflowers. Lemon and lavender are contrasting colours that work well together. Matching the green pots with green plates, lemon pots with lemon daisies, and potted citrus with a bowl of lemons on the table helps knit the garden together – c’est chic!


Our French café style setting is super-stylish with the feature mosaic table providing the centrepiece. Photo - Linda Ross

Plant care

The lemon is an important theme in this garden, as a colour, a motif and a fruiting plant, and we combined lemons with other citrus. Citrus grow throughout Australia, but some dislike frosty conditions so check with your local nursery before selecting one for your area. They grow well in pots in a sunny area of the garden providing they are well fed (every season with citrus food) and well-watered (twice a week during summer). ‘Meyer’ lemons are best for pots, particularly one called ‘Lots of Lemons’ a dwarf shrub growing to 1.5m high.

We under-planted our citrus with lemon ‘Federation’ daisies; but herbs or annual flowers would work just as well. Feed with a soluble fertiliser, such as Thrive for Flowering plants every two weeks to keep your potted flowers happy and healthy and flowering well. Trim off spent flowers to encourage more. Herbs prefer a liquid seaweed solution. Don’t overfeed them or they will lose their flavour.


Herbs (thyme and parsley) at eye level. Charming! Photo - Linda Ross 

Action plan

1. Remove old grass

2. Level the courtyard so the new grassy areas and courtyard will be flat

3. Spray paint the fence a soft 'French' green colour

4. Go shopping!

5. Add four paving squares with terracotta pavers

6. Plant feature pots in the corners with topiary spheres

7. Hang a feature screen on the fence

8. Build a feature timber screen to add privacy and paint in soft lemon

9. Pot up citrus, lavender and yellow daisies

10. Level, feed and lay the lawn

11. Dress the space with furniture, chairs and table setting



These gorgeous French ceramic pots are simply stunning with topiary spheres. Photo - Linda Ross 


Planting list

Lemon ‘Meyer’

Lime ‘Tahitian’

Orange ‘Washington Navel’

Grapefruit ‘Ruby’

Mandarin ‘Emperor’

Federation daisy ‘Sunjay’

Lavender ‘Winter Lace’

Greek Oregano (Origanum vulgare ‘Hirtum’)

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)


Text: Linda Ross


About this article

Author: Linda Ross