York is the fastest growing city in percentage terms in the north of England. It sometimes feels like there’s a constant pressure on our green spaces with applications for new housing going in all the time. At the same time the cost of putting a roof over your head in the city keeps going up. It’s seen as a desirable place to live for all kinds of reasons.
It’s likely as a result that more and more of us are going to be forced into high density living whether we like it or not. Under such circumstances gardens are seen as a luxury. It’s not the first time in the city’s history that there’s been pressure to build more and quicker in less and less space. During the 19th and early 20th century similar pressures helped to create the now very desirable terraced streets such as you find in Bishophill, South Bank and The Groves. One of the most desirable places to live in York is Bishy Road which even twenty years ago wasn’t seen as particularly salubrious.
Houses with ‘proper gardens’ in those neighbourhoods usually sell at a premium, the rest making do with a courtyard. But just because a house only has a courtyard, it doesn’t mean it can’t be a garden.
I currently look after two such courtyard gardens belonging to terraced houses. They’re a couple of my favourite gardens for all kinds of reasons not least because when I began gardening I only had a courtyard. For a birthday someone bought me a book about container vegetable growing and within no time at all the garden was full of tomatoes, salad crops, potatoes, squashes and beans. The crop was mixed but relatively succesful. The following year I added large pots filled with wildflower seeds, sweet peas and a couple of potted fruit trees. The result was dramatic, the garden was suddenly filled with all kinds of pollinating insects and the hard brick and concrete space we could see from our kitchen window was transformed. It even inspired an artist friend to come and draw it. Courtyard gardens tucked away in densely populated areas often have a secret garden quality to them.
Courtyard’s allow for all kinds of design possibilities as well. Islamic and Mediterranean gardens with their fountains, shaded seating areas and an abundance of well situated pots can be magical places in the heart of the hot city (and York has been VERY hot this summer). Plants like cistus, lavender, santolina and genista often feature. Likewise the traditional English cottage style can translate quite well into a courtyard with most traditional cottage plants coping quite well in pots as long as they are well looked after. Clematis and wisteria will happily cover brick outhouses, grapes, peaches and figs will grow in a courtyard microclimate.
Give me a courtyard stuffed with all kinds of plants, climbers up the wall, a bike leant against an outhouse, a bistro set with pots of French lavender, perhaps a water feature or two and I’m happy.
If you’ve got a courtyard garden in need of some TLC or would like some help in turning your brick and concrete space into something more magical then get in touch