WE'VE all seen pictures of those sun-kissed Mediterranean courtyards with masses of brightly-coloured flowers that tumble out of old terracotta pots and through the delicate tracery of wrought iron balconies.
If you are lucky enough to have one, a courtyard is the garden area that comes closest to being a true outdoor room.
A courtyard space should feel as though it has four "solid" walls. But solid is more visual than literal. A vine-covered trellis or a hedge may close in a small space without making it feel claustrophobic.
A retractable awning is one way to add enclosure, and a temporary roof that covers the courtyard completely in winter also extends the time you can use the area and protects the plants within. But whatever structure you choose, make sure plenty of light can still filter through.
A courtyard looks most natural when the style, materials, finishes and colour are in tune with the architecture of your home.
Think scale. The absence of a roof makes the space feel bigger than it is. A grouping of tables and chairs that feels comfortable on an open patio may look cramped in a walled courtyard. Scale also comes into play when selecting plants. In terms of both design and horticulture, it works better to have fewer, larger pots than many little pots.