Creating a New Orleans Courtyard

When we bought our house, my husband wanted a New Orleans courtyard. What we had was a small, grassy square with a deck. It was COVID when we bought the house. Then the contractor was kinda sloooow. So it was only last summer—a year after buying the house—that we began creating a New Orleans courtyard. I want to share its stages with y’all. As they say, it’s had its ups and downs.

First thing we had to do: lay bricks. These are old St. Joe bricks, kind of famous in New Orleans. You can see that only sand holds the bricks together. This is to make the hardscape more porous. More porous means less runoff into the storm sewers means fewer streets flooding. We left a perimeter bed for plantings.

laying the brick in our New Orleans courtyard
Bricks going down in creating our New Orleans courtyard. Note the now worthless lawn mower.

Next step was laying the electricity for a fountain. I wanted a fountain where the water made a lovely sound. I went to a fountain store in Memphis where the fountains were running so I could hear them in action. The store couldn’t ship to New Orleans (imagine that!) so they gave me the specs to find a dealer here. I found one on the North Shore. The is a photo of the fountain “in process.”

assembling the fountain for our New Orleans courtyard
I wanted a substantial but not overwhelming fountain when creating our New Orleans courtyard. See it fully assembled below.

We began planting, even though it was summer before the contractor got the hardscape in. I chose several categories of plants. Many are time-themed. Black Eyed Susans follow the sun. Day lilies and night phlox, self-evident. Hibiscus blooms only last one day. (I have a prayer plant inside that fits this category.) Other plants are native. Maidenhair fern. Macho fern. Marsh grass. Holly fern. Asparagus fern. Passion Vine. Native Ferns (I know, right?). The Black Eyed Susans and Night Phlox are also native, as are two I’ve forgotten the name of! Finally, I used a lot of tropicals as befitting a New Orleans courtyard.

early plantings in our New Orleans courtyard
Everything starts out bitty when creating a New Orleans courtyard.

We were thrilled this spring when our neighbor’s Chinese Golden Rain Tree carpeted the courtyard with magical yellow blossoms.

Golden Raintree creates magic in our New Orleans courtyard
The yellow blossoms come first then papery rose-colored seed pods

But Hurricane Ida had hit last August 29, the same day as Hurricane Katrina in 2005:

Ida wrecks our New Orleans courtyard
The limbs on the courtyard are from the Chinese Golden Rain Tree that is so lovely above.

We cleaned everything up in time for winter, when so many of the plants went to sleep (I mean winter as we know it in New Orleans.) Now, less than a year later, we have a jungle of plants.

Fountain and lounge chair in courtyard
The courtyard really loves it when it rains.
Seating area in the courtyard
The palm in the corner is new–the sasanqua couldn’t handle the heat this June, the hottest month New Orleans has ever had on record.

The deck that came with the house became a screened porch looking over this tiny courtyard. We put a tin roof on it. You should hear it when it rains.

The porch looks out onto the New Orleans courtyard
The porch opens onto the courtyard

The HVAC unit was on the deck. Our NOLA yard is so narrow, there’s no place else to put it. So we surrounded it with shutters. We used stained glass in several places, but hung it in a way that it can be removed when hurricanes threaten.

Eating area adjacent to the courtyard
That wonky plant on the table is a Night Blooming Cereus, part of my time themed plants.

Last, here is a relic they dug up when prepping for the brick. You’ll have to read the caption on the photo to learn what my husband claims it is.

found when prepping for the courtyard bricks
My husband says this is a dinosaur penis dug up when creating our New Orleans courtyard

Creating a New Orleans Courtyard, Golden Chinese Rain Tree, Hurricane Ida wrecks New Orleans courtyard, Native plants in New Orleans, Plantings in a New Orleans Courtyard, St. Joe brick in New Orleans Courtyard, Time-themed plants

Comments (8)

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      Joanne, I had caladiums return from last year. I have never in all my born years had caladiums overwinter in the ground and return for another year. This tropical zone is something else.

  • This is gorgeous!! So lush so quickly. As we know, the rule in Nola is “everything grows”. And that rain tree? We lived in that house for 7 years where that tree resides, and that tree was maddening for us. Dropped those beautiful flowers (which bees love), then the seed pods, then leaves in the fall. Limbs always dropping off – especially in hard winds. Constantly had to clean gutters. But I loved the shade of that tree. There are so many throughout the city, and owners have a love/hate relationship with them. I am happy you are enjoying those flowers!!! Wish I was still there so we would be back yard neighbors.

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      Emma, I didn’t realize it was your tree! I thought it was in the yard between us. I do enjoy it. But that might be because my introduction to it was coming home to find what seemed like rose petals strewn around my house in some sort of mysterious fairy blessing. I hope the palm makes it in that corner–one reason the sasanqua succumbed, I think, was from competing with the roots of the Tree.

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