This Fatherís Day, why not try something different? This year, create a bit of the French Quarter right in your own backyard. For ideas to set the mood, pay a virtual visit to the picturesque courtyards of a few of the hotels of New Orleans by clicking on the links below.
The Courtyard at The Historic French Market Inn
These hotel courtyards can be easily recreated in almost any tiny corner, indoors or out. Just think green Ė lots of green plants grouped together, maybe a wall or free standing fountain, and a string or two of outdoor lights. Need a bit of shade? Market umbrellas are fairly inexpensive ($30 - $50 at discount stores). Add a table and chairs, a bowl of spicy Shrimp Creole and you are there!
Once you have cleaned and leveled (if necessary) the area you have selected to transform into your courtyard garden, it is time to decide where to set your furnishings. Do you need to Ďhideí or move anything from view? You probably donít want to look at the lawn equipment or the trash cans when eating so consider moving them out of view. If you canít move them, even temporarily, try masking them with lattice panels, reed fencing, or a barrier of plants.
What time of day will you be using your courtyard? If you need shade, consider that when arranging the furniture. My side patio has a beautiful tree, but it doesnít offer enough shade in the right spot during the late afternoon, when I am having my party. I picked up an inexpensive canvas market umbrella for $29 at the supermarket, of all places! It is big enough to offer shade to those that want it, but not so big as to be in the way.
How much seating do you need? The little wrought iron bistro table that I rescued from decay is perfect for everyday, but much too small for my entire family, so we will use a picnic table set, covered with a large banquet cloth for this event. The bistro table will act as our serving table.
Once the furniture is in place, you can fill in with plants.
I took my inspiration from the courtyard photos of the Historic French Market Inn. I purchased about 12 plants in assorted sizes, ranging from a tall leafy palm to some 1 gallon gardenias. I choose greenery that was suited to the exposure. Some of the plants were repotted using ceramic pots, but most were kept in their black plastic nursery containers. It will be more effective to group plants together rather than spreading them around. My main grouping consisted of my large leafy palm, with 3 small Phoenix palms (set on bricks to add height), and 3 low azaleas. I made another small grouping of 3 plants around the base of my tree and put the remaining 2 medium bushes on either side of my bistro serving table.
The finishing touch, before your food is prepared and your guests arrive is music. Nothing sets the mood of a party like music. If you can burn some music CDs, I find it best to put a variety on one disk. It is more interesting and also no one is stuck listening to 12 songs in a row by an artist they donít like!
We decided that our little courtyard was so nice that we decided to keep it as a permanent part of our yard. We strung up a few strings of clear patio lights along the fence and in one of our trees and hung outdoor speakers. We now have an intimate little spot to enjoy warm summer evenings, long after Fatherís Day is a fond memory.