A central fountain in a courtyard setting is derived from Moorish garden style. Colored tile, stucco walls, and grill work are also integral to this style of garden. Originating in the Middle East, this style was brought to Spain by the Moors, to Mexico by the Spanish, and to the American West by the Mexicans.
Designed to provide a shelter from harsh winds, sun, and noise, courtyard gardens are well suited to both the southwestern and southeastern United States. They are also adaptable to urban settings in other areas. Contemporary, Spanish, and stucco homes are all compatible with this style.
A fountain or pool is usually the focal point, and stucco walls and lush plantings serve as a backdrop. Once the main elements are in place, the surrounding areas are relatively easy to design and plant. Drought-tolerant plantings and paved areas keep maintenance to a minimum.
Trees common in the Southwestern courtyard gardens are trident maple (Acer buergerianum), silk tree (Albizia julibrissin), common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), beefwood (Casuarina cunninghamiana), citrus, mayten (Maytenus boaria), and black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia).
Appropriate shrubs that tolerate drought and heat include rockrose (Cistus species), Spanish broom (Genista hispanica), oleander, and pomegranate. Dwarf coyotebush (Baccharis pilularis) and pink clover blossom (Polygonum capitatum) are excellent ground covers for this style of garden. Bougainvillea and scented vines are used to cover and add texture to the walls.