Maurice, Todd & Bean's Secret Courtyard Garden

Maurice, Todd & Bean's Secret Courtyard Garden

Heather Blaha
Oct 4, 2012

Name: Maurice, Todd, & Bean (pup)
Location: Edgewater, Chicago
Years lived in: 5

We promised back in May that we'd revisit Maurice and Todd when their garden was in full swing. Well, we missed some blooms, but the leafy lushness and late summer ease were in full effect when we snapped some images a few weeks ago. Designing his garden has been "a five-year labor of love and a great source of joy all year round" for Maurice. This love overflows into the alley as well (image 15 in the slideshow), where Maurice has taken over with some unexpected beautification...brilliant.

My Style: I've always enjoyed gardening - whether it was tending to house plants or gardening the smallest sliver of dirt. When we bought this place and moved here, we were determined to take the empty shell of an oddball courtyard and make it an inviting garden. I had no particular style in mind - I just wanted a green space where our dog could run and we could relax. I thought in five-year increments, not single seasons, and planned accordingly. My goal was to establish a lasting foundation, then try out new ideas and let them evolve. Five years later, the courtyard garden is a delightful, private oasis in a bustling city where the trains rumble overhead.

Inspiration: I have many gardening gathering ideas that inspire me. A trip to Michiana Shores inspired my bamboo grove; walking my dog through Chicago's leafy neighborhoods sparked my desire for a European Sweetgum tree; and a visit to a friend's garden inspired a trellis wall of Japanese hydrangea and clematis.

Favorite Element: The bamboo grove I planted at the south end of the property between the elevated tracks of the CTA and the east wall of our property. The grove was planted the very first spring we moved in, and it's now an established, central component of my design providing a beautiful screen at the south gate of the property.

Biggest Challenge: Laying one ton of fine granite tamped down several inches deep along the entire dog run and through the bamboo grove all the way to the south gate.

What Friends Say: A little piece of heaven!

Proudest DIY: Tamping down all that granite!

Biggest Indulgence: The industrial water fountain against the west wall of the courtyard, and the simple, farm table and bench I designed and had built by a local carpenter from 100 year old salvaged wood.

Best Advice: Have a fundamental plan for your space, and then jump in and have fun! Gardening requires patience and plants require time to grow and landscapes don't look like much until things fill out. You have to be able to think and see two and three years down the road - gardening requires a long-range view.

Resources of Note:


    • modern trellises - Restoration Hardware
    • side chairs and bench - DWR
    • farm table and bench - Designed by Maurice and built by a local carpenter from 100 year old salvaged wood
    • Blu Dot Real Good Chairs
    • side table - IKEA
    • Mexican Blue River Rock
    • Wisconsin Charcoal Gray Fine Granite
    • Buddha head - Cassona in Andersonville


    • Shopped locally from a variety of garden centers and antique stores.


    • Spectabilis and Golden Bamboo
    • Japanese Hydrangea
    • Clematis
    • Weeping Japanese Maple
    • Weeping Cypress
    • Hybridized European Sweetgum
    • Boston Ivy
    • Solomon Seal
    • Lily-of-the-Valley
    • Creeping Bamboo
    • Creeping Jenny
    • Coleus
    • Sweet Potato Vines
    • Tulips
    • Japanese Iris
    • Hostas

Thanks, Maurice!

(Images: Heather Blaha)

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