Today the courtyard garden is a secluded oasis, screened on two sides by a 6-foot-tall fence, while the house on one end and the stucco retaining wall opposite complete the enclosure. "The stucco wall really set the theme for this garden," says Pfeiffer. "Steve and Davis responded to the weathered surface, so we used rustic, stacked-stone walls, a wooden-frame pergola, and simple gravel and rough stone pavers to give the garden the kind of feeling of warmth and intimacy that you find in a traditional European garden."
If Lesson One is called "Find the Theme-Setter," Lesson Two is "Arranging the Space" according to how it will be used. Here there are four distinct areas: the raised terrace that provides the transition between indoors to outdoors; the arbor-covered dining area; the grass lawn that marks the transition from the public street into the private garden; and the "sunken" gravel-floored seating area between the lawn and the dining area.
In keeping with the rustic theme, simple materials are used, like stepping stones across the small lawn and gravel instead of solid paving in the seating area. Gravel is an underused landscaping material, but Pfeiffer uses it routinely: It is porous, so water doesn't puddle, and it's economical.
One of Pfeiffer's favorite ploys is to have edibles, like the grapes over the dining arbor, and blueberry bushes and strawberry plants in the borders, do double duty as ornamentals. Scent, too, is easy to enjoy in small enclosed gardens, and perfumed plants are prominent here.