Vieux Carré courtyards come in all shapes, sizes and styles. Enclosed on all sides by masonry walls and buildings, they afford residents of the city’s most visited neighborhood respite from the crowds and private places to entertain, read a book or simply lounge.
On Sunday, the Friends of the Cabildo’s self-guided tour offers entry to five courtyards and two residences that represent a sampling of what life is like “Behind the Walls of the Vieux Carré.”
One of the courtyards open for touring belongs to Peter Rogers, the acclaimed marketing virtuoso who moved to New Orleans five years ago.
Although the interior of his home is not on the tour, his courtyard provides insight into the discerning style and originality that made Rogers a legend.
He collaborated with Kurt Leblanc of Harold’s Nursery on choosing and situating the plants in the courtyard, after proclaiming he wanted “Tennessee Williams tropical” and not “Aunt Gladys’ flowers.”
“Peter wanted something lush and tropical, but something that didn’t need a lot of maintenance,” LeBlanc explained. “I looked at pictures of his Connecticut house and the landscaping was very formal, very restrained. He wanted just the opposite here.”
Rogers’ Creole cottage and its dependency border the courtyard on two sides, with masonry walls completing the square.
Characterized by flagstone paving, the courtyard features slightly raised beds and containers in a variety of shapes and materials.
The site receives filtered light except for a corner along the Toulouse Street side next to the dependency that gets sun. Three large palm trees were already in place when the redesign began, as was a wall fountain featuring three lion heads.
“The space isn’t really very big, so the trick is to layer heights and textures to give it more dimension,” said Leblanc. “Peter already had a few large, square containers that we used for giant white Bird of Paradise plants and added English ivy. You will see the English ivy in a lot of locations in the garden — I like to use it to soften the edges.”
Walking irises and small white ferns with green edges border the front of the fountain and appear throughout the beds.
A climbing fig sheathes the fountain wall, but the opposite wall is cloaked in bougainvillea, just now resuscitating after winter’s deep freeze.
“Even though the plantings are tropical, most of them did well because the space is protected. We have a lot of cymbidium orchids in the beds and bromeliads for texture and color that were fine,” said LeBlanc. “The Australian tree ferns were knocked back to the ground but in just the past six weeks they have grown back.”
Other plants chosen for the courtyard include crinum lilies, ligularia and heliconias.
“Ligularia have big round dark green leaves and so they contrast with plants that have smaller and lighter colored foliage. The heliconias bloom orange and red, the crinums blooms white and pink,” LeBlanc said. “The only annuals I can think of are in the baskets that hang from the balcony of the slave quarters. It makes maintenance very easy.”
A sweet kumquat in a container satisfied Rogers’ desire for citrus.
According to LeBlanc, the fruit adds color in the winter and the blooms fill the courtyard with fragrance in early spring. An outdoor dining grouping includes chairs with black and white striped cushions, shaded by a black and white striped umbrella.
LeBlanc says that he stops by when he is in the Quarter to check on the courtyard and see what may be needed, but a benefit is a chance to visit with Rogers.
“He is a character beyond words,” LeBlanc said. “So funny.”
R. Stephanie Bruno writes about houses and gardens. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org