If you've taken my humble courtyard tour, you noticed the area on the east side of the garden, in the shade created by the live oak and the house. It was once a small patch of St. Augustine, but it was requiring too much work to keep it alive in the shade. I converted the area to a pea gravel "patio," and no, I did not first lay down "weed-blocking fabric." (But more about that later.)
I knew the expanse of gravel would require something on it or in it to "break it up," and make it more interesting. A bench, or a table and chairs would have been nice, but I had those elsewhere. I decided on a small planting bed, placed along the axis I had already created between the end of the pavement patio and the large blue Mexican urn. But what should the shape be? Round would be nice, but I decided it needed a little more pizazz. Besides, my garden is made up of both curved and square shapes.
In the Southwest, and in San Antonio in particular, you see a certain ornamental quatrefoil shape everywhere. I saw these in Dallas, at Highland Park Village:
In San Antonio they are everywhere. They are common in Moorish and Spanish art, and when used in heraldry, they are called barbed quatrefoils. A quatrefoil is any shape made up of four leaves or petals, and they are often found along with trefoils and cinquefoils in gothic tracery. The triangles in between the four circular elements could have originally been sepals peeking out between four-petaled flowers' petals.
The shape has always been very popular in Spanish Colonial and Mission Revival architecture. When used for this purpose, the "barbs" usually form the corners of a square, making the shape a quatrefoil superimposed on a square. I find it everywhere in San Antonio, which of course was originally a Spanish city of missions. It is found on churches:
Highway overpasses (?) :
And, come to think of it, one side of the shape even forms the top of the well-recognized pediment of our most famous mission, the Alamo:
Which is probably the reason that the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau chose this shape as their logo for the city:
All of which is a long way to explain why I chose the barbed quatrefoil as the shape for my bed for shade loving plants. It had to have a high edge, to keep the gravel from being kicked up into it, so I chose old D'Hanis bricks in a rose color for contrast. First, I played with the shape in the garage:
I eventually made the "barbs" more prominent. I lined the shape up with the view to the Mexican urn and after much measurement and fiddling, placed the bricks on end, "bad sides down" in the garden. I tamped them in with a rubber mallet, leveling their tops. Here is the finished work:
I placed a cast-stone birdbath in the center for height, and surrounded it with miniature hostas (blue lollipop,) trailing cinquefoil (the plant,) and a little variegated needlepoint ivy in the middle (Silver King.) What do you think? I think it adds a little San Antonio flair to the courtyard!
Here is a long shot, showing in the distance how the birdbath inside the quatrefoil is aligned with the large turquoise urn.