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Flower Garden Makeover – Before and After

Today I’m sharing another Flower Garden Makeover, with lots of Before and After photos, as well as photos and details of the process. Do you have an area in your yard that you’ve deemed impossible and you just do your best to ignore it?

This area I’m about to show you was exactly that, except, even though I wanted to, I just couldn’t ignore it. It’s on the front southeast corner of our ½ acre lot. We live on a corner lot and a busy 4-lane road borders one side of our property. This area is very visible in that it’s bordered by our street and this 4-lane road. It’s one of the areas (there were lots of those) when we first looked at the house that I knew I could make beautiful.  Little did I know what was ahead. Follow along as I chronicle the two-year progress on this Flower Garden Makeover.

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Overgrown Garden – Where to Start

I wish I had taken pictures of this area when we moved in. It was full of waist high weeds and some perennial grasses that were probably pretty several years ago. There was a rose bush that was scraggly and pathetically ugly. There were lots of Irises and Siberian Irises. The entire border of the bed was rimmed with Autumn Joy Sedum, which I like, but not that much. The picture below is from Google from about 5 years ago, so my apologies for the terrible quality. At least you can get an idea of how bad the area looked. Hideous, right?

Flower Garden Makeover - Before

Before I could do anything, the maple tree in the middle of this area needed to come down. It was too close to another tree and it was diseased (as were/are so many trees on our lot). Word to the wise, look at trees when you’re house shopping. It’s expensive to have trees cut down. However, this tree was small enough that the hubby and our boys (they’re really men) could handle cutting it down.  This was early in the spring before many of the weeds began to emerge.

Flower Garden Makeover - Before

Another angle.

Flower Garden Makeover - Before

After the tree was cut down, I started the work of removing all the plants and weeds. Holy cow, I had no idea what I was in for. There was a layer of junk, then mulch and then about a 12 inch layer of river rock. Under the river rock was a dreaded layer of landscape fabric.  And, tree roots, ugh!

Apparently, to spiff up the bed, the previous owners had covered the mess with mulch. After digging for about 30 – 45 minutes just to free one plant, I knew I was in over my head. I’m stubborn, so for me to admit that, you just have to know it was bad. I begged my hubby to help me and after he worked and worked to free a few plants, he suggested we hire someone to clean the bed out.

Flower Bed Makeover – Progress

It took about 3 or 4 weeks, several hours and more money than I wanted to spend, but it was then at least workable. Once our helper had it cleared as much as he could, we added several inches of compost to the top. It’s still a pain to dig in because I still hit areas where there’s way to much rock and tree roots, but I’m determined. Every time I plant something, I come away with another bucket of river rocks. As I plant, I add in more compost and a slow release fertilizer called Osmocote. After the planting was done and before I added several inches of mulch, I sprinkled Preen in the open areas around the plants.

I got to the place where I just had to get plants in and get the area mulched, so I didn’t have to constantly battle weeds coming up again. This is an area where I’ve basically just planned as I planted. It’s not an area where I had a vision in mind, like my Shade Garden Makeover, nor did I take the time to design it out on paper.

Flower Garden Makeover - During

I had to work around two big granite boulders and the tree stump. The granite boulders cannot be moved, but I love them, so I design around them. I left two plants alone that were growing in the weed bed. One is a peony, which is placed okay, with one of the granite boulders as a back drop. The other plant I kept the first year was the rose bush growing in front of the other boulder.

Flower Garden Makeover - During

I initially wanted the tree stump hollowed out, so I could use it as a planter, but after working at it for a few hours and breaking a few saw blades, my hubs nixed that idea. I decided to sit my old whiskey barrel planter on top of the tree stump. Notice how the rose bush has gone crazy. Just a thorny bush though and no roses.

Flower Garden Makeover - After Year 1

Flower Garden Makeover – After

Here’s the bed a few weeks later filling in nicely. Oh, but that ugly, crazy rose bush that doesn’t bloom. It just had to go.

Flower Garden Makeover - After Year 1

Here are a few of my favorite vignettes from the first year of my Flower Garden Makeover. The whiskey barrel filled in nicely.

Whiskey Barrel Planter Vignette - Flower Garden Makeover - After

Love those granite boulders and my little red windmill.

Windmill, Granite Boulder, Satin & Lace Berry Chiffon Coreopsis, Becky shasta daisy at Gingham Gardens

Year 2 of the Flower Garden Makeover

Okay, on to the second year of my Flower Garden Makeover. Unfortunately, lots of my perennials did not survive our awful winter and spring. We had a deep freeze in November and December before we got snow. Then in April, we had periods of thaw and then deep freeze and snow. I had purchased many of the perennials at local nurseries that guarantee their plants, so I was able to replace most of them.

This year I tried to go with plants that I consider tougher, but I’m sure it will take a few years to learn what will grow best in this flower bed. Planting in this flower bed still isn’t easy, there are still river rocks and tree roots to contend with, but my CobraHead weeder and this Shovel have been lifesavers and back savers.

Flower Garden - Makeover After

It’s kind of a crazy mess, but it looks so much better than it did. Some of the perennials include, Asiatic Lilies, several varieties of Daylilies, Bee Balm, Becky Shasta Daisies, Walker’s Low Catmint, Balloon Flower, Coneflower, Black-eyed Susan, Globe Thistle, Coreopsis and others. I also included some annual flowers for consistent color.

Flower Garden - Makeover After

Below are a few of my favorite close-up pictures of the flower bed this year. This one includes, Yellow Asiatic Lilies, Jethro Tull Coreopsis and Rozanne Geranium.

Yellow Asiatic Lilies, Jethro Tull Coreopsis & Roxanne Geranium - Flower Garden Makeover

I believe I shared this picture of Walker’s Low Catmint, Becky Shasta Daisies and Orange Asiatic Lilies before, but I love it so here it is again.

Flower Garden - Walker's Low Catmint, Becky Shasta Daisies & Orange Asiatic Lilies

Flower Garden Makeover Update

This flower bed has grown and evolved into a beautiful garden that I just had to show some updates. When I’m working in this flower bed, neighbors always stop and comment on how much they enjoy it and how beautiful it is. That being said, it’s very difficult to capture pictures of this island bed. My goal with this flower garden is to have lots of perennials blooming for all seasons and I believe I’ve succeeded. A passerby just commented to me today that she loved how there was also something blooming and something new to see.

In 2019, the 4-lane road under went major road construction. The city official in charge of the construction was kind enough to rope off my flower bed. I was still a little nervous that many of my plants would be destroyed or trampled, but luckily other than lots of trash, the plants faired okay.

road construction with flower bed roped off

In spite of the construction, I was still able to have some beauty in this flower bed. My old whiskey barrel got all the leftover annual flowers I had this summer. It still looks cute, especially with the little hanging watering can.

Whiskey barrel with flowers planted in it.There are many pretty plant combinations. The Becky shasta daisies that are pictured above, did not survive the winter in this bed. Here are Asiatic lilies in the background finishing their bloom cycle, along with Walker’s Low Catmint Jr., Happy Returns and Prairie Blossoms daylilies.

Flower garden with daylilies and catmint

I love this hot combination of blanket flowers and butterfly weed.

Orange butterfly weed and blanket flowers

In 2020, we completed the border with field stones.

Flower garden with purple petunias and daylilies

Later in the summer of 2020, there’s black-eyed Susan’s, yarrow, balloon flowers, coneflowers, phlox, daylilies, etc.

flower garden

Spring of 2021, the alliums, irises and grape hyacinths have finished blooming and the salvia, sea thrift and cranesbill are taking over.

Flower garden in spring

This is one of those gardens that will continue to evolve over time and I will definitely chronicle those changes here on the blog, so stay tuned. I hope I’ve inspired you to tackle an area of your yard that needs work. Make sure to take lots of before and after pictures, because its so gratifying to look back and see the progress.

Do you have an area in your yard that needs a redo or a good makeover? If you need help with a flower bed makeover, How to Make Over a Flower Garden, Flower Gardening 101Flower Garden Design and Flower Garden Maintenance Tips are wonderful articles that I believe you’ll find helpful.

Thanks a bunch for stopping by Gingham Gardens today. If you enjoyed this Flower Garden Makeover, take a few minutes to check out my other makeovers – Tiered Garden Makeover, Another Garden Makeover and Shade Garden Makeover. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment at the bottom of the post.

Happy gardening,

p.s. Please share some this post on Pinterest by hovering in the upper left hand corner of the pictures, or pinning the collages at the bottom of the post. Thank you!

p.p.s. – Follow Gingham Gardens on Pinterest for lots of great gardening ideas and tons of gardener’s eye candy.

A few of my favorite gardening tools and decor items:

Some collages to share on Pinterest:

Image of a flower garden with text overlay ugly weedy garden gets transformed into a Pretty Flower Garden...

Image of a flower garden with text overlay ugly weedy garden gets transformed into a Pretty Flower Garden...


    1. Hi Kat, thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens. The windmill comes with 4 spike type things that you anchor the windmill to the ground. We are in a very windy area and I’ve never had the windmill blow over. Happy gardening, Joanna

  1. Lots of hard work, we live in South Dakota, zone 4b. I removed all the rocks (ha ha) from flower beds last year and hope to never have to do it again, every flower bed covered in rocks and landscape cloth for many years, what a mess. Your gardens are beautiful, what would you suggest for mulch?

    1. Hi Peggy – thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens. I like to use a good, double or triple shredded wood mulch. I freshen it up every years with about 2 inches of additional mulch. The mulch breaks down over time and helps to enrich the soil. Happy gardening, Joanna

  2. I wonder if that rose was root stock leftover from a grafted rose that died back to the ground? Your garden looks great now!

    1. Hi Joanna – love your name! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. You’re probably right about the rose bush being a leftover graft. I glad you enjoyed the makeover. Joanna

  3. Your garden looks lovely. I have a low cost, last effort idea for getting rid of the tree stump. After cutting it as level close to the ground as you can, drill many hokes in it (I have used a 1/2 inch wood boring bit) and then pour “stump remove.” (available at Home Depot or Lowe’s) into the holes. I think I used a powder kind that I then put water over. Within 6 months, the stump is disintegrating/decomposing. It The next year, I was able to dig around in that area, because the roots were also decomposing. I think the chemical cost me around $10, and I was able to get rid of about a dozen 12″ diameter stumps from diseased oak trees that I had to cut down.

    1. Thank you Barbara for stopping by, your kind words and suggestion of a way to remove the stump. I have done some research on the very thing you suggest and we actually bought the product last year to try on some stumps (we have many). We never got around to trying it, but it’s on my agenda for this spring. However, I’m hesitant to use the chemical on the tree stump in this flower bed because I fear it would kill the surrounding perennials too. Thanks again and come back soon!

  4. Joanna- nice work! I have an area overgrown with lambs ears, irises, and a couple rose bushes that I need to tackle this year.

    I had a rose bush in the backyard like yours- grew well, but no flowers. I dosed it with bone meal in the fall, and again in the spring, and this summer I had the most beautiful bush loaded with red roses! Don’t give up on one until you’ve tried this!

    I have a question about the catmint… Do cats bother it? I just don’t want to invite tgem to hang out in my flower beds!

    1. Hi Melanie, thanks so much for stopping by. I love your tip for roses. I have lots of catmint in my gardens and the neighborhood cats don’t seem to bother it. Good luck with your makeover!

  5. Joanna- Loving all the renovations you have done and are doing in your garden! Do you ever give in-person tours? I live western suburbs Hennepin county, so can’t be too far away.
    Thanks for the encouragement and pictures

    1. Hi Pam – thanks for stopping by! Yes, someday I will give tours. I did at my former gardens, but just not up to it here yet. Thanks for your interest and happy gardening!

  6. That’s a lot of work, Joanna! I helped my sister with her garden one year, removing some old plants from that landscape cloth (HATE that stuff, couldn’t even cut it with a garden saw knife!). Roots from bushes are bad enough but that tree? Ugh. We had a tree removed in 2016 that was huge, and the guy who took it out (1 helper), completely chipped it and ground out the root in one day for so little money, my entire block of neighbors has since hired him to come to trim and raise the canopy of their riverbank trees – about 2 dozen total among all of us. He’s a keeper!
    Your flower bed looks great. I love the granite boulders (wish I had some of those on my riverbank, but estimates to have huge sandstone boulders (which is native in our area) placed was cost prohibitive. Your whiskey barrel looks really great, and does a terrific job of hiding the surface trunk. Smart choice to oust the rose. I either have or have planted many of your choices. It’s interesting to see you’re in Zone 4b (I am 7a, used to be 6b until USDA rezoning in 2012). I always enjoy seeing the gardens in different growing regions, with good commentary. Thanks for sharing your dirt!

    1. Hi Rita – thanks for stopping by. I wish we could find a tree service that was inexpensive. To me it’s such waste of money to spend it on having trees cut down. We still have a few that need to come down and we just keep putting it off. On the next one’s, we will definitely have the stumps ground out. I love the gardening and all that goes with it, but my aging body doesn’t always like trying to dig through rocks and tree roots. I do love the outcome. Thanks again for popping over and leaving such sweet comments. Happy gardening!

  7. We moved into our mobile home inat the end of November. I could see evidence of huge overgrown hostas. On the west side of iur house. No time this spring to do anything about them. They are so huge that they are more like shrubs. We have no shade in out yard so as you can imagine, with multiple 100° days, those hostas are burnt and ragged. I need to dig them out and replace them with something. When is the best time to do so and what do you suggest I replace them with.

    1. Hi Linda, thanks for stopping by. I’m assuming you are in a much warmer zone than my zone 4b Gardens. I would definitely wait until fall to tackle your garden project. First dig all the old plants out, so you have a clean slate. Consider perennials that can take the heat in your area. I would suggest daylilies, Shasta daisies, coneflower, rubeckia, sedum, etc. You should probably check with a local nursery to see what grows well in your area. Also check out my post on Flower Gardening 101 and Flower Garden Design. Best of Luck and happy gardening!

  8. Wow, you did make something beautiful. Those granite boulders are amazing and add so much. Your selection of plants have made your space eye catching and a home for humming birds ,butterflies and bees which is a good thing!
    Cudos for all your hard work.

    1. I’ve seen lots of bees, dragonflies and a few butterflies, but no hummingbirds yet. Thanks so much for your kind comments and for stopping by. Happy gardening!

  9. Joanna, I know the hard work involved in this two year project and it has paid off. The area looks beautiful. I love the Asiatic lilies and the coneflowers are always a nice addition. I enjoyed reading the details of what had to be done, you didn’t give up and it turned out so pretty.n Thank you for joining Gardens Galore!

  10. beautiful! i do not have a green thumb, unfortunately…and i also have a me versus my plants attitude, lol. if it’s hot out, i stay inside…and they end up dying b/c i haven’t watered them. i need to get a better system going!

    1. Ha ha. There’s no such thing as a green thumb! I say anyone can garden, but it does take some effort. Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your gardening endeavors.

  11. Good afternoon Joanna, I believe you should call this garden” The Little Engine That Could Garden” I am sure the passersby enjoy what you’ve accomplished & have no idea of the level of effort it took to accomplish this. As those plants mature & fill in this is going to be a fantastic curbside garden. Good luck, Joe

    1. Thanks for your encouragement, Joe. We do get lots of compliments from the neighbors and passersby.

  12. Your bed looks beautiful! We had areas where previous owners had put down river rock too. I detest the stuff – as you know, it sinks down into the ground and makes it hard to dig to plant.

    1. Hi Beth, yep, I feel the same way as you about river rock. We’ve had to deal with it in multiple areas. Happy gardening!

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