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Shade Border And Junk Gardens

I’m very excited to share my Shade Border and Junk Gardens with you. Lots of you, Gingham Gardens’ readers, already know that I love putting together Garden Vignettes using repurposed and upcycled vintage items. Most of the junk garden decor items in my gardens come from flea markets, estate sales, thrift stores and even garage sales. Follow along as I also share some good tips for adding character to your gardens.

Updated pictures and ideas added recently.

When we moved to our home in 2016, this area along the fence had been used as a race track of sorts. The soil was packed solid. At some point, after completing my other makeovers, I started using the lasagna method, which is layering cardboard and grass and leaf clippings, to kill off the grass and weeds. Because the soil was so packed, I decided to rototill the area. I added a few plants and shrubs in the fall of 2017, but left the major planting and overhaul until the summer of 2018.

As you’re scrolling (or strolling) by, please feel free to pin some of the pictures to your favorite Flower Gardening board on Pinterest. Simply hover in the upper right hand corner and you’ll see the pin icon. There are more pins for sharing at the bottom of the page.

Shade Border and Junk Gardens

This shade border is one of the few areas in my yard that is flat, so it’s perfect for my little groupings of junk. It is one of my favorite gardens and the reason for the title Shade Border and Junk Gardens. In my gardens, they just go together.

In this photo there are Annabelle Hydrangeas, Astilbe, Corydalis, Coral Bells, variegated Jacob’s Ladder, Lenten Rose, Hosta and impatiens for some fun pops of color.

I’m having fun trying shade perennials I haven’t grown before. I still have to look at the tags for the names of some of the plants that are new to me. 

Shade Border and Junk Garden Vignettes

If you don’t have money to spend on garden decor items, look around for old logs or tree branches and use them. Large field stones also work to add interest in a garden and I use field stones as borders around my gardens.

Tree stumps or logs can be used to add height to a planter in an area of low growing plants like hosta. See how we made a tree stump planter here.

I’ve used this old vintage wheelbarrow in my gardens as a planter for several years. Old wheelbarrows make awesome, unique planters. 

This is the first time I’ve included Sweet Potato Vine in my wheelbarrow planter. I love how it cascades over the side, but I don’t love how the bugs just eat it up. Next year I’ll go back to Creeping Jenny because nobody likes to eat her.

Here’s the vintage wheelbarrow planter another year with caladium, begonias, impatiens, coleus and creeping Jenny. When you’ve finished up here, pop over and check out Creative Ideas for Shade Container Gardens.

Image of Wheelbarrow planter in a shade garden.

And, another year of the wheelbarrow. It’s gotten sort of rickety, so it stays put year round. The squirrels like to dig in it, so I sprinkle cinnamon over the top of the soil right after I plant it and that keeps them away. This year is has caladium, impatiens, polka dot plant, creeping Jenny and sweet potato vine.

Old wheelbarrow with flower planted in it.

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Moving along down the fence line, we come to this sweet vignette featuring a replica of a vintage gate. My daughter and I made the sign with an old piece of fencing, a stencil and some paint markers.

Free hand printing or cursive would be cute too. I always spray garden junk that I paint, with this UV Protection spray so it doesn’t fade. We have an entire post dedicated to Garden Signs. Check it out when you’ve finished here.

There are Impatiens (that are taking their sweet time blooming) along with lobelia in a wicker basket I picked up at a thrift store. Again to add height to this arrangement, I used a clay pot turned upside down. The cute birdhouse is a new addition this year.

This ‘Welcome to the Garden’ vignette is a more recent addition to this shade border. If you look closely, you can see that the chair is elevated by standing it on pots turned upsidedown. 

Garden setting with a welcome sign, a solar lantern and a plant stand with flowers.

It’s fun to change things up every year and create different little groupings of junk. In the picture below, I used the same birdhouse that’s pictured above in a different place in the shade border garden. I added an old coal bucket planter (with caladium, impatiens and variegated ivy) to the grouping.

Image of a shade garden

You will notice that I use solar lights in most of my garden vignettes. I think they add lots of character, even during the day. And, yes most of them get just enough sun that they do light up at night at least for a few hours.

Image of a Shade Garden

I’ve wanted an old bicycle to add to my gardens for years and finally I found this one a few years ago. I think it’s adorable! The basket is filled with trailing torenia (wishbone flower) and impatiens.

Another year the basket is full of trailing torenia and impatiens. The first planting of lobelia was eaten by squirrels. Who would have thought!

The old chair is back. Every year it gets a bit more rickety. The planter is filled with caladium, impatiens and vinca vine. I think there’s a fern hiding in there  too.

Across the yard in front of my garden shed, is what I call my junk garden. It’s a fun place to display a bunch of my little garden tchotchkes (pronounced chachkies).

Here’s my rickety ladder. I always think this thing will blow over and all my junk will go flying, but it has survived many wind storms.

I used creeping jenny, ivy and polka dot plant in the various little containers. Some plants don’t do very well in small containers, but these are working great and drying out a few times hasn’t killed them. Succulents also do well in small containers.

Do you notice the spider web? I think it fits right in with my junk theme, so I let it stay.

Old galvanized watering cans make the cutest planters or even empty they add tons of character to a garden. If you use a watering can for a planter, be sure they leak or punch holes in the bottom for drainage.

I used a trio of logs for this little vignette. The coleus is so beautiful! The little watering can was easy to match to the coral colored flowers with a can of spray paint. Again I used logs here to add variations in height.

Another year in the shed garden. Isn’t the new shed sign super cute.

Rustic garden with a bench, potting shed and plants.

The old ladder got a paint job. Spray paint is a junk gardener’s best friend. Lots of ivy, impatiens and polka dot plant. Are you starting to learn some great shade plants for containers.

Old ladder in an outdoor garden.

We picked this rusty, little wagon up at a flea market. This is one of my favorite newer additions. Instead of planting right in the wagon, I just used pots and arranged them in the wagon.

Rusty wagon with plants in it in a garden.

It’s easy to find lots of items fairly cheap to upcycle or repurpose as decor for your gardens.  If you go to Flea Markets, Estate Sales, Thrift Stores or Garage Sales, keep on the lookout for these items: 

  • Ladders
  • Chairs
  • Old Wheelbarrows
  • Galvanized Milk Pails and other containers
  • Galvanized Watering Cans
  • Vintage Milk Cans
  • Wicker Baskets
  • And many, many more. There’s a printable list for you in the Gardening Resources Library.

If you like using upcycled or repurposed vintage junk in the garden, you’ll enjoy these posts too:

Creative Garden Ideas
Garden Decor (Lots of Creative Ideas for Your Garden)
Garden Vignettes Using Flea Market Finds
Upcycled Vintage Garden Decor
Creative Flower Container Gardening

Add some character to your gardens:

I’m so glad you stopped by Gingham Gardens today! Do you like to decorate your gardens with repurposed junk? If so, what are your favorite pieces of garden junk? Please leave a comment and let me know. As always, if you have a gardening question, just ask. Thanks a bunch for stopping by and come back soon!

Happy gardening,


I’m participating and sharing in Carol’s Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, where gardeners from all over the world share their gardens. Pop over when you get a chance. It’s quite spectacular!

p.s. Go ahead and feel free to “pin” these pictures. If you hover in the upper left-hand corner of the picture, you’ll see the little Pinterest icon. Just click it and pin away. There are also pins to share at the bottom of the page. Thanks a bunch!

p.p.s I’d love to have you follow me on Pinterest. Lots of great gardening ideas and tons of gardener’s eye candy. Gingham Gardens has a Facebook page too.

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