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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 plants 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.

I’ve used this old vintage wheelbarrow in my gardens as a planter for several years. Old wheelbarrows make awesome, unique planters. I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to Wheelbarrows in the Garden.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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! 

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 for another year. 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.

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. 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. I’m hoping I get my rear in gear and get some cuttings off the coleus for next year. It’s just too pretty not to save. 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 variation 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.

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.

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:

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.

Pins to Share:

Image of a wheelbarrow planter with text overlay - 16 creative ideas shade border junk garden


Image of a shade garden with text overlay shade gardens with vintage junk


  1. Enjoyed my stroll through your junk gardens, absolutely love it!! A lot of the container plants you use are considered perennial for me. Would they keep in a container or should I use annuals?

    1. Hi Victoria – I’m so glad you enjoyed the junk gardens post. I’m not sure what zone you are in, but generally perennial flowers do not overwinter in containers unless you’re in very warm gardening zones. Just sticking with annuals should work just fine. Good luck and happy gardening. Stop back soon! Joanna

  2. How do you keep grass from growing between your fieldstones? I love your border, but we have some boulders in our front yard and the grass is always growing between them, and it is hard to weed whack between boulders.

    1. Hi Tiffany – that’s a great question. I try to create a trench of sorts between the grass and the fieldstone border, that way I don’t have to deal with grass growing between the stone border. To keep the weeds down in the dirt part between the grass and the stones, you can use some grass clippings and Preen. I do have to clean out the border about once a season, but I’m finding that as time goes by, the grass grows less and less between the rocks. I hope this makes sense. Joanna

  3. What a wonderful garden! It definitely shows the love and time that is put into it! The bicycle and the ladders are just adorable.

  4. Wow ! beautiful ,Its always pleasent to recycle old stuff aesthetically into garden…Loved the use of old stool in arrangement of plants and creating a focal point in garden…idea of using watering can as a flowering pot is remarkable…Happy blooms day.

  5. Someone mentioned pollinators. Forgive me if you talked about this subject but are people aware that we have a new state bee? It is called the Rusty Patched Bumblebee. and it is endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Minnesota is one of 10 states where they still survive. There is a $900,000 ( over 2 years ) Grant to homeowners who add pollinator habitat to their yards, People who apply will be reimbursed 75% of their cost,. Most sightings are in the urban area.But check it out…legislators, in Minnesota, also approved Statewide funding for the wild bees including the Bumblebee.. Our county recommended we wait untill SPRING to check it out.

    1. Hi Linda, Thanks so much for stopping by and taking time to leave a comment. I thought long and hard about your comment and how I would respond. Yes, I’ve read about this grant and here’s what I think. Honestly, I am really not in favor of our tax dollars being spent like this. I’m all for saving the bees and other pollinators, but I don’t think giving people money to create a pollinator habitat in residential neighborhoods is the answer, nor do I think it will help for too many reasons to mention here. I would rather see prairies and meadows left alone and not mowed. I would rather see way less pesticides on big box store shelves. I would rather see less pesticide use over all. I want to see more education for young families. My gardens are full of all kinds of bees and other pollinators. I use very few pesticides, if any at all. I’m afraid the government will dole out this $900,000 to homeowners to create these so called pollinator habitats and in two or three years the novelty will wear off and these pollinator habitats will become nothing more than unsightly weed pits. Neighbors will complain and people will then get tired of the mess and will mow them over. I really, really hate “creating pollinator habitats” to be a trend, because trends come and go. I never want this blog to become political, but rather a place where novice gardeners and master gardeners (and all those in between) can learn and be inspired. Do I want to save pollinators, you bet I do! That’s why I’ve written articles like: https://ginghamgardens.com/how-to-attract-pollinators-to-your-garden/ Linda, I hope I don’t scare you away from Gingham Gardens. And, I truly hope that these grants are awarded to seasoned gardeners who know what they are getting themselves into. I’ll stop here. Happy gardening, Joanna

  6. Re: your comment about bugs – I am learning about pollinator friendly gardens. One of the things I learned is that bugs are what all birds feed their babies (not seeds) and therefore a lot of bugs in your garden is a gift to the birds and to nature. Gardens are beautiful to us but they are life itself to birds!

  7. Great article. I have a few vintage items in my gardens too.. I have a huge barrel from my Aunt’s house that sits on our front porch. Every year I change out pots and other vintage decor. I also have a “flower” my husband made me out of horseshoes. This year he made me a small “flower” out of nuts and other hardware. I’m lucky that he’s a sheet metal worker.

  8. I would like to try taking cuttings from coleus this year. Have you written any post about that? I am not sure how to handle it in winter.

  9. My email is also lower caps, so hope was able to subscribe, great website lots of valuable information, and definitely going to use , the vintage idea’s. Thank you!

    1. Hi Brandee – it doesn’t matter whether or not your email is upper case or lower case, you should be fine. You will need to confirm your subscription, so watch for that email. Happy gardening, Joanna!

  10. Love your article and the pictures of your garden. I have a ladder in one of my flowerbeds just waiting to be decorated. How do you secure the items that you have on your ladder?

    1. Hi Ellarie – thanks for stopping by. I so glad you enjoyed my Shade Border and Junk Gardens. I actually don’t secure the items on my ladder at all. It’s amazing that it all doesn’t fall off. Last year I had a small planter that didn’t want to stay put and I just tied some jute string around the handle and then tied it to the ladder. You can also try using velcro by putting a piece on your item and then putting the other piece on the ladder. Happy gardening! Joanna

  11. I’ve used wagons, windows, along with rocking chair, and old huge crocks. Also the items you have mentioned!

    1. Hi Vicki – I have an old window that I want to use along the fence… maybe next year. I’d love to see some pictures of your gardens. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Happy gardening! Joanna (a/k/a Annie to you)

  12. Love all your vignettes….I have been decorating my yards with yard sale finds for years….everyone has always loved it…glad to see it’s a thing now……happy gardening…

    1. Hi Lynn – thanks for stopping by. Same here, I’ve been using repurposed old stuff in my gardens for years. Happy decorating your gardens, Joanna

  13. Beautiful, I did the basic yard cleaning out my Wild Weed forest… to then decide what I can implement before our NYC frost… But i’m retired so taking it slow and steady

    1. Good for you Sandy. I knew you could do it. Take your time and be sure to cover the area, so you don’t have weeds popping right back up. Don’t forget to take pictures of the progress. Happy gardening!

  14. Love your junk garden!! I have an old Radio Flyer wagon filled with helenium (Dakota gold) and one heliotrope which hasn’t bloomed yet.

    1. Hi John – thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens! I’m so glad you enjoyed my junk gardens. I used my wagon one time and then had to empty it when my grandson came over and wanted a wagon ride. I’ll save the wagon for plants when the grands are too big to play with it. Happy gardening, Joanna

  15. Lovely!!!!!! Do you leave all outside all year? We have so much wind come through, I am afraid that mine would all blow away

    1. Hi Jeannie – we have crazy wind too and I’ve never had a problem with anything toppling. I store all my junk in my garden shed in the winter and bring it back out in the spring. Thanks for stopping by. Happy gardening.

  16. I don’t know if my email will be correct. In spaces only want to do capital letters oh, and my email is in all lower caps. So I hope you get this and I get to subscribe. I really enjoyed all your pictures and ideas and I hope to use some of them. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Sandra – Thanks for stopping by! I signed you up, but you will have to confirm the subscription. Watch your inbox. I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. Joanna

  17. EVERYTHING looks picture perfect – I’ve done this time and time again but my real question is, How do y keep everything watered!! Living in 100 degree summer heat, shade or no shade, watering is important – all those small, cute, wonderful flares add such fun but how do you keep them watered?

    1. Hi Victoria- thanks for stopping by. I do water my containers just about every day if it hasn’t rained. Clearly, though we are in different gardening zones. Just a few rules of thumb with container gardening – the bigger the container the better. You might want to try soil moist granules (affiliate link). I don’t think people realize that container gardening is more work that planting in the ground if for no other reason than the water requirements. The article I have linked at the end of the post on Creative Container gardens has some other tips. Happy gardening, Joanna

      1. I use a lot of containers in my garden, particularly on the steps of my railroad tie stairs. I purchased battery-operated garden hose timers and connected them to 1/4″ drip line tubing. I put a T connector at each pot, an inline shutoff and a drip head at each pot. My timers are synchronized to water two or three times a day in the hot weather depending on the plantings’ needs. They water anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes per timer. It took a long time to make my irrigation setup. I bring it in each fall to avoid freezing and cold weather wear and tear. I put it out each spring, The pots need to line up with the irrigation drippers, but I can vary the pots and location. I can go on vacation for as long as I wish, and I know that my plants won’t die. There are ready-made systems, but I just bought the parts and designed my own. It doesn’t take long to set up in the spring. I also use the moisture holding crystals in all of my pots. If I have any plants that I purchased, I use my dibble to make a hole and put the crystals in the store bought pots. This is particularly good for my Mandeville. Just to let you know… I ❤️ your website!

        1. Hi Margaret – I’m so doing this. I’ve seen and read about drip systems for containers and I’ve been wanting to try this. It’s just a matter of time… maybe I’ll get to it next year. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to leave such great advice. Happy gardening, Joanna

          1. I used dripping system during my holiday. It saved my containers as it was really dry at that time. But I gathered all of them in one spot to connect them with the system. My containers are placed in different spots in front and back yard so it would be hard to use this system all the time without pipes running through the garden..

          2. Thanks Mirka, good point. I would love to be able to get away during the summer so that’s mainly when I’d use a drip system.

  18. Such fun to create garden vignettes with found or bought items. I like to use stone rabbits and squirrels in amongst my plantings and also add height and a place for vines by placing wooden and metal features in the garden. Like container planting these items can be moved to fill empty spaces and focal points as needed.

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