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Small Shade Garden Transformation

One of my favorite gardening tasks is to makeover a gardening area. Since we moved into our current home in August 2016, I’ve been doing lots of garden makeover projects and I will share links to those at this bottom of this post. This area I’m about to show you turned into the cutest Little Shade Garden Transformation ever!

Little Shade Garden Transformation – Before

It’s sort of embarrassing to admit that I let this little area go while I was working on bigger projects over the past two summers. Plants that were in this little bed include:

  • yellow lamium, a/k/a Herman’s Pride (some are invasive, these have been very well behaved)
  • really nice little ferns
  • some not so nice Ostrich ferns
  • a peony
  • solomon’s seal
  • some walnut seedlings (compliments of the resident squirrels)
  • lots of other random weeds

So not terribly hideous like some of the other gardens I’ve redone, just basically blah and no character at all. 

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Small, Low-Budget Garden Makeover

This is such a small area, so I didn’t really want to spend lots to make it pretty. I decided I would only buy a few packs of annuals, a few perennials and mulch to keep the budget low. That means I had to shop from my yard and borrow some hostas and shade plants from other gardens.

Garden Transformation – The Steps

I like to start with a blank slate, so the first thing I did was dig all the plants and weeds out, with the exception of the peony. I will move the peony this fall, but it was about ready to bloom so I didn’t want to disturb it. 

Next I filled in the holes with bagged compost and leveled the soil out. And, voila, I have my blank slate with which to design.

I could have (probably should have) taken the time to draw this bed out on paper, but since it’s so small I decided not to. Instead, I simply placed the plants where I wanted them to be planted. Then, I take a step back, see how everything looks and make any adjustments. 

And now, I’m actually ready to plant. As a general rule of thumb when planting new plants, you want to dig your hole about twice the size of the root mass. Next, sprinkle in some slow release fertilizer (this stuff makes a huge difference) and mix it into the soil. If your soil isn’t the greatest its a good idea to add in some compost. Then place your plant into the hole and fill the soil in around the plant.  Gently tamp the soil in around the plant.


Once all the plants are planted, they get a good drink of water. And, next comes the mulch. Spreading mulch isn’t really all that fun, but I love the end result – it’s just like icing on the cake! Look at the difference between the mulched area and the unmulched area.

List of Shade Plants Included In This Makeover

  • Lakeside Little Tuft Hosta
  • Halycon Hosta
  • Sugar Daddy Hosta
  • Touch of Class Hosta
  • 2 Solar Eclipse Foamy Bells (Heucherella)
  • 2 Sugar Plum Coral Bells (Heuchera)
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Solomon’s Seal
  • Bridal Veil Astilbe
  • Pretty in Pink Pulmonaria
  • the little ferns stayed
  • Torenia
  • Impatiens

Here’s Lakeside Little Tuft Hosta.

Lakeside Little Tuft Hosta

Solar Eclipse Foamy Bells

Solar Eclipse Foamy Bells

Sugar Plum Coral Bells

Sugar Plum Coral Bells

Small Shade Garden Transformation – After

Here’s the finished product- my Cute Little Shade Garden Transformation! 

Small Shade Garden Transformation

Another angle a few weeks later when the plants are settled into their new home and filling in beautifully.

To add some character, I add in some decor pieces (or garden junk). I have an entire shed full of garden junk that I’ve collected over the years. Perhaps some day I’ll show you my garden shed full of garden junk… but, probably not.

And, a close-up of a little grouping of plants looking all cozy and loving their new home. 

Shade Garden Makeover After

And one more after. What a transformation! It’s amazing what plants will do when they are shown a little love.

Small Shade Garden Transformation - After

Tips for Transforming a Small Garden Space

It’s easy to start with a blank slate. So, if your area has existing plants and weeds, get everything cleaned out. If you’d going to reuse plants, set them aside in the shade.

Once you have a blank slate, create a design. I highly recommend doing this on paper. Pop over to the Gardening Resources Library and print off a Garden Plans worksheet – it has a graph area to plan out your new flower bed and a place to write the plant names.

Before you start digging, place your plants according to the plan you drew, and then step back a take a look.

Now plant away. Don’t forget to add slow release fertilizer or amend the soil with compost as you plant. Give your plants a good drink and watch them grow. For more detail and instruction on Garden Design, pop over and read Flower Garden Design Tips.

Do you have a little area that could use a makeover? I encourage you to just go for it, garden transformations are so worth any effort you put forth.

Here are some of the other Garden Makeovers at Gingham Gardens:

Garden Makeover (From A Weed Pit to a Beautiful Garden)
Another Garden Makeover
Shade Garden Makeover
Flower Garden Makeover – Before and After

Thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens today. I hope you’re enjoying your visit and thinking about ways you can transform a blah garden into a spectacular one. Leave a comment and let me know what you’re thinking about for your garden. And, as always, if you have a gardening question, be sure to ask in the comments section below.

Happy Gardening,

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.

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.

Pins to Share:

Image of a garden project with text overlay - From an eyesore to a pretty little shade garden


Image of a garden project with text overlay - From an eyesore to a pretty little shade garden


    1. Hi Cheryl – thanks for stopping by. Unfortunately, those copper tags were a gift from one of my sisters several years ago. I wish I could find some more too. Happy gardening!

  1. Awesome, love it… I have a corner and stacked of pavers I took out of my backyard just sitting on my front porch, Love you DIYers.. who get my creative juices going… only takes one to think outside the box to tickle the brain…

  2. The site must get some sun during the day so that the solar lights can charge; one of my favorite shade annuals is coleus. A rainbow of colors and a very durable annual.

    1. Hello Tim – thanks for stopping by. This little area hardly gets any sun, but gets just enough sun in the late afternoon to charge the solar lights. I love coleus too and have a few different varieties in my other shade gardens. Happy gardening, Joanna

    1. Hi Richard – look for something that grows in dry shade and likes acidic soil. Hostas would do okay, but you might consider rigging up a drip irrigation system or soaker hoses. Also look into some ground covers, like ajuga. Good luck and happy gardening!

  3. Looks awesome! I used to have a shady garden. It was sooo tricky to find the plants. Sugar Plum Coral Bells are gorgeous 🙂

  4. This looks great! It’s fun to create a new (ish) garden and watch it flourish! It does look better wish mulch. I need to plant some Coral Bells again. After a while mine all disappeared.

    1. Hello Liz, good to hear from you. I think I’ve missed your last few gardening posts. I’ll stop by soon. Happy gardening, Joanna

  5. Joanna, Thank you for posting this small project. It’s an interesting choice of plants & I’d like to see fall pictures if you have the opportunity. Small projects like this bring almost instant gratification as opposed to the larger ones that sometimes can have me wondering what in the world was I thinking (if at all).
    I hope you have a great summer, Joe

    1. Hi Joe, thanks for stopping by. I didn’t really plan this area with fall in mind. Honestly, I have a hard time coming up with shade plants that look good in the fall here in zone 4. Now, in my sunny gardens I always think about all seasons. Happy gardening and a happy summer to you! Joanna

  6. That looks so pretty – you most certainly will enjoy it. Did you plant directly into the ash bucket or is there a pot in it? I am thinking about drainage because I have the same idea in mind.

    1. Hi Carol, thanks a bunch! Yes, I planted directly in the coal bucket. My hubby drilled some drainage holes in the bottom.

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