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Garden Makeover (From A Weed Pit to a Beautiful Garden) – Updated

In late summer 2016, the hubs and I purchased a sweet little fixer upper rambler style house (that’s the same as a ranch style house in other parts of the country). The gardens were a mess and hadn’t been tended to once the house sold. I was okay with that, because I knew I would be reworking them and doing many garden projects and garden makeovers. This is the first such garden makeover– the amazing transformation of a dreadful looking weed pit into a stunning, tiered flower garden.

I debated with myself whether or not it was the right time to post an update, and although it’s not perfect, I decided just to go for it. This garden will continue to evolve as I continue to shuffle plants, thin plants and add plants. Perhaps this makeover will inspire you to attempt your own garden transformation. And, hopefully, you won’t have to start with what I started with.

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Backyard Garden Makeover – The Before

Once we got settled in, sort of, I immediately dug in and started cleaning up this ugly mess. The longer weedy areas are left, the worse they become. I began the makeover by digging out weeds, ditch lilies, weeds, lily of the valley, weeds – you get the picture. Some of the weeds were like trees (which I later learned was buckthorn) and I had to have help with those. It makes me tired just looking at this mess.

Garden Makeover - the ugly before! This is a huge flower bed and extends along the fence. Here’s more of the ugly mess.

Garden Makeover - the ugly before #2.

Here’s another angle of the mess.  Along with the house and yard came several diseased trees. This quadruple trunk ash tree was cut down, along with several others. Word to the wise, if you’re house shopping always look at the health of trees in the yard too. We still have a few large ash trees that need to be taken down. It’s sad to lose big trees and it’s also very expensive.

Garden Makeover - the weed pit before picture.

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Essential Tools for Cleaning Out An Overgrown Garden


Here I’m making progress and seeing that this is a tiered bed.  And, who knew all those lovely field stones were there. I love rocks almost as much as I love flowers.  There were a few other treasures hiding in this mess besides the rocks- asiatic lilies, a gorgeous bleeding heart, irises and strawberries.

Please feel free to “Pin” these pictures to your favorite Gardening Board on Pinterest!
There are additional Pins at the bottom of the post. Thank you!

I dug out tons of invasive plants like lily-of-the-valley and ditch lilies. There are many ways to makeover an existing garden, but when the garden is more of a weed pit, it’s easiest to completely dig everything out and start fresh.

Garden Makeover - a work in progress!

Once I got everything cleaned out and had a blank slate to work with, I really should have taken the time to sketch out a plan. It would have saved me lots of time. But, what can I say, when it comes to gardens, blank slates excite me and I was all too ready to move on this opportunity. This bed gets mostly part sun so it was pretty easy to pick out plants for it.

Since it was late summer, I knew I wouldn’t be able to actually see my efforts come to fruition until the following spring and summer. I went ahead and replanted the few good plants that I had dug up, along with some plants that I was able to pick up on end-of-summer clearance. 

Backyard Garden Makeover – After

The following spring was when the real excitement and transformation came into play. Lots of perennials were planted, including several different varieties of coneflower, asiatic lilies, irises, yarrow, daylilies and many more. Again, there was no rhyme or reason to my design, because I was just ready to move onto another project. I added some annuals here and there to ensure color throughout the season. Once the planting was done, I sprinkled Preen (a pre-emergent weed control) and added a thick layer of mulch. 

Garden Makeover - After | Tiered Flower Garden

Here’s another view a few weeks later in the summer.  The flowers start filling in and there’s more color popping. No method to my crazy design, but it looks so much better than it did the year before.

Beautiful Perennial Garden Makeover

I’m sure I’ll be moving plants around over the years striving for perfection, which we all know doesn’t happen in a perennial garden.

A good layer of mulch is just like the icing on the cake. Mulch is a huge help with weed control in this flower bed, and it also helps the plants retain moisture.

Tiered Garden Bed Makeover – Updated

So here I am back two years later for an update on this flower bed. Sometimes I look at the pictures of this flower garden and I think, “what a hot mess!” I need to move this and that, and that plant is too tall for the bottom tier, etc. etc. But, then I look at the before pictures and I think it looks pretty darn awesome. So, yes, it still is very much a work in progress.

Another angle:

There are tons of lilies in this flower garden. Some were here and I’ve added some.

I’ll be honest, this bunch of various kinds of lilies and varying heights mixed together drives my OCD self crazy. My plan is to mark the lilies with tape around the stem, so I can move them into like-kind groups. Hopefully, I’ll get to it before they’ve finished blooming this year. So much to do… so little time!

More cheery Asiatic Lilies. The orange and yellow mix doesn’t drive me quite so crazy. Lol!

This combination of yellow Asiatic Lilies and Becky Shasta Daisies is definitely a winner and a combination I will try to repeat.

These lilies are LA Hybrids – Royal Sunset I believe.

There are also lots and lots of daylilies in this tiered garden with staggered bloom times. This is Monterey Jack. I picked him up off of a clearance rack at a big box store a few years ago. The poor fella looked like he’d been run over by a mac truck. I loved and took care of him, and, well, I’d say he’s recovered! 

Here are some close ups of various perennials in this flower bed, along with some fun vignettes.

The vine growing on the ladder trellis is Silver Lace Vine.

More Lilies, with a sweet little homemade bird house that was a gift several years ago.

Here’s Sweet Sophie surrounded by Blue Clips Campanula and John Creech stonecrop.

2020 Garden Updates

In 2020, we added Dwarf Alberta Spruce trees along the top of the slope, and made a few other changes. The photo below is the bed in early summer.

Image of a flower garden with a dwarf Alberta spruce tree.

Later in the summer of 2020.

Flower garden

Another vignette using my cute birdhouse surrounded by Asiatic lilies and silver lace vine.

Birdhouse on a stake with lilies and silver lace vine.

Sloped Flower Garden Updates – 2021

This garden has really evolved. The plants in the picture below, include pink malva, black-eyed Susan, Which Way Jim daylily and Powwow Wild Berry coneflower. A wren family took up residence in the birdhouse, so it was fun to hear the babies chirping while I was tending the garden.

Flower Garden at Gingham Gardens

Although, the overall design of this garden still isn’t 100% what I want, there are some winning plant combinations like the Becky shasta daisies and pink malva below. 

Shasta daisies and pink malva

Late summer of 2021, lots and lots of color. There are cheery cheeks daylilies, black-eyed Susans, phlox, coneflowers and more.

Colorful perennial flower garden


This tiered flower garden will continue to evolve over time and I will continue to update this post. If for no other reason than to inspire you all and myself. My goal is for this flower bed to be as low maintenance as possible. This summer I am adding some flowering shrubs and pulling out some of the tall vines and plants that have to be staked. 

This tiered perennial bed is just one area that I have made over in our yard. Looking at these pictures reminds me to take more pictures of the progress, because it does my soul and weary body good to see what has been accomplished.

Here are a few more makeovers at Gingham Gardens to check out –
Another Garden Makeover
Flower Garden Makeover
Shade Garden Makeover
Small Shade Garden Transformation

What about you? Is there a weed pit like this that you’ve tackled? Leave a comment and tell me about it. I love hearing what is going on with your gardens too.

Thanks so much for taking time from your gardens to stop by mine. I’m so glad you did. Please come back soon!

Happy gardening,

Pins to Share:

Image of a Weed pit garden with text overlay - from a weed pit to a Beautiful Garden


Image of a Weed pit garden with text overlay - from a weed pit to a Beautiful Garden


    1. I was going to say we were kindred spirits in the email I sent you, but I thought you’d think I was nuts. Lol! Now I really think we’re kindred spirits. Happy gardening (or dreaming), Joanna

  1. Hi Joanna! Your garden is beautiful! You work so hard and it shows!

    Have you thought about Invincible Ruby flowering hydrangea? It’s smaller, 2-3 feet tall and has smaller pink flowers, Hardy to zone 3. I love mine. And like that it blooms in my zone 5 garden, and I love pink and red.

    Or heucheras? They come in so many colors.

    And I love echinacea! Lots of deep sizzling colors

    I have lots of hosta in shady areas , ferns and astilbe too. I got the double flowering hellebores . The old cultivars have self seeded in another bed and have to be thinned out all the time, or getting rid of seed pods before they fall, but they are really pretty in spring when nothing much is blooming yet. Chionodoxa and Siberian squill look wonderful that time too. I got the blue ones and have white daffodils planted with them that bloom the same time. I get mine from Scheepers mail order, but order from their sister company Van Elegans for better prices. scheepers shows pictures in the catalog, but Van Elegans doesn’t. I get both catalogs and order online

    Lots of day lilies! Deer are a big pest, but I spray with Liquid Fence

    I’m miserable right now and stay inside. It’s in the 90s and I only go out when it gets cooler. Hope you are doing better than me with gardening when it’s hot!🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰


    1. Hi Trudy, thanks so much for stopping by and giving me such great ideas for this area.I just added some hydrangeas to this garden this year. I will soon update this post to add my year 4 pictures. It just keeps getting better every year, so I’m sure I’ll get there eventually. Thanks again, stay cool and happy gardening! Joanna

  2. Hi Joanna!

    I just wanted to take the time to let you know that I am so thankful and feel truly blessed that I came across you and your wonderful site. I absolutely love your page. It’s filled with so many different treasures that I enjoy discovering new ones each time I visit. Rather it’s your informative articles, helpful tried and true advice, printable’s , varied resource links, your frugal garden decorating ideas or your garden photos I’m enjoying for the day, I always come away with such a happy and calm feeling in my heart and soul. I just wanted to take the time to say…. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    for every thing you do and share with us.
    It’s noticed, it matters and it’s so very appreciated!

    1. Pamala – this is one of the sweetest comments I’ve ever received and I’ve read it about 20 times now. Thank you so much! I’m so happy you’re enjoying Gingham Gardens. Let me know if you ever have gardening questions. Merry Christmas to you and yours! Joanna

    2. WEll said Pamala. Joanna does a wonderful job inspiring me. I have put on more mulch. Went back to buy more and they only had one bag left. Glad everyone is mulching. Here in Canada we had some nice rain this past week and it sure made everything POP! Take care.
      Happy Gardening everyone.
      Shirley in Canada

      1. Hi Shirley – thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens. Mulch sure does make the plants pop in the garden. Happy gardening to you too! Joanna

  3. Love the transformation of your flower garden and especially that you tiered the bed. I just say thank originally drew out plans and picked our plants for my flower bed but once I got started planting I added different ones and moved things around so my plans went by the wayside!
    I do absolutely love the yellow lilies and daisies together – it gives you a happy feeling! So glad I found your site and I am enjoying your information that you share♥

    1. Hi Rhea Dawn – thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. I tend to do the same thing when I plant. The plan is never executed exactly how it was intended. Haha! I’m happy you’re enjoying Gingham Gardens. Stop back soon! Joanna

  4. Very nice transformation. I also struggle with overwhelming weeds. It can be so discouraging. I am now newly inspired by your post to tackle mine. Last year I was able to get a big pile of free arborist wood chips and my approach has been to clear an area and immediately mulch with the chips hoping to keep it clear as I move on to the next. I also garden in Minnesota. Recently a group of us did the Hennepin County garden tour. It was our first time and very inspiring to see all of the lovely gardens.

    1. Hi Lorri – thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I’m always happy to inspire. I so wanted to do the HC garden tour, but I just couldn’t swing it. I’ll be glad when we have all the major projects on our fixer upper done, so I can enjoy taking in some tours and just puttering in my own gardens. Happy gardening and come by again soon! Joanna

  5. Lovely and the hard work was well worth it!!! “They” say that you are not a real gardener until you move everything around a few times. I love the yellow lilies with the daisies. Makes me feel happy! I am on my second year of the new bare backyard and I have changed plans for it many times. We went from a previous English style formal garden to now a more “cottegy” garden in total, hot, Alabama sun. It is so hard not to want to do it all at once!! Than you for sharing

    1. Hi Jeannie – thanks for stopping by. It has been in the upper 80s, lower 90s, with 70-80% humidity, so I can’t even imagine what it would be like to garden in Alabama. I done more than my share of moving plants around, ha ha. You enjoy your new yard and new playground (garden). Happy gardening, Joanna.

  6. Joanne, I have a vegetable garden about 18ft x 10ft with lots of veggies, beets, carrots, green bell peppers, onions, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, potatoes, honey dew melon, asparagus, but the trouble is I work full time for my county and I am a 66 year old single woman, whose home is on 2 lots.

    My tomatoes and strawberries are in two raised gardens; and they are just fine.

    My weekends are taken up mowing and trying to get my yard in shape, but it has gotten away from me and my vegetable garden has 2ft crabgrass and other weeds that I can’t even see my veggies. I know I have to get in there and pull the weeds, but by the time I get home from work and the temp is in 100s it is too hot to work outside.

    I plan to work in my veggie garden when the temps go down a little next week, I am going to water it first so it makes pulling the crabgrass and weeds easier. I could hire someone to do it for me, but I don’t want them accidently pulling up my veggies, so I know I will only be content if I do it my self. I am not looking forward to it, but want to save my veggies. I have checked on my veggies and they are still doing OK, but the crabgrass is over powering them and I know they will die if I don’t get that crabgrass and weeds pulled in time.

    If you have any suggestions that I have not though of please let me know

    1. Hi Anna – thanks for stopping by! I totally get your time constraints. I work full time too, plus my gardens and this blog. I’m definitely the most happy in my gardens and writing about gardening. It won’t help you now, but next year think low maintenance weed prevention. Mulch between your veggies with grass clippings. They will form a mat and keep weeds at bay. You will still have some, but they won’t take over. For this year, perhaps you could get up 30 minutes earlier and just use that time to weed, or just do 15-30 minutes every evening when you get home. Don’t look at the whole of it, just look and tackle one area at a time. Before you know it you’ll have it done. When it’s weeded, layer newspapers (or cardboard) with grass clippings on top about your veggies. Good luck and happy gardening!

      1. Thank you ladies for some suggestions on more perennials. I am a senior well over 70 and find that mulching sure helps cut down on the work of gardening. Even when the weeds come they are much easier to pull. One does not have to water as often. Your garden sure is lovely. A lot of work as any garden would know. Thanks for all the infor and keep up the good work. Nothing like ones own space to sit and relax . Always great to have ones own veggies.

  7. What a transformation! Your garden is lovely. Yes…I had a weed mess too. I conquered it about three years ago, and have been adding plants ever since. I guess you could say I ‘slow’ garden….I definitely take my time. And, my gardens are not complete without plenty of rocks! 😉

    1. Hi Donnamae – thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. It is quite gratifying to watch the slow transformation too. Be sure to take pictures. Happy gardening! Joanna

  8. Beautiful! I have a space that is very similar that I want to tackle. I’ve never used Preem. Does it really work to keep the weeds from coming back? What’s the best method for removing the weeds in a bed like this? I have a lot of perennials in my yard that I want transplant after weeding. Is fall the best time to do this? Thanks!

    1. Hi Julie – thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. I don’t always use Preen, but yes it does work to keep new weeds from germinating. If you want immediate success like I did, just dig in with a shovel. If you’re willing to wait, weed whack all the weeds down and then cover the area with cardboard and add mulch or grass clippings on top. When you’re ready to plant, hopefully all the weeds will be dead and minimal digging will be required. If you do the cover method, you could plant this fall. Be sure to take pictures of the before, progress and after. Good luck and have fun with your project! Joanna

  9. Funny how different minds work-I love the mixture of different colors -same colors together seems to regimented to me-less exciting -forgive me-more boring? I love Lilies but so do the billion squirrels that live in my heavily treed PUD where I live.

    1. Hi Judy – you made me laugh! If I don’t get around to moving these lilies into like-kind groups, I will totally remember your comment. We have a bumper crop of squirrels this year too. They dig all over my gardens, especially when I plant something new. Happy gardening!

      1. Bobbex is chemical free and will help keep the squirrels and deer at bay. I also use shredded bar soap to keep deer away. Any kind of soap seems to work. If you didg level the ground down after. If one squirrel digs the next squirrel has to see what the first one hid. Even though there is nothing there they will dig to see what is there. Seems to be just their nature. Good luck everyone.

  10. You’ve done a fantastic job with this garden bed. Isn’t that surprising that the rocks were there! I just did a makeover on my front island. I found a few rocks in the process but they were all little hand held sized. Mulch surely does dress them out. You should be vey proud of yourself for all the effort made with this garden!

    1. Hello Liz – thanks for stopping by and for your kind compliments. For some reason, we have tons of field stones in our area, so I’m always scoping out construction sites where I can find more. My husband refuses to go with me on these rock picking excursions. He’s convinced I’m going to get arrested. I just laugh at him. You know I get some of my ideas from your gardens. I always enjoy visiting. Happy gardening!

  11. Love looking at this makeover. I never did much with my gardens, but as I am “aging”, I am getting much more into it. I love the rocks. Do you collect, purchase? We have very rocky soil here in MD, I’m south of Gettysburg, PA, but the rocks aren’t that pretty.

    1. Hello Timna, thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens today. In that particular makeover, the rocks were there under all the weeds. But, yes I “collect” rocks from construction sites. My husband is always afraid I’m going to be arrested. Field stones make such wonderful additions to a flower bed. Have fun with your newfound love for gardening! Joanna

  12. I would love to do a tiered garden but I cannot because I live in Florida and our yards have swales which are for drainage. These exist on the rear yards and between the houses. Hence I cannot build up the rear or side yards which have to be lower. I love the idea. Maybe we could come up with something that would allow the buildup, say, a foot from the fence with cement block and then allow the drainage in the rear. Have a real conundrum here, ha! I love what you did and especially love the stone usage and mulch. I hate having to weed. There are some plants that fill in spaces and prevent weeds from growing. Florida Grandmother!

    1. Hi Sylvia – thanks for stopping by. My tiered garden is beautiful, but it is not an easy garden to tend. I just gave mine a fresh layer of mulch today and I’m pooped from lugging bags of mulch to the top tier. It’s also not really easy to design. I say this to tell you to enjoy your flat space and make the most of it. Happy gardening!
      p.s. I’m a Nana to two lovely littles.

  13. It’s a lot of work but well worth it! Looks awesome! I did the same to my front yard which was all weeds when I bought my house. Now I’m the only one on my street with a beautiful garden.

    1. Thanks Jo. It is very gratifying to see the before and after pictures. Hopefully your neighbors will catch on. Happy gardening!

  14. Good evening Joanna, This quote came to mind when I saw your post “But each spring a gardening instinct, sure as the sap rising in the trees ,stirs within us. We look about and decide to tame another little bit of ground.” Lewis Grant” Keep on going ,you do terrific work.
    Good luck, Joe

      1. I am glad to hear you like that quote. I forgot to mention the best power tool in my arsenal is a Black & Decker 20 Volt cultivator /tiller. This is a lightweight rotary workhorse. that works in tight spaces & is easy to control. Mine was a father’s day present 3 yrs. ago is durable & amazing. If you don’t have one it would make a great Mother’s day present. Also the Japanese five prong claw cultivator is the best tool of it’s type I’ve ever used. Thank you for the tips.
        Good luck, Joe

  15. An oasis of peace and beauty, in this chaotic and (sometimes) ugly world. My auntie’s garden is a sweet, God-grown reminder of what really matters!

    1. My advice for your tiered garden is to add some flowering shrubs, an evergreen or two and some attractive non invasive grasses. These will add some structure and texture to your garden as well as more seasonal interest. I planted a Vitex, a Holly,a small golden mophead evergreen and some Little Zebra ornamental grass. The perennials are great but bloom only for a period of time. I too love the Asiatic, Oriental and Daylilies and add some each year. My goal as I get older is to make my gardens as low maintenance as possible. Those old gardening knees don’t get any better!!

      1. Hi Kathy, I always enjoy hearing from you and I really appreciate your tips. I have to remind myself that 4 years simply isn’t enough time to perfect a garden, let alone a garden on a slope. Send me some pictures some time. Happy gardening, Joanna

  16. Joanna, your passion for gardening comes through on your blog! It is unbelievable what you have accomplished in only a year. Once you removed all the weeds, there were the tiers and the rocks which provide interest! I love your perennial garden. Thanks so much for sharing at Gardens Galore!

  17. I am just amazed at all the work you did clearing your flower beds. It certainly looks wonderful now. You were blessed to receive all the great stones that add so much depth and grounds your space.
    I’m sure you are glad you took down the trees so your garden will thrive with great sun coming in.
    Thanks for your email. Hope it works this time.

    1. Thank you, Bonnie, for giving me a second chance. You made this newbie’s day! It has been a lot of work and I’m not done yet, this is just a small corner of my yard. I’ll post some more makeovers in the coming weeks. As for the trees, unfortunately, we didn’t look at the trees when we bought this house. Many of them were sick and not taken care of. We still have about 3 more that need to come down- oh the joys of home ownership. Thanks again!

  18. Bravo! You have accomplished quite a lot in a short time! I know it will only get better and better.

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