Taming the Monster: A Garden Corner Makeover

Most gardeners will tell you that there is always some small part of their garden that gets neglected.  It’s usually a tangle of shrubs so seemingly overwhelming that they don’t even know where to begin.  And so they ignore it – maybe work on other areas of the garden – anything to avoid having to tackle it.  I certainly can relate!

Recently my mom, Erika, tackled and conquered an overgrown corner in her own garden.  And it looks so much better now that I thought this would be a great time to head over to her garden for our annual field trip.

We’ve been to Mom’s home and garden several times before and, in case you missed any of our previous field trips, check out these posts:


Taming the Monster

I wish I had a before photo to show you of the area that Mom conquered. Tucked away in a corner, it was a dense thicket of shrubs under a tall pine tree.  Decades of falling needles had accumulated in this thicket to create a huge mound of debris.

In this photo, taken after Mom had cleared most of the debris, you can still see what was left of the mound.  (Please excuse the poor quality of these photos which were taken with my cellphone.)

Garden makeover: clearing the area.
The low branches that Mom unburied from the mound were twisted, crazy, and interesting.  So she decided to keep them!

She pruned some shrubs from the thicket and removed others.

Adding Structure

Now Mom needed to bring structure to the corner.

She terraced the soil and added a short retaining wall and walkway, repurposing stones and pavers that she already had onhand.

DIY garden makeover: adding structure

She brought in pieces of garden art, including an old chimenea that she had painted red and placed backwards to look like a large urn.  The paint was already starting to chip and, as you’ll see in the later photos, the chipping continued.  But it actually gives the urn a fun look.

DIY garden makeover: adding structure


DIY garden makeover: adding structure


My brother Dan jokingly said the area looked like a shrine.

But we all knew it would not look that way for long.  As always, Mom had a vision.


Adding Beauty

It was still early in the year, and she planted small plants and spread mulch over the soil.

DIY garden makeover: adding structure

Since the area is mostly in shade, she planted hostas, ferns, primroses, baby tears, and shade-tolerant sedums – most of which would emerge later as the weather warmed.

And Mom didn’t go out and buy these plants.   She separated and transplanted plants that were already in her garden.  This little garden rehab project was costing her next to nothing.

These transplants would work nicely with the azaleas and rhodies that were already there.

The Result

It’s amazing how quickly the plants have taken hold – and how happy they look.

DIY garden makeover: After


This rehabbed corner already looks like it’s always been this way, and it has the same relaxed “secret garden” style that I love so much about the rest of Mom’s garden.


DIY garden makeover: After


The area is behind her gazebo so, coming around the corner from the gazebo, this is what we see now.

DIY garden makeover: After


There are so many interesting little details to catch the eye yet, with its limited color palette, this area feels serene and uncluttered.

DIY garden makeover: After




DIY garden makeover: After


DIY garden makeover: After


DIY garden makeover: After
A maidenhair fern holds pride of place behind a rustic pot.


While we’re here, I want to show you Mom’s gazebo.  It’s so beautiful right now with everything in bloom.



Roses on gazebo


Roses and petunias
Roses and petunias

Thanks for coming along on our field trip.  Mom’s project has inspired me to tackle a problem area in my own garden – one of these days!


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