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DIY- How to Transform a Side Yard into a Beautiful Shade Garden

Updated on June 21, 2011


This side yard was just a pass through to the backyard a few years ago.
This side yard was just a pass through to the backyard a few years ago. | Source

From Uninteresting to WOW

Do you have a side yard that is shady and basically is just used as a pass through to your backyard?

Transform it into an interesting space that you will love to spend time in. Usually one end of the house gets more sun than the other end and it gets the most attention when being landscaped.

Keep reading this Hub to see why I use the word WOW to describe the changes made to this area.

If you ignore the shady side of the house you are losing out on an opportunity to create a beautiful shade garden space. And the great thing about this idea is - you can do it yourself while being creative, and saving money too.

Here are some suggestions for transforming your unused side yard into a beautful shade garden.

The photo on the right shows the area that was transformed - before the transformation took place.

Rose of Sharon Shrubs, beside new fence extension

During contruction, before the stone grond cover was applied
During contruction, before the stone grond cover was applied | Source

Daylily Garden after part of transformation was complete

The corner was filled with day lilies during the transformation. This photo was taken in early spring.
The corner was filled with day lilies during the transformation. This photo was taken in early spring. | Source

Add Interest

The photo above shows an example of a side yard that while nice looking, it lacks interest. This is my yard a few years ago.

You can see the planter that is built next to the house, has a variety of plants in it. The landscape wall is built out of wall pavers and does a nice job of making a slope more functional. But other than the planter the entire area is green.

This was big span of lawn that was only walked on to get the back yard, or to mow the grass. It was ignored other than for those purposes.

Our gardens are in a constant state of growth. Each year they are expanded in one area or another. Last year this space was the target for updates. And the end result is a totally different look from the way it was originally.

Some work was completed last year, and the shade garden was finished this year.

Last year the plants in the planter were divided and thinned out, with new ones added. The fence that you see there that is a wall of climbing vine was moved forward about 20 feet.

So most of the side yard became part of the backyard. The fence was moved to the front of the chimney shown in the first photo above.

We have dogs, so a fence is a must have for us. The dogs love the new additon to the back yard so they can see the front better. See photo above.

The fence is chain link, not my preferred choice for a fence, but we had to continue the same fencing material that was used on that side.

There was a gazebo on the other side of the fence, it was removed entirely, because it was not a permanent structure and was starting to show wear.

The gazebo area was filled in with dirt. And the rest of the area was totally transformed. Sod was removed from most of the the area.

Yes, removing sod by hand is a tough job. To make it easier you can rent a sod remover, if your space is large enough to need it. If you do remove the sod by hand use a good shovel, and make the area wet, to make it easier.

One end of the area was turned into a day lily garden on one corner, as shown in the photo above. There is a wall of shrubs along the fence for added color and privacy.

The shrubs are Rose of Sharons started a tiny seedlings from other Rose of Sharon scrubs in the back yard. Also last year there was a collection of annal flowers planted in front of some of the shrubs that made a beautful cottage garden next to the fence. (See photo with dog).

The center of the area was turned into a curved walkway. The walkway base was made of class I sand and allowed to stay that way all summer.

The daylily garden and cottage garden were later covered in large river rock. The new curved walkway was covered in Ken-lite stone for a contrast in color.

See the photo of the day lily garden to see the colors of the stone used in the project. This stone was bought in bulk from a local landscape supplier. It is much cheaper to buy stone and mulch and dirt in bulk. It was hauled on a utility trailer. The entire project required 3 cubic yards of stone.

The only sod that remained in this space for the winter was next to the wall planter. This spring the sod was removed and the area was turned into a shade garden.

If you don't have a shade area, you can plant a tree, to start one. This area is part shade and part sun. We have added a fast growing hybird popular tree to the space, it was started from a cutting from one of the other trees in yard.

In a few years it will grow large enough to be a shade tree for the area.

A variety of plants from other areas of the yard were divided and transplanted into the new shade garden. The photo shows the plants when they were first planted, and they are tiny.

The plants will fill in the space and show up better as they grow.

To make both sides of the pathway have some simuliar plants, 6 rug junipers were planted in the area. 2 on the side next to the fence and four in the shade garden. Blanket flowers grown from seed were also placed on both sides.

Black eyed Susan grown from seed was also planted in the new space. These are not shade plants, but because the garden gets some sun, they are doing fine.

Other plants include bugleweed as a ground cover, it enjoys shade, and lambs ear, vinca vine, both of these do fine in this garden.

The garden will be getting more plants as other shade plants such as corral bells and hosta are divided in the fall. This adds lots of color and texture and heights to the garden.

I love using plants with purple colored foliage such as corral bells for a nice contrast to the green of most plants.

I also have a purple plum tree planted in the day lily garden to contrast with the green foliage of the day lilies.

Small Natural Stone Patio

A small stone patio was added to the shade garden, where the gazeo used to be
A small stone patio was added to the shade garden, where the gazeo used to be | Source

The new Shade Garden

The photos on the right shows a small natural stone patio, and then the area where the shade garden will be, Notice that the sod has been removed in this photo.

The patio is across from the day lily garden. This adds some interest to the gardens and offers a space to place a wrought iron garden bench, as a focal point in the area.

The patio is also a solution to the dogs digging in soft fill dirt after the gazebo was removed and the space was filled in.

The other photo below, shows the garden after the plants were planted and the large river rock was installed. More plants were added after the photo was taken.

Notice the purple leaves of the plum tree in the daylily garden. The raised bed garden is just behind this area. It adjoins the daylily garden.

Tree branches, stumps, and larger stones were used in these flower gardens as natural elements for landscape décor.

After the photos were taken, rooster décor was placed in the raised planter and under the deck to make what I call "Rooster Row". Follow me and this series of DIY Hubs for full details on these and other garden ideas

This space is one of my favorite garden areas after it was transformed.

Create your own shade garden. I hope these ideas have inspired you to transform your side yard into something beautiful and useful. You can do it, share your comments below.

After - New Shade Garden

Walkway and Shade Garden
Walkway and Shade Garden | Source

Updated photo of the side yard

2 months later, daylilies have bloomed, blanket flowers in floom, black eyed susan starting to bllom, and other plants are growing in very fast.
2 months later, daylilies have bloomed, blanket flowers in floom, black eyed susan starting to bllom, and other plants are growing in very fast. | Source


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    • decor-girl profile image


      6 years ago from UK

      Your garden looks wonderful, i'm doing a patio this year in slate paving. I have recently been to Delabole slate quarry in Cornwall for some inspiration.

    • RentedMule profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Lexington Kentucky

      I plant too, and yes they are filling in very nicely as the season progresses. The blanket flowers are in bloom. And the daylilies are starting t bloom and getting huge!

      Thanks Rtalloni, for your comments!

    • RTalloni profile image


      7 years ago from the short journey

      What a great transformation. I'll bet the plants are filling out beautifully by now. Step by step, you artistically improved this walkway. Thanks for sharing! Hope you can post more photos as the plants grow and bloom in the future.


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