How-to tips from the Erbeses

Shop smart. Tom and Anna make the rounds of their favorite local garden centers throughout the summer. "I try to find things that aren't blooming, because that plant is going to do better when you put it in the ground," said Anna.

Expect some losses. "Every year there's a certain amount of attrition," said Tom, who adds that there's a plus-side to plant loss: "But then we get to go out and pick up a few new things."

Cross the divide. Despite the conventional wisdom, Anna doesn't split her hostas regularly. "I like when they meld into each other," she said. "It crowds together. That's what makes it [the garden] lower maintenance."

Don't get zoned out. While they do hunt for unusual varieties, especially in shrubs and specimen trees, they stick to hardy plants. "We never go higher than Zone 4," said Anna. "That's asking for trouble."

Labor for love. Tom and Anna garden as much as they do because they love it. That's why Anna recommends that gardeners who are just starting out don't dig up more than they can maintain. "If you don't enjoy it, it would just be a chore," she said.