• Choose trees carefully: "Don't experiment," she said. "You can have fun with perennials and shrubs. But it takes 20 years to know if it's the right tree."

• Be ruthless with weeds: "I spend a lot of time on weeds, especially tree seedlings," she said. "That's what will destroy a garden." She's not afraid to eradicate with Roundup.

• Know your limits. Plan your garden with upkeep in mind, she said. "Don't start more than you want to finish."

• Hire help. A good garden consultant can help you see your garden with fresh eyes. (She recommends her garden mentor, Glenn Ray, owner of Masterpiece Landscaping, www.masterpiecelandscape .com.)

• Savor each season: When fall comes, "I'm ready for a break," she said. "No way I'd go to a climate where I'd have to garden year-round. What I do in the winter is have a life."