Do your homework. Read the description card that comes with each plant or do research online, said Mary Kulseth, who has learned this lesson the hard way. "I didn't know that anemones can be so invasive. It took me years to get rid of them."

Mulch a lot. "I never liked the look of mulch — but now I swear by cypress mulch — it keeps moisture in and looks nice and neat," she said. In fact, Mike gave Mary a gift card for 100 bags of mulch one Christmas.

Start small and be flexible. "If a plant doesn't work in one spot, try it in another," she said.

Learn when plants bloom, to plan for all-summer-long color.

When in doubt, plant daylilies. "They are just so pretty and hardy and come in so many colors," said Mary, who now has 20 different varieties. " 'Strawberry Candy' looks good enough to eat."

Consider investing in a watering system. "I'm glad we have a drip-irrigation system," she said.

Lynn Underwood