Pick a palette: When planning your garden, choose a few colors you like and that work well together, then concentrate on those colors when selecting plants, Jane Horn said. Foliage color is even more important than bloom color because it's visible all season long. Her garden palette includes pinks, burgundy, yellow, silver and chartreuse.

Recycle: The Horns like to reuse and re-purpose materials in their garden. In addition to their former garage door, now a freestanding garden accent, they have a bubbling water feature that LeRoy made from a dome skylight that had lost its seal. He also used leftover deck material to construct an octagonal raised bed that echoes the shape of their house.

Educate yourself: Take advantage of the free classes offered at garden centers, Jane said. "I take at least a dozen free seminars every spring. You learn about the new perennials and annuals," she said. "I want new and different things in my garden."

Don't skimp on the compost: "I add a lot, about 4 inches," she said.

Consider the neighbors: Jane makes it a point to wander over to her neighbor's yard occasionally so she can survey her garden from that vantage point. "I want to make sure it looks good from her side."

Plant picks: Jane's favorite plant is corydalis lutea, a shade-tolerant, yellow-flowering perennial. "It seeds itself. And it starts blooming in spring and never stops until it freezes," she said. She's also a fan of the Hosta of the Year, selected by the American Hosta Growers Association. "They're tried and true and reasonably priced."