Draw beds and identify plants on graph paper before digging in. "It keeps you focused and helps you stick to a color scheme — especially on a site this large," Debbie Young said.

Take photos of plant combinations you want to replicate. Young shoots pictures of plantings she admires at a favorite haunt — the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. "I copied the beautiful redbud trees with purple foliage heuchera underneath," she said.

Use the many varieties of hydrangeas to fill up space, make a statement and provide beauty from the time they bloom all the way to winter.

Choose perennial plants that multiply fairly quickly, but aren't invasive. Some of Young's favorites are Autumn Joy and Autumn Fire sedum, coneflowers, phlox, monarda and daylilies. Grow rows of zinnias from seed. And, of course, in shady areas, create an expansive hosta glen.

Plant trees for shade and fall color, such as pin oak, maples and pagoda dogwood.

Take photos all summer long to inspect color combinations, noting which plants thrived and what to replace. Make sure to take notes in the fall on changes you want to make in the spring, "when you forget what you planted where," she said.

Lynn Underwood