Astilbe: Freeman's garden contains as many as 12 varieties of these easy-care plants, which add height and texture. "They're so tough," she said, "all they need is water."

Boxwood: She calls these evergreen shrubs her "mainstay," adding, "I think everything looks good with them." They're long-lasting (some of her boxwoods are 30 years old) and can be easily pruned to maintain their shape. Plus, their compact, dense form and deep green color make for a stunning backdrop.

Clematis: She has early, midseason and late-blooming varieties of these prolific climbers.

Hostas: While many gardeners use these hardworking plants as filler, Freeman employs them as accent plants to introduce a spot of color and pattern.

Lilies: Freeman considers these showy plants "the frosting on the cake." Her favorites are the Asiatic and oriental lilies, but she also plants a few daylilies for their frond-like leaves.

Turtlehead: This leggy plant with its unusually shaped flowers is a favorite because "they're so neat and they make such a good backdrop for lilies."

Phlox: She relies on miniature varieties (because they don't flop over and look messy) and those that are mildew-resistant.

Connie Nelson