2 Before you buy Make sure you know how much space you're working with so you're not tempted to overbuy. As beautiful and varied as they are, too many flowers and you'll end up overcrowding them when you plant.
3 Buying on a budget If you're on a tight budget, here are some tips from You Grow Girl: The Groundbreaking Guide to Gardening by Gayla Trail (Fireside, 2005): Buy off season, keep your eyes open for sales, online auctions can be a gold mine, or simply trade cuttings with friends and neighbours.
4 Hardiness zones Many garden books and websites have Hardiness Zone maps for North America. The continent is divided into regions based on minimum and maximum temperatures. This kind of information can help you pick plants with the greatest survivability for your area.
5 Choosing your plants Short and stocky plants are hardier and more stable than tall, thin ones. Turn the container over to make sure the roots aren't too compacted and twisted. Check for insects or disease. And avoid the allure of plants already in bloom. Plants that haven't flowered yet will have more stamina to survive transplanting.
6 Maximizing light exposure If your garden isn't so lucky as to have a southern exposure (which gets most of the day's light) look at ways to trim back taller plants or tree branches to let in more light where you need it. (Click here for tips to keep those garden tools tip-top!)
7 Group plants that require lots of water together.