In remodeling her garden, Claudia Armann followed five basic steps.
• Find your style. Walk or drive past neighbors' yards to see what kinds of gardens and plants appeal to you most. That's how Armann discovered she liked strong shapes and lots of color.
• Check out traffic patterns. Before you do any planting, observe foot-traffic patterns to determine if you need more paths. Armann added one leading from the driveway to the front door (it's hidden behind late-season plant growth here). That simple step changed her rectangular yard into an irregularly shaped―and interesting―island bed.
• Plant the foundation first. Anchor the landscape with permanent plants that look good year-round; Armann planted agave, lantana, rosemary, and yucca. Then she added seasonal frills like California poppies.
• Be selective and generous. Armann concentrated on succulents in ample numbers for a coherent and dramatic look.
• Ask a friend. Talking to a more experienced gardener can be invaluable.