If a landscape remodel is among your New Year's resolutions, keep this in mind: A garden can actively engage visitors or leave them as passive spectators; it all depends on the design. A few years ago, Carol and David Ager's rear garden in Woodinville, Washington, prompted more spectating than strolling. Then Carol transformed her landscape by installing steppingstones that lead visitors up a densely planted hillside to a purple gate. Along the path, there's hardly any bare soil. Blue star creeper ( Pratia pedunculata) and low-growing perennials like dwarf astilbe and lady's-mantle carpet the ground between the stones.
To the left of the path, from front to rear, there's 'Golden Mops' false cypress, orange Dahlia 'Moonfire', and a red-leafed Japanese barberry.
On the right side, yellow-flowered Lysimachia punctata 'Alexander' is backed by a clump of maiden grass ( Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus'). Summer-blooming golden clematis ( C. tangutica) clambers over the arbor above the gate.