Experts and BHG readers answer.
What to do with a blank slate?
Well the first thing I would do is look at some garden plans. Our Garden Design section has over 100 plans you can browse through for various types of gardens (sun, shade, annual, perennial, butterfly, hummingbird, etc). Then, I'd go to our Plant Encyclopedia section and do Advanced Searches, plugging in your zone and specific needs. It's easy to do and should provide you with a planting list designed for your backyard. Then, i'd also visit your local independent garden centers and walk through their plant aisles to get an idea of what you like. You can also talk to their personnel to get some ideas.