With the cleaning done, I could work on creating. My idea was to start with basic elements—patio, walls, trees—then make several mini-gardens. The yard sloped toward the concrete pad outside the back door and the area flooded. So to improve drainage, I decided to terrace the yard, adding stepping stones leading off the concrete pad to a foot-high retaining wall that steps up to the new 12-by-12-foot patio. Four-foot-deep flowerbeds border it on both sides. I work dangerously close to a farmer's market in Manhattan, and I began bringing perennials and shrubs home on the subway, a few at a time. I like how varied and long lasting foliage is, so I chose most plants for their leaves and use flowers as accents.