KNOWS WHAT GROWS: I started at age 5 or 6 with a few seeds, learning from my mother, aunt and grandmother. Eventually I completed a graduate studies program in landscape design at George Washington University. Then three years ago, I opened Garden District, an urban garden center, and now I'm a full-time purveyor of garden ideas, plants and solutions for urban places.
LET THE SUN SHINE IN: You can create a garden anywhere -- in your yard or on a patio, balcony, windowsill or rooftop. The first question I always ask people is whether they have sun or shade. You need to know how many hours of sunlight you get before you fall in love with a plant. You also want to think about the style of your home, your architecture and colors when choosing plants and containers.
GARDEN VARIETY: Contrasting colors create excitement -- reds want to be noticed, while blues recede into the landscape. In a loft space, try a contemporary container with a tall plant to provide a focal point and complement the high ceilings. If you're in a townhome, a classic choice is a leafy boxwood in a terra cotta pot. For an apartment with an outside balcony, I recommend fiberglass containers because they don't break in winter or weigh too much when you're carrying them up five flights of stairs. Another idea for an unusual garden container is to mix-and-match varieties of the same plant for a "monoculture" container. For a lot of color, try coleus -- its vibrant leaves range from deep red to lime green.
PETAL PUSHER: If you want a lot of flowers, annuals provide the most color. Annuals bloom for a whole season, while perennials bloom for less time. I'm most excited about some new plants we have called "bodacious temperennials" -- exotic plants that can be enjoyed spring through fall and then brought inside in the winter. They add a tropical accent to your home. My all-time favorite is the agave, a very architectural cactus that grows all over the South of France. I grew up with agave in Texas, and it can be used to create a feeling of another region.
SOW SIMPLE: Whether you choose to plant flowers or herbs, you need loose, well-drained soil with perlite so your plant roots can expand. When you plant in a container, take your plant out of its plastic pot and gently pull the roots apart. Be very gentle, you don't want to rip the roots, but just loosen them a tad -- it stimulates the roots to grow. Plants should be planted "proud" -- slightly high in their container -- so the water runs off a bit.
BROWN THUMB? If you travel a lot or don't have a green thumb, you can still have an urban garden, but you should use drought-tolerant plants that can survive infrequent watering. Choose ferns if you have shade, or a flowering annual, like lantana or cosmos, if you have sun.
As told to Kimberly Wilson