Tired of beating around the bush? Ready for a cool new yard? Then check out these popular landscaping trends.

This, you bravely vowed on New Year's Day, is the year for remaking the yard. But now winter has loosened its icy grip, the first buds will soon break, and you're stuck on square one.
What to do?

Walter Reeves, author of the Georgia Gardener's Guide and host of the Do It Yourself Network's Garden Sense, puts a lot of faith in the average gardener. He suggests that we just go out in the yard, sit down, and watch. Don't take the dog. Don't bring the cellphone. Don't read the paper. Just look.

"Relax and be observant," says Reeves. "After a while, your mind will begin to see patterns and potential. You'll see how the sun comes over the yard. You'll see the different patterns and textures out there. Maybe this corner needs some color, maybe some raised beds would be perfect for another spot. This becomes the basis for deciding what you want to do."

Landscape designer Joel M. Lerner, a Washington Post gardening columnist and author of the Complete Idiot's Guide to Landscaping and six other books, says there's no one-shrub-fits-all formula for a yard plan. He's developed a "Lernscaping" method of fitting one's personality type to a yard type, starting with a lengthy checklist of more than 80 questions: What's your favorite color? Favorite season? Will you be entertaining outside? And so on.

Mind-melding with the foliage could be a kick. Communing with the yard sounds great. But just in case you can't hear what your landscape is saying, check out these cool trends and tools for contemporary gardeners. And remember, it's never too late to create a fascinating yard. Well, not until August, anyway.

Water, Water Everywhere
David Beaulieu, who runs the About Landscaping website (www.landscaping.about.com), puts "water features" high on his list of cool new ideas for the yard. These might include a fountain, a waterfall, or a gurgling stream. And thanks to recent advances such as preformed, rigid plastic liners, we're not talking heavy lifting and wheelbarrows full of fast-drying cement.

"It's as simple as digging a hole and plopping it in," says Beaulieu. "Sink a pump in there, attach some tubing, and string it up to any kind of fountain piece. This really introduces something different to the landscape, and gives you the sound of that soothing running water."

Good fountains make good neighbors, too. A fountain or pond can help block out the sounds of traffic and the next-door teen's thumping rap music.