Northern & Central Midwest
The Helpful Gardener
Gardening With the Helpful Gardener is the Web site of garden designer Scott Reil, and he gives a good bit of information about the art of Japanese garden design. This is an in-depth look at the art of design, with plenty of information about the elements of water, stones, lanterns, and the Zen influence. The only thing lacking is photos, but a simple Google search can be a good companion to this site.
Favorite or New Plant
Gardeners in the west and south may consider me a heretic since this plant grows like a weed where it has escaped, but I love castor plant (Ricinis communis). It gives an amazingly tropical look to the garden, and can even be grown as a stunning focal point in a container. The plant can grow to 15 feet high in a single season, and the aralia-like foliage comes in purple, dark red-metallic, bronze-green, maroon, bright green with white veins, and plain green. Castor plants grow in any soil in full sun or partial shade. They are drought tolerant and need no fertilization. The seeds are the source of castor oil, and are poisonous when chewed, so it is important not to grow this plant where young children play.