Be your own landscape architect--for less than the price of an hour's consultation--with Sierra's Complete LandDesigner 3D Design Collection 7.0. Eight programs make up the total design package: the core is the simple but powerful LandDesigner 3D, an intuitive walk-through guide to garden and lawn design. Its wizards help to quickly enter your site's data (like area, elevation, and shade), then add plants or objects from its 6,500-item database. Cycle them through the seasons and the years in three dimensions from any angle with the time-lapse function--always an entertaining show. Make changes instantly, update the shopping list automatically, and check out the beautiful samples if you need a bit of help from the experts. The Photo Garden Designer imports photos of house and yard to get an even better, if sometimes startling, image of the new look.
Once the new design is set up, the shopping-list feature is tremendously useful, and the Personal Garden Planner will keep track of maintenance tasks. The online Garden Encyclopedia and Ortho Home Gardener's Problem Solver answer questions quickly and make selection even easier, brilliantly using audio and video to instruct and inspire. Every program in the package is simple and fun to use (though it's expected that you know your way around a garden before you start), and the graphics in the design software are stunningly sharp (though users of slower computers will find the animations a bit sluggish). Caveat emptor: you might find it tempting to stay indoors with Complete LandDesigner 3D Design Collection 7.0. --Rob Lightner