Layer Plants to Create the Ideal Outdoor Living Space

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Select the right plants to turn up the visual appeal of your yard with tips from landscape designer, Doug Scott.

"Like in a painting, you want to have a background, middle ground and foreground." – Landscape designer, Doug Scott.

For most homeowners, the perfect landscape starts with a healthy, lush lawn. But from there, it makes sense to move beyond the grass, to the plants that surround it.

“The goal,” said landscape designer, Doug Scott, of Redeem Your Ground in Atlanta, Georgia “is to create the space that reflects who you are and sets the stage for how you and your family want to live outside.”

Scott said that selecting and installing plants is a logical next step for homeowners looking to create their dream outdoor space.

First, select plant varieties that are best suited for the specific growing conditions.

“Remember that growing conditions change as you move around the yard, particularly in areas of sun exposure.”

It’s also important to choose the right size plants for the space in which they’ll be planted. This can be tricky since plants are much smaller when planted than when mature.

It’s important to read the plant labels, as the information they contain will help you know whether the plants will work in the growing conditions and space they’ll occupy.

From a design perspective, it’s important to think about texture, layers and drifts.

“When addressing the overall texture of planting beds, try to choose plants that vary in form, size, color and leaf structure,” Scott said. “The variety will make the space much more appealing visually, and enjoyable to hang out in.”

To achieve the desired end result, it’s important to consider the composition of planting beds, and where space allows, think in terms of layers.

“In other words, like a painting, you want to have a background, middle ground and foreground.”

Scott said the background should consist of evergreen shrubs, so that no matter what happens in front of it, there’s always something green and alive to enjoy.

The middle ground layer should be lower than the background layer. It’s a good place to add visual interest with a contrasting evergreen shrub, or perhaps a pop of color and life with a perennial shrub.

Finally, the foreground layer should visually ease the transition from flowerbed to lawn space. This can be accomplished with smaller perennials, evergreens, annuals, or creeping ground covers.

Scott said it’s important to consider the plant’s mature size when planting to ensure they’ll grow together as drifts, instead of a bunch of individual plants.

“Reading the plant labels will ensure plants are spaced appropriately, so that when they are full grown, they aren’t overcrowded, nor spaced too far apart.”

Tips for effective planting:
– Begin by digging a hole about two times the diameter of the plant, and as deep as the pot the plant is in.
– Give your plant what it needs to thrive by amending in organic material such as compost or soil conditioner.
– Consider adding a slow-release fertilizer and be sure to mix it well.
– Place the plant in the hole, making sure it sits at or just above the level it did in the pot. This may take a few tries to get right, but it’s worth the effort.
– Backfill around the plant with the soil mixture, stopping to add water when the hole is about half-full.
– Finish filling the hole with soil and firmly press down on the soil. Then, soak with more water.
– Finish by adding mulch, making sure to leave a bit of space between the mulch and the plant base.

View additional ‘Done in a Weekend’ videos with project ideas to increase the appeal of your outdoor living space at

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About Exmark
Exmark Manufacturing was incorporated in May 1982 as an independent manufacturer of professional turf care equipment. Today, it is the leading manufacturer of commercial mowers and equipment for the landscape professional. Exmark mowers are purchased 2-to-1 over the next best-selling brand by landscape maintenance professionals. In addition to designing, building and marketing quality turf care equipment, Exmark’s goal is total customer satisfaction. All Exmark products are designed to help customers increase productivity while delivering unmatched quality. Products are sold to distributors and dealers who share the company’s commitment to customer service and quality products. Learn more at

Note to Editors: All media inquiries, image or interview requests should be directed to Matt Gersib at (402) 314-2150 or mattgersib(at)gmail(dot)com. For other inquiries, please contact Exmark Mfg. Co., Inc., Industrial Park N.W., P.O. Box 808, Beatrice, NE 68310-0808; (402) 223-6300.

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Matt Gersib
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