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  • Writer's pictureKat Cervoni

The Cultivation, Issue 11

Updated: Oct 21, 2020

July 14, 2020

The Cultivation by Staghorn Living is a weekly newsletter offering expert insight for garden-filled living. Here you'll find ideas and hands-on guidance for everything from planting tricks and patio decor to the tools and tips we treasure.

NYC's High Line has some of the most incredible swaths of coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) we've ever seen. Photo by Boogich courtesy iStock 

Editor's Note

With the heat of the day sometimes too intense to tolerate, many of us are waiting for the cooler evening temperatures to enjoy our outdoor spaces – myself included. This week, the delicious, after-dark air in the garden got me thinking about just how important landscape lighting is in the overall scope of one’s outdoor space. From tree spotlights to string lights, outdoor lighting introduces both luminosity and a new lens through which to experience one’s garden. We’ve listed several different ways you can achieve a nighttime glow into your own space. Speaking of heat, we’re also sharing plants to enjoy indoors (when you need to be in the A/C) and some gorgeous summertime annuals that’ll brighten up any bald spots in a flowerbed without succumbing to heatstroke (as long as they’re watered!) As we ease into the hottest part of the summer, I hope this week’s issue will spur you to try something new inside or out.

Happy planting!


Shelf-Stable Showstoppers

It’s safe to say we can think of a plant — or four — for every surface, shelving included. Each of these cascading indoor varietals offers a lot to look up to.

Spiderwort (Tradescantia zebrina)

Image by Iryna_L courtesy iStock

With its combination of silvery green and purple foliage, this plant will add drama to any spot. We recommend placing it in bright, indirect light and watering it approximately once a week. There is another spiderwort we love that is native to the eastern U.S. Known as Tradescantia virginiana, it has vivid purple-blue flowers and chartreuse foliage.

String of Pearls (Senecia rowleyanus)

Image courtesy of Lost in Plantopia

A native of arid southwest Africa, this sun-loving succulent brings a unique texture to your home that’s hard to miss. It’s small, bead-like leaves adapted into this form as a way of reducing water loss through sun and heat exposure. Place this plant in an extra sunny spot and let it dry out between waterings.

Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron cordatum)

Image courtesy A Beautiful Mess

Easy to care for and easy to find, the heartleaf philodendron is a fast-growing indoor vine that can thrive in a range of light conditions from semi-bright to indirect to low light — just keep it out of strong direct sunlight, which will cause leaf scorch. Water once a week. Also, did you know that “cor” or “cord” in Latin means “heart?” (think “coronary” or “corazon” in Spanish.) If you see a plant name with this root word, it very likely has heart-shaped (ie., cordate) leaves.

Pothos (Epiprepnum aureum)

Image courtesy Gardenista

Second only to sansevieria in ease of maintenance, pothos is a cinch to grow indoors, which makes it a perfect plant for beginners. It tolerates both low and bright light conditions and is forgiving when it comes to watering, though we recommend aiming for a good drink once a week. NOTE: Be sure to keep this out of reach of pets and small children as it can be toxic.

Summer Color: Heat-Loving Annuals to Plant Now

We all hunger for color in the garden in summer, and even the best-planned perennial beds can benefit from the second-string support of a few annuals. Here, we offer a selection of colorful, easy-to-plant options that’ll bring on the vibrancy and can take the heat, too.

NOTE: Heat-tolerance is not necessarily the same as drought-tolerance! Annuals typically need lots of consistent watering to grow and bloom successfully. For example, most commercially available window boxes should be drenched a minimum of every other day, and daily for some. Larger planters will afford more time between watering.


Image by Funwithfood courtesy iStock

Known for being one of the best annuals for attracting pollinators, pentas form sweet clusters of star-shaped flowers that bloom from spring through fall. Somewhat bushy and compact, this is a great annual for the front or middle of a sunny border. It's also ideal for enlivening a mixed container or a window box.


A pink mix of zinnia, likely of the "Benary's Giant" variety. Image by Bgwalker courtesy iStock
Zinnia Zahara. Image by igaguri_1 courtesy iStock

If you missed the spring window for sowing seed this year, no worries. Zinnias are typically available as young plants at most retail nurseries. If you’re looking to add height, choose from varieties like Benary's Giant (pictured), State Fair, or Sun. For something lower, try Zahara (shown) or Profusion. These sun- and heat-loving flowers will bring you tons of color until the first frost. Frequent pruning renders more blossoms, so treat yourself freely to some fresh-cut flowers.


A mix of ruby-hued coleus breaks up a sea of mid-toned green ferns within a border at the New York Botanical Garden. Image by Kat Aul Cervoni 

If you’re looking to plant annuals in a shady spot, try any type of coleus. The Kong coleus delivers a great combination of wild and funky colors plus jumbo leaves. The Wizard Rainbow series is ideal if you want less green and more velvety burgundies.


Salvia Indigo Spires. Image by ksushachmeister courtesy iStock
Salvia Hot Lips. Image by ksushachmeister courtesy iStock

For an annual that looks like a perennial, go with salvia. Available in numerous colors, with varying shapes and sizes, we love that some varieties, such as Indigo Spires (shown), closely resemble their perennial cousins Caradonna or May Night while others, like Hot Lips from the salvia microphylla variety (shown), have the airy, delicate quality of gaura, but with more color options.

Wave Petunia

Lush, colorful wave petunias create a gorgeous cascading effect to these window boxes. Image courtesy Deborah Silver

It’s official: Wave petunia is the ultimate best supporting actress of the summer container. Because of its cascading form, it's misplaced in a garden bed. But for containers and window boxes, nothing beats the nonstop profusion of vibrant color that this plant offers, even without deadheading! Perfect for hot, sunny locales.

Bright Ideas: Outdoor Lighting

In the season of outdoor living nothing helps to extend your time in the garden like outdoor lighting. From inviting wall sconces to romantic cafe lights, we’re sharing intel on all the basics for getting your garden glow on.

Low-Voltage Lighting

Image by Anthony Crisafulli for Staghorn Living 

Our go-to option for many spaces is ambient, low-voltage uplighting set amidst plantings. We love the way these kinds of lamps highlight — and even accentuate — the shapes and forms of the flowers, shrubs, and trees in their immediate vicinity. Not bright enough for reading, low-voltage lights cast the kind of warm, inviting glow that makes a space feel magical after dark.

Cafe String Lights

Image courtesy Better Home & Gardens. 

The most DIY-friendly option is definitely overhead cafe string lights. Whether you string them up on a pergola, hang them between trees, or zigzag a strand between posts, these inexpensive lights offer bright, functional, festive light that's perfect for entertaining. To help keep the strings tidy, taught, and secure, we highly recommend running steel cables first and then attaching your string lights to them. Both the string lights and steel cable are easy to find on Amazon or at Lowes.

Line-Voltage Fixtures

Image courtesy Royal Botania. 

If you can install a customized lighting program, we recommend line-voltage fixtures installed on fencing, walls, or overhead — or a combo of all three. This requires installation by a licensed electrician, but you'll get the widest range of options for fixtures and the ability to to use dimmers. Wall- and fence-mounted sconces are especially helpful for spaces where overhead lighting is not an option and for areas with minimal planting. Lumens is a terrific source for fixtures.


We hope you enjoyed Issue 10 of The Cultivation.We want to provide content that captivates, educates, and inspires you, so let us know if there's something you'd like us to include next time. Please send your thoughts by emailing us here. Want to catch up on previous issues? Click here to read through all of our prior editions.

See you next week.

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