The Cultivation, Issue 12
Updated: Oct 21, 2020
July 22, 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.
I don't know about y'all, but I'm finding the passage of time this year to be especially disorienting. How could it possibly be almost August? Even though our work season is still in full swing, this is the time of year when planting pauses for a brief moment and the gears begin to shift towards planning for fall. From patching and seeding lawns, to installing trees and shrubs (or more perennials), fall is prime time for a number of gardening jobs. This week, we're covering a few different approaches to updating and enhancing your outdoor space in the weeks and months ahead. Staying cool indoors instead? Check out our tips for improving your flower-arranging skills. It's easier than you might think.
There’s no denying that a professionally crafted flower arrangement can be a wonder to behold, but there are a ton of resources available to teach and inspire you to craft your own botanical works of art at home. We’ve put together a list of tips and essentials that will take your flower-arranging game from good to glorious.
Snip in Style
A sharp pair of florist's scissors ensures your cuts are precise and clean for tidy and long-lasting blooms.
Sometimes, the old ways are the best ways and floral frogs are a perfect example. Available in varying shapes, sizes, and materials to suit wet or dry, big or small arrangements, they help create and hold the perfect composition. Try placing one in the bottom of one of these gorgeous vases.
Note: We recommend staying away from florists foam. It’s toxic both to handle and dispose of, and it often has formaldehyde in it.
When you’re not sure where to start, peek at a professional florist's creations to spark your creativity. Instagram is the ultimate free resource for swoon-worthy images. And we are giving a shout out to two of our favorite books, too.
Emily Thompson– Known for her wild and avante-garde style, Thompson sometimes uses weeds and ordinary branches to create her extraordinary arrangements. Check them out on her Instagram profile and website.
On Flowers: Lessons from an Accidental Florist by Amy Merrick Filled with fun anecdotes, helpful illustrations, and gorgeous photos, Merrick's book documents how she finds inspiration for her arrangements everywhere she goes.
Erin Benzakein is building a floral empire on her growing farm in northern California. Her new book offers great tips for crafting stunning bouquets and it makes a pretty great coffee table book, too.
Tips + Tricks
Remove all leaves that are below the water line to avoid rot.
Smash the ends of the flower stems to increase water intake.
Add a splash of clear soda to the water — the sugar helps blooms last.
Avoid placing arrangements in direct sunlight or next to heaters.
For the Birds
One of the positive phenomena of the COVID-age is our collective awareness of birds. Between reduced car traffic and lower plane frequency, we are noticing their plumage and songs a whole lot more. No wonder that there has also been an enormous uptick in birdwatching as a hobby. Many of us have stumbled upon this new fascination almost by accident depending on where our in-home work spaces are. Regardless of the size of your outdoor space, here’s a rundown of different ways you can increase the number of feathered friends who come by to visit. And check out our recommendations for getting geared up here.
Create an avian watering hole with a bird bath. Traditional shallow basins on a pedestal are always a great option, but we also love these more subtle hand-carved stone baths from Dances with Stone via Etsy. Birds are known to begin visiting these the same day you set them up!
Seed + Feeder
A steady offering of seed is a surefire way to keep the birds visiting — especially in fall and winter. It pays to do a little research about common birds in your area so that you can buy the proper seed mix. For example, cardinals love big seeds like black-oiled sunflower seeds while goldfinches are fans of thistle and nyjer seed. Be sure to select a feeder that’s suitable for holding the type of seed you get. Here are two of our favorite squirrel-proof (a must) options:
Tip: Skip the super cheap seed. It’s loaded with fillers that the birds don’t actually eat and leaves behind a mess (followed by weeds).
A Bird in the Tree
Berry-eating birds such as cedar waxwings, mocking birds, and catbirds will flock to serviceberry trees while bluejays and grosbeaks are drawn to chokecherries. Native juniper and dogwood varieties will attract all of those birds as well as woodpeckers, titmice, and more.
A Place to Nest
Shelter is critical for birds in all seasons, and evergreens and hedges provide excellent habitats. Conifers such as firs, pines and spruces are also great options, as well as hollies. Be careful when pruning these plantings during the spring when birds are nesting and, if possible, hold off until a bit later in the season so that mothers and baby birds can benefit from the shelter until they fly the nest.
Planting for Privacy
Whether you are in the city or the suburbs, creating privacy for an outdoor space is one of the most common design questions we face. Here, our favorite options for green-screening in all types of conditions and scenarios.
Note: We recommend waiting until September or even October to install woody plants, unless you’ve got a spell of mild (85 degrees or cooler) weather.
For height and density in shadier conditions, try skip laurel.
Fast-growing, evergreen, and tolerant of shade, a hedge or cluster of skip laurel will eventually create a screen 10’-18’ feet tall. We love using this against fencing to create additional height beyond the 6’ most municipalities allow. These bushes also do well in containers, though the size of the container will limit how tall the shrub(s) will grow. Note: Skip laurel does not tolerate dryness well. Irrigation or very regular watering is a must.
For height and density in sunny and windy conditions, try upright junipers.
For exposed sites such as large open yards or rooftops, a stand of junipers will create a dense, evergreen privacy screen and block the wind as well. This shrub is ideal for spaces that need to be deer-proof and are prone to drought. Note: Most junipers have a slow-to-medium growth rate, but live an extremely long time.
For short to medium height and good density, try Boxwood.
Boxwood is a great option in window boxes or planters for ground floor homes that need between 1’ and 3’ of screening. Tolerant of sun and quite a bit of shade, the Justin Bowers variety of boxwood is easily found in one gallon container sizes, which is perfect for most window boxes. Note: Boxwoods are generally grow slowly.
For a dynamic, short to medium height scrim, try Karl Foerster grass.
Need about 4’ of privacy but not a fan of the static nature of evergreen shrubs? A tall, upright grass like Karl Foerster is the perfect choice for privacy for June-March. It's great in-ground or in a planter, which can add extra height. Note: April-May will be the re-growth period each year, so screening capabilities will be minimal.
For an evergreen vine in sunny or shady conditions, try English ivy.
From filling out trellises and open fences to covering overhead pergolas, English ivy is the go-to for evergreen coverage. This tough-as-nails self-clinging vine can handle full sun to full shade, wind, and even a bit of drought, but grows best and quickest in part shade with moist, rich soil. Note: This ivy can be quite aggressive, even invasive, if left to its own devices.
Keep in mind: Patience is truly essential for proper privacy planting, especially with larger shrubs or trees. If they’re planted too large and close together, they’ll over-compete for space and resources and you’ll start seeing die-out within a year or two. However, if planted with the proper spacing, you can enjoy the privacy benefits and healthy green growth for many years to come.
We hope you enjoyed Issue 12 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.