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  • Writer's pictureKat Cervoni

The Cultivation, Issue 2

Updated: Oct 21, 2020

May 12, 2020

The Cultivation by Staghorn Living is a new 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.

Native Dogwood (Cornus florida) in mid May. Photo by Pete Muller, courtesy iStock.

Editors Note

This spring, I jumped on the chance to fill our sweet, south-facing balcony with a smattering of pots, plants, and soil. There’s something therapeutic about working in a garden, whether it’s planting up a pot or trimming up a shrub. You can choose to be laser focused on a task like training a vine or you can switch to auto pilot and daydream away while spreading mulch or fertilizer. It can be a time of meditation or inspiration. That’s what I want to drive home to y'all today. May is primetime in the garden for the novice or the expert, so get out there and let yourself get lost in one. Your garden will thank you and it might be just the thing you didn’t realize you needed.

Happy planting!


Indoor Item: Thomas Fuchs Melamine Dishware

I've got a kitchen full of white dishes, plain glasses, and traditional silverware. When it comes to table setting, I’ve always been more focused on colorful floral arrangements and bright bouquets of branches than on patterned plates or napkins. That may all be changing. Recently, a friend turned me onto Thomas Fuchs' new dinnerware collection. Made of eco-friendly, durable Melamine, the plates, bowls, and serving pieces come in combos of gorgeous colors that would make any meal — served indoors or out — more appetizing. I’m especially smitten with the salad serving set in ivory + navy (now on sale).

Outdoor Item: Why We Love Fire Pits

Looking for a way to extend your time in the garden? A fire pit can be just the ticket for enjoying your space in the early days of spring, late into summer evenings, and through the beginning of fall. They’re available in a number of styles and price ranges, and they create an inviting gathering space and focal point. Much like a grill, you can find models that are fed by a small propane tank or via a professionally installed gas line. Here are three of our current favorites.

NOTE: Before purchasing or building a fire pit, be sure to check your city’s or HOA’s fire code regulations to avoid any violations (particularly if you’re in an urban area).

We're big fans of fire bowls, and this style from Ballard Designs is guaranteed to blend with most modern and contemporary spaces. It's crafted of highly durable reinforced concrete and compatible with propane or natural gas

Chic and multifunctional, this rectangular fire pit comes with a fitted lid that allows it to transform into a table when not ignited. Crafted from a fiber concrete composite

A unique spinoff from unfinished concrete, we love the texture that this terrazzo fire pit can bring to a space. It's a close call, but black is our favorite of the two color options (black or white)

Photo courtesy Anthropologie

What to Plant Now: Everything

For some of you, snowy conditions may have stolen the show last weekend, but warmer temperatures* and the urge to plant have returned this week with gusto. We say, go for it! May is primetime for planting just about anything you can get your hands on, and we’re highlighting some of this month's most prominent bloomers in different parts of the country.

*For those of y'all in chillier regions, we recommend waiting until overnight temps are consistently at or above 50 F to leave especially sensitive things (like basil) outdoors.

Photo by Lex20, courtesy of iStock.

NORTHEAST: Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

Hands down, this lacy, leafy shrub is is one of the season’s most fragrant. Plant a cluster in either white or, of course, lilac.

Conditions: Performs well in sun or part shade, moderate watering to keep roots from drying out.

Habit: Bushy to small tree form, up to 15' h x 12' w

Notes: Plant in well-draining soil and don't crowd with too many other plants to prevent powdery mildew. Prune immediately after flowering to avoid sacrificing next year's blooms

Photo by igaguri_1, courtesy of iStock.

SOUTH: Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

The first of the hydrangea shrubs to bloom, this rangy fast-grower produces tall, cone-shaped long-lasting, fluffy white flowers that make for great cutting or offer a consistent bloom throughout the season.

Conditions: Performs well in sun or part-to-dappled shade. Moderate water needs; more in full sun.

Habit: Large, sometimes leggy, up to 12' h x 12' w

Notes: Very low maintenance. Prune immediately after flowering to avoid sacrificing next year's blooms

Photo by Anna Egorova, courtesy of iStock.


There are so many fabulous variations of this easy-to-grow perennial that your only problem is which ones to choose. We love Iris versicolor (a native of much of the Great Lakes region and beyond) with its striking dark purple veining and a golden yellow center.

Conditions: Performs well in sun or part shade, medium to wet watering needs

Habit: Narrow, mostly upright and clumping, up to 30" tall. 

Notes: Easy to divide and share, it will naturalize, i.e. spread, on its own. Great for rain gardens and dry creek beds

Photo by LAP, courtesy of iStock.

SOUTHWEST: Hedgehog Cactus (Echinopsis)

It’s hard to miss these nearly neon-colored flowers, also known as Easter Lily Cactus flowers, which grow on spiky succulents. The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix is hoping this spring brings a superbloom, a rare phenomenon in which masses of wildflowers bloom all at once thanks to unusually high precipitation during the rainy season. Check out their Instagram.

Conditions: Full sun to part shade and minimal water with very well-draining soil.

Habit: Typically small and round with sharp, plentiful spines and vibrant flowers.

Notes: Allow soil to dry out between watering and then soak deeply. Use a cactus/succulent soil mix to ensure ample drainage. Do not let the roots stay submerged in water. 

Photo by Kat Aul Cervoni

WEST COAST: Wisteria

The delicate but decadent dripping flowers that cover this rugged vine are also fragrant early bloomers. New plants need time to get established — it won't take long — and do best when twined around a pergola pole or trained up a lattice

Conditions: Prefers full sun, medium water requirements. 

Habit: Twining tendrils become woody with maturity, up to 40 feet long and beyond

Notes: Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) and Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) are the most aggressive growers and can be invasive in warmer climates. American wisteria (Wistera fructescens) has a more moderate growth rate and is generally easier to maintain. Best if pruned in late winter before leafing out as well as throughout the summer to keep rampant shoots in check

Photo by Lord Runar, courtesy of iStock.


The bushy structure of this woodland shrub makes it great for adding height and volume to low-light and woodland gardens. Its vibrant colors brighten up shady areas in variations of red, pink, purple, yellow, orange, and white

Conditions: Best in part sun to full-but-dappled shade, moderate water requirements. Will scorch in full sun

Habit: Varies greatly by cultivar, from 3' to 20' h and equally wide. 

Notes: Thrives in acidic soil. Lots of soft yellowing leaves can indicate the soil pH is too alkaline, use Espoma Soil Acidifier to adjust conditions. Prune immediately after flowering

Plant Lore: The Tulip Tree Poplar + Ships Masts

Walk through any well-wooded inland area in the Eastern United States and you’ll likely come across this lovely giant, the Tulip Tree, or Tulip Tree Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). The origin of its common name can be hard to spot at first, but glance up at the top of the tree and you are greeted by Hello Kitty–shaped leaves and green and orange tulip-shaped flowers

Photo by magicflute002, courtesy of iStock.

Thanks to its height (up to 150') and arrow-straight trunk, Native Americans favored this tree for carving canoes and 17th-Century European explorers prized its hardwood for making ships’ masts. When heading back to Europe, these trees not only made the voyage as seeds and specimens, but also as part of the vessel

Photo by seven75, courtesy of iStock.

We hope you enjoyed Issue 2 of The Cultivation. Since our biggest goal with this newsletter is to provide content that captivates, educates, and inspires you, let us know if there's something you'd like us to include next time. Please send your thoughts by emailing us here. See you next week.

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