• Kat Cervoni

The Cultivation, Issue 21

Updated: Oct 15, 2020


October 15, 2020

Inspired Ideas for Tending Your Home and Garden

Maples, famous for their red and orange autumn foliage, are the focus of this week's plant lore. Image by LiuSol courtesy iStock.

Editor's Note


I am making the most of being at home this fall by improving our new digs, both inside and out. Now that we have a proper porch, and a toddler who likes to spend lots of time on it, I'm filling planters with the best colors and textures that fall has to offer. Read on to see how you can do the same for your entryway. I'm also sharing how to get your outdoor space ready for winter — yes, it's time to think about that. And I'll leave you with some trivia about the source of your favorite breakfast treat. Have a great week!


Yours,

Autumn Container Inspiration

This fall, I'm diving into tons of projects to help us feel more settled and put our stamp on our new home. One of the big things on my list is setting up planters to frame our front door and enhance our porch. Since I like to keep entry containers seasonal, I've put together a little autumn recipe for my new containers that can easily be adapted to suit almost any condition, whether sunny or shady, a window box or planter, etc. And as I know that mums can be bifurcating, you either love them or you can't stand them, it's mum-free!

My planters are in place and it's time to plant. Image courtesy Kat Cervoni.

Shopping List


  • Two boxwood shrubs: These evergreens can remain as a constant throughout all seasons.

  • Four purple matrix pansies: A larger flower that provides solid blossoms.

  • Six purple/yellow jonny jump-ups: A smaller flower that has two-tone blossoms.

  • Two creeping jenny plants: These perennials will remain as a constant in all seasons.

  • Four blue-toned ornamental cabbages: These can handle the frost.

  • Two purple ornamental mustards: These add gorgeous lacy foliage.

  • Two 2' x 2' x 2' Fiberstone cube planters: I like the matte gray.

  • One permeable landscape fabric role: This is for preventing soil loss.

  • Eight 2-cubic-foot bags of organic potting soil.

  • One bag of organic pine bark mulch: You won't need the whole thing.

Putting it All Together

Image by Kat Cervoni.

When you want to create a standout planter, the classic formula is filler + thriller + spiller. When I have the space, I like to take things a step further and include what I'm calling a centerpiece. Usually, it's some sort of evergreen, like a boxwood, which can ground your arrangement regardless of the season. An ornamental grass, such as miscanthus, can also make for a great anchor.

My son, Colt, gives a final inspection of our new entry planters. I think he likes them.
The finished planters. Image courtesy Kat Cervoni.

Since these are in the shade and also aren't getting any rain water, I'm hand-watering them twice a week. This will keep things perky until we start getting overnight frosts starts.


Prepping Your Garden for Winter

I've always loved the warmth and tenderness conveyed in the expression "putting the garden to bed." Good news: A few simple steps are all it takes to prep your space for a happy, healthy, and cozy winter ahead.


To Prune or Not to Prune?

Image courtesy Janet Davis.

For the most part, I fall into the "not to prune" category when it comes to leaving perennials and grasses intact for the winter. There are a few reasons: First, leaving them be provides a helpful extra bit of insulation to the plant's crown and roots. Second, many of the dried seed heads of both perennials and grasses are an important source of wintertime food for birds. Third, dried seed heads and grass foliage offer a welcome bit of color and structure throughout the colder months.


Nourish Your Soil

Image by nixoncreative courtesy iStock.

Fall is one of the most important times to feed your soil with a nice layer of compost. Think of it like eating a balanced meal of carbs and protein before a big workout. What a difference it makes in your ability to get through the workout AND recover afterwards, right? The same goes for your soil, and your plants will thank you by exhibiting increased vigor when they wake up next spring. I like working about one inch of compost into the soil before putting down mulch.


A Cozy Blanket of Mulch

Image by ronstik courtesy iStock.

The last big step in winter garden prep is to add a hefty layer (2-3 inches) of mulch to your planters and garden beds. Mulching offers a whole host of benefits, from important temperature and moisture regulation and insulation, as well as added acidity, to improved soil structure and nutrition when it breaks down, similar to the effects of compost). The mulch also gives some extra erosion control during periods of heavy rain. My favorite type is pine bark — either shredded or nuggets is fine. Definitely steer clear of any dyed varieties.


Plant Lore: Maples (Acer sp.)

One of the most common and popular trees in the northern hemisphere, the maple is famous for many things — spectacular fall color, the Canadian flag, the delicious syrup on your waffles and pancakes. But long before its nectar graced our breakfast tables, the maple was famous for one of its less edible qualities.

Maples often have some of the brightest and most vivid fall foliage in reds, oranges and yellows. Image by mirceax courtesy iStock.

A deeper dive into Acer, the latin name for the maple tree genus, reveals that the word means "sharp." It's a reference to the quality of the wood. Maple, a hardwood, was a popular choice for spear makers as far back as the Neanderthals due to its strength and ability to make rigid, deadly points.

Ancient wooden spears. Image courtesy W.H. Schoch et al/Journal of Human Evolution 2015, C.S. Fuchs.

On your next walk around the park or leaf-foraging adventure, don't forget the maple's storied history as our ancestors weapon of choice.



We hope you enjoyed issue 21 of The Cultivation. If there is a garden you love and want to know how it was done, let us know by emailing us here. Want to catch up on previous issues? Click here to read through all of our prior editions. And remember to follow us on Instagram @staghorn_living!


See you next week.

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