Welcome Window Boxes
By Lois Hoffman
Window boxes add charm and a pop of color to your home and they take very little work to go from drab to fab!
They are pretty, add charm to a house, are easy to maintain and are versatile. What’s not to love? I’m talking about window boxes.
I have always loved them although I have never had them. They just seem to add so much to a place and give it that “homey” feeling. Personally, I have always thought that they make any home look like a cottage which, in turn, makes me think of slower paced vacations at the lake.
Window boxes have a long history behind them. They started out in Europe and the idea traveled to America with the early settlers. They have been dated to early Rome where it was common to cultivate cottage gardens for food, medicine and religious uses. Folks lived in tiny homes, many on top of one another where there was no space for gardening. Window boxes provided an economical way to grow food. Today, they have evolved into growing decorative flowers and more.
The nice thing about window boxes is that they bring the outside in. Usually, you can see the fruits of your labor from inside the house which always makes it a little more cheerful inside while also enjoying them while you are outside. Being part of the house, they are easy to water and fertilize also.
Window boxes are ways for anyone to be able to enjoy a little nature. Whether you live in the country or the city, there is always room for a window box!
They can be made out of almost any material and can reflect your personal taste. Wood is usually the material of choice. It looks natural and looks like it is part of the home. It is also easy to install, just take care not to fasten the boxes too tightly to the siding. No matter what the material, leave an inch or two so moisture does not build up between the box and the house.
Though wood is the natural choice, take stock of your place and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. If you have a picket fence around your yard, window boxes made of picket fence tie the whole place together. If you live in an older home and have corbels, why not add some of those under the boxes to give the whole home a colonial look? Have a wrought iron gate? Make the window boxes out of wrought iron to match.
Or, you can go for broke and do something wild and crazy and entirely different from your other décor. Lattice makes nice looking boxes. Many use galvanized tubs. These shiny boxes fit any style home and draw your eye to the boxes directly. On the other hand, you can use old pallets to make a box or regular wood painted black. These ideas are simple and your attention is drawn to the contents rather than the box itself.
If you want something a little less permanent without disturbing your siding, you can make stand-up window boxes. These are much like raised planting beds but are taller to allow the contents to grow just at windowsill level. It all depends on personal taste.
Whichever style you choose, make sure you use some type of liners to hold the soil in and also have drainage holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain out.
Window boxes don’t require a lot of work either to install or maintain, if done properly. Once installed, here are a few tips for filling them:
Pay Attention to Direction
Some folks put window boxes only on the front of their homes while others want it uniform and put them on all four sides. Naturally, you want all the contents to be the same so they all look connected.
However, you may want to re-think this strategy since all of the boxes will not receive the same lighting. Remember, shade-loving plants’ leaves get scorched with the high and hot afternoon light when they face south and west. On the other hand, plants that love the sun grow tall and leggy when facing north.
Window Boxes Growing
Everyone thinks flowers when it comes to window boxes. However, if it grows, it can probably go in a window box, with your only limiting factor being size. Think miniature for your favorite plants. If you love marigolds or zinnias, put the dwarf ones in, not the two-foot-tall ones.
Don’t forget about your vegetables and herbs. They make great contents for window boxes. Imagine, just opening the window and snipping a bit of sage, thyme or chives. The same goes for lettuce, cherry tomatoes and kale.
Depending on how big your box is, you may be able to include vegetables and herbs mixed with some flowers for color. Add marigolds to lettuce and cherry tomatoes for a splash of color. Adding trailing vines always makes a box look better.
Don’t forget bulbs. Planting miniature iris, hyacinth and gladiolus bulbs along with some annuals will give you different heights and colors of flowers at different times of the year.
To make life a little simpler and easier, you can put pots of flowers, herbs, etc. in the window boxes. This is an alternative to adding dirt and digging out the old after the season has ended. You can also change out the contents more often if you are so inclined to do so.
By choosing pots slightly shorter than the height of your window box, no one will ever know that the boxes themselves are not planted directly.
Plant Choices for Sun
Some good choices for boxes receiving a lot of sun are dusty miller, lavender, marigolds, miniature roses, ornamental pepper, zinnias, salvia and rosemary.
Choose vines like sweet potatoes, nasturtium, peppermint-scented geranium, wave petunias, thyme and sweet marjoram.
Plant Choices for Shade
Choose upright astilbe, coleus, English daisy, hostas, impatiens, Johnny-jump-ups, lemon balm, lamb’s ears, mophead hydrangea, pansy, parsley, snapdragons and wax begonias.
Shade-loving vines include creeping myrtle, fuschsia, peppermint, sweet autumn clematis, Carolina Jasmine, honeysuckle and moon vine.
Window Box Care
If making wood planters, cedar and redwood are the best choices because of their rot-resistant qualities. They also look good with any type of house no matter if left natural or stained.
- Always remember to use some type of lining, whether it is liners made specifically for window boxes or just some heavy plastic.
- Drainage is very important, if the roots become saturated, you can have root rot.
- Use standard potting soil or make your own by combining soil, sawdust, sand and bone meal. If you are growing edible plants, add some compost. Fill boxes with soil to within an inch of the top and make sure the plants fit securely. During the season, if the dirt settles, add more.
- Cultivate soil regularly so water will penetrate it and not run off. Fertilize every couple weeks and water every couple of days.
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