Window Dressing

A neighbor’s window box inspires new endeavors. PHOTO: Lise Jenkins.

THE ABSENTEE GARDENERS

By Kit Flynn and Lise Jenkins

Have I mastered the art of planting containers or just gotten bored? I stalk the garden centers looking for inspiration, but my mind goes blank, so my containers end up looking pretty much the same as last season. I’ve met my horticultural Waterloo.

Walking in my neighborhood, I found the inspiration I need. Every garden starts with an idea, and the seed has been planted in my mind to create a different kind of container — the perfect window box.

Years ago, I tried window boxes and failed. It’s hard to keep them looking good. As the saying goes, it’s all about location, location, location, so here are some things to consider for creating a beautiful window box.

Location: Take a long look at your potential window box location. Consider how much sun it receives throughout the year, recognizing that conditions right next to a window are more intense. Glass can reflect the sun and burn tender plants, while hard surfaces such as brick and stone absorb heat and release it throughout the night, keeping the box much warmer and drier than you might imagine. Keep in mind that nothing lasts forever —a chilly northern exposure might be the perfect place for a window box come spring while a south-facing spot may be the ideal spot in the fall. Decorative shelves or mini-balconies can be attractive additions to your windows in their own right by adding interest to your home’s appearance with or without plants.

Materials: The construction of your window box will dictate the plants you select and their planting medium. The design possibilities for your window box are too many to list here. The internet brims with ideas, and a search on Google, Pinterest or Instagram can entertain for hours. However, don’t let creativity get in the way of practical issues. Be mindful of the weight of the container, plants, planting medium and water. A 36-inch-long box can be surprisingly heavy, so ensure you can anchor the box securely, and consider adding bottom supports. Select materials that complement your architectural style but are hardy enough to endure harsh conditions and provide maintenance-free service for several seasons.

Watering: Window boxes tend to be smaller and subject to more heat than most container plantings, so be prepared to water more frequently, sometimes multiple times a day during hot weather. My downfall was imagining I could, or would, reliably lug watering cans — it was a recipe for disaster. So, select locations that have a tap nearby or install a drip system that can be operated by a timer.

Our warm weather may deter many gardeners from trying window boxes. Devising a reliable watering method can open up possibilities, allowing you to add something unique to your garden design.

Plant Selection: Window boxes are seasonal creations, so plant for immediate impact. It’s better to trim and even remove plants when they exceed the space than to wait weeks for small plants to fill in.

Magazines, your local garden center and the internet can help guide your choices of what to plant. It’s not too late to create a window box. I can’t wait to walk by and see what you create.


Absent from their gardens, Kit and Lise enjoy roaming our region exploring the intersection of horticulture and suburban living. More on Instagram @AbsenteeGardener or email: info@absentee-gardener.com

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