Flower filled windows of Roman villas are great examples of creating a garden in miniature when space is a premium in your humble abode. Window boxes can serve to smarten up the house facade or add character. For cooks who use herbs, window boxes outside the kitchen window or just by the backdoor have a functional as well as an aesthetic purpose. And for those who adhere to the FengShui theme of things, vibrant window boxes are just the ticket to energise the home and encourage flow of ‘chi’ through the home.
Spring is the perfect time for adding these delights to your windows. With a wide variety of plant choices and ideal planting conditions as the weather warms up, with a little care and attention, you will be rewarded with brilliant spring color that you can wake up to and come home to.
Window boxes are essentially long, narrow troughs that can be supported by hangers on your window or shelf brackets underneath. There’s a large variety of materials which you can choose from – ranging from terra-cotta, wood, metal or resin. It’s usually best to pick a material that suits the style of your house. Remember that if you’re opting to have trailing plants and the like in your window box, then picking a trough with intricate detail may be a waste of money as it’s likely to be hidden from view by the plants. Some open type window planters like wrought iron types require some sort of coir matting to keep the potting mix in place. Some people opt to buy cheap styrofoam window boxes and hide them inside these open type window planters . Others opt to use coir matting because they can cut holes in them and insert plants into these holes to create a fuller look in the window box.
Attaching a window box
Always check the weight-bearing capacity of your shelf brackets before you buy – terra-cotta and wrought iron window boxes weigh a considerable amount more than the resin variety. Window boxes are very exposed and often endure more heat than most container plants on the ground – the reflected heat from bricks and the windows, plus the wind factor can make it harder on your plants. If you are using brackets to secure your window boxes, ensure they are 100-150mm (4-6 inches) from each end and have one every 600mm (2ft). It’s also important to use the correct fasteners – you’ll need masonry anchors for brick and use galvanized fasteners for weather resistance.
Don’t set the window box right up against the window, the moisture may cause the wood to rot. Angle the window box slightly so that it drains from the drainage holes away from the window. Note that if you’re living in an apartment, you’re not going to impress your downstairs neighbors if you have soil laden water dripping onto their balcony constantly. Opt for a self watering window planter or have a drip tray underneath the box to catch spills.
Potting mix for window boxes
Don’t skimp on potting mix. Buy a premium brand and add water holding crystals (window box plants are exposed to the elements and will need the extra babying to bloom well) – that and also because in most window boxes, you’d be cramming in plants more closely than you ever would in a garden bed.
Planting window boxes
Plant in a zig-zag fashion rather than in neat little rows with taller plants in the back and shorter ones in the front. If you are planting trailing plants, they should go closer to the front as well. Pick flower colors to match your house for added effect.
Window box care
To ensure you get the best results from your window boxes, maintenance is critical. You need to ensure that you have easy access to these window boxes – the easier the access, the more likely you are to maintain them well. In Europe, most houses don’t have fly screens and access via the inside of the house is easy and therefore maintenance isn’t such a chore. There’s nothing worse than a window box that isn’t well cared for – you might as well not have one there – it’s just plain ugly with a few drooping plants and straggly half dead flowers – depressing.
Watering window boxes regularly is critical – often window boxes live under eaves and they don’t rain. Water storage crystals are a must. If you can attach drip watering systems that’s even better. Otherwise work out a way you can water (with a watering can or hose) easily and on a regular basis to ensure optimum results for your window boxes.
Regular feeding is also necessary as most window boxes are crammed full of plants and they will be hungrier than most. A slow release fertilizer added at the point of planting and then regular feeding weekly will ensure that your window boxes flourish.
See the range of window box planters available.