Wonderful window boxes
May 16, 2021
We’re big believers in the window box, a versatile crowd pleaser with definite curb appeal. In fact, some might say we’re identified with the three iconic window boxes that hang above the archway of our studio in Upstate New York.
“They’re like the welcoming committee,” says our estate manager, Corinne Bowman, noting that these boxes accent probably one of the most photographed spots on our farm. Besides holding colorful annuals in the summer, they’re updated with mums in the fall and evergreen boughs for the holidays.
We asked Corinne, who oversees the planting of these boxes, as well as thousands of additional annuals and perennials on our 65-acre estate in Aurora, for some planting pointers:
- For ease of planting and the longevity of the window box, it’s best to plant in a plastic liner rather than directly in the box. Both the liner and the box should have drainage holes. If the location is accessible, insert the liner into the box and plant right there. Here on the farm, we plant the liners first and then insert them into the window boxes, which are located on the second floor of the studio.
- Pick plants suited to the location of the window box, taking into account if it is in full sun or a semi-shady spot.
- If you’re planting flowers, think about color combinations that pop and contrast with each other. Corinne tries to vary our window boxes every year but finds that she usually includes some of her more dependable favorites, like geraniums, coleus, Calibrachoa “Million Bells,” and Dichondra “Silver Falls.”
- Think about nonflowering plants, too. A window box can be a mini garden, hosting a few tomato plants or herbs, making it perfect for locations short on outdoor space like an apartment terrace.
- Do a dry run first and put the potted plants in the empty liner to get an idea of what comfortably fits with a little room to grow. It’s like arranging a class photo. Taller plants in the back, contrasting medium-size fillers next, and finishing with a plant that has trailing leaves or blossoms that will spill over the edge in the front.
- Remove the potted plants and fill the box halfway with nutrient-rich potting mix. Don’t use topsoil or soil from your yard, which will be too heavy and won’t drain well. Potting mix is lighter, has more nutrients, and will allow water to permeate better than the dirt you might find in your back yard.
- Add the plants from tallest to shortest, loosening the roots a little if they have become rootbound. Fill in with more potting mix around the plants.
- Finally, give the completed window box a drink. You want to water gently, so Corinne recommends using a watering can because it’s easier to control than a hose. Ongoing watering depends on the location of the window box. If it’s in full sun, it will dry out more quickly, especially if it doesn’t receive rainwater. But don’t overwater. Unlike hanging baskets, which tend to dry out quickly because they’re more exposed to sunlight and air, window boxes usually don’t need daily watering. In fact, it’s better to underwater than overwater.
- When you water, check if the plants need a little maintenance, including removing spent blooms and leaves.
- Finally, keep in mind that plants grow quickly. What might look a little sparse in early May will fill in quite nicely by mid-June, and with the right watering and a little love from Mother Nature, will look good all summer long.