Visitors to Garden Walk Buffalo today don’t have to look far to find plenty of charm – and window boxes are a good place to start. They can be found hanging high and low – from boxes filled with Supertunia ‘Raspberry Blast’ and Creeping Jenny on a backyard tree house to others packed with Caladium, cascading variegated ivy and Begonia ‘Escargot’ on a 19th-century brick home in the Cottage District.
These, and many others, are flourishing.
Window boxes do more than add color to a home; they also make the house look even more welcoming and attractive.
“My house is very plain architecturally compared to other houses in the neighborhood. The window boxes make a huge difference,” said Mary Lee Sulkowski of her Cottage District home. She has a lineup of four window boxes on the front of her home, which doesn’t get much sun.
“Some of it doesn’t get any direct sun at all,” she said. She planted the boxes with coleus, sweet potato vine, New Guinea impatiens and Lobelia.
Which brings up the matter of picking plants. While there are many more varieties from which to choose than there used to be, foliage and flowers must be suited to the window box’s location and sun exposure.
Several window boxes are found on the home of Ann and Jeffrey Gellman, who are on Garden Walk Buffalo, as are the other gardeners in this story. A wooden box in a shady area is filled with a couple of varieties of coleus, umbrella grass, double impatiens, Dragon Wing and Rex begonias and cascading sweet potato vine. Another in a sunny area bursts with Persian Shield, Lantana, Cleome, Salvia, zebra grass and Colocasia.
“Whether I have rented or owned a home, I have always gardened. I started with just one thing – impatiens in pots. Then I started branching out and realized you can stuff a lot of plants in a small space. They add color and texture. I always felt that you should have outside space in the summer – even a porch – and that you should have plants there, either flowering or some kind of other plant,” Ann Gellman said.
So even if you don’t have a yard, window boxes and other planted pots and containers can achieve that.
While window boxes are easier to take care of than a big garden, they do require routine care – pinching back, watering and fertilizing according to the instructions on the label. Daily watering may be necessary, and some gardeners also use a liquid supplement in addition to a slow-release fertilizer – depending on the types of plants chosen and their needs. Dead plants need to be removed, but it’s easy just to replace them with new ones.
While checking out people’s window boxes, notice how some gardeners like to fill their window boxes with one color – or shades of one color. Others like a riot of colors. Some, too, place window box-type planters other places besides under the house windows.
At the home of Sue Hough and Miro Sako, a window box on a fence is filled with coleus, yellow-blooming Sunvy Super Gold 2011 Sanvitalia and ornamental grass. Window boxes also hang on the tree house built for their two daughters.
And Garden Walk Buffalo participant and board member Tom Halloran hung a pair of metal coco-lined planters called “hay racks” on a fence in his backyard. He filled them with coleus, ‘Little Princess’ miniature lilies and red, small petunia-like Calibrachoa. Railing planters are another option for many.
Window box gardeners also like to share their planting tips, such as tossing pebbles, foam packing peanuts or broken pieces of a terra-cotta pot in the bottom of the box for drainage. Or packing in the plants for instant gratification. Martha Stewart has suggested planting fresh herbs in a window box outside the kitchen or a lavender-filled one near a bedroom window for calming fragrance.
Some say they might change some of the plants as the summer moves along or even dress the window boxes for each season rather than leaving them empty come fall. Harvest-theme window boxes can be created using mums, ornamental grasses, pumpkins, gourds and scarecrows. If the boxes are able to be left out during cold weather, they can be wonderfully decorated with materials such as white-tipped pine cones, evergreen branches, red berries and durable ornaments for the holidays.
But for now it’s late July, and the boxes are blooming with summer color. Enjoy.