Window boxes are one of those design features you rarely see specified in a landscape design. More often they are a request of the homeowner, or perhaps an after-thought once the project is either done or well underway.
The Benefits of Window Boxes
Once you realize how effective they can be in your designs you will want to consider window boxes as possible design solutions. Some of their benefits and effects are:
- They bring life to an otherwise flat and boring facade.
- They add depth and dimension.
- They add color, texture and seasonal change.
In the picture above imagine the home without these window boxes. The look changed dramatically when they were added. And this garage side is an important area for this home. Guests and family frequently use this back area to park and enter the house – more so than the front entrance.
A window box can give dimension and interest to a fence or an expanse of barren wall.
The railing on this deck came alive with the addition of these fiberglass window boxes. They add interest and enjoyment whether you’re on or off the deck.
Seasonal Change for Window Boxes
Here in the northeast there are four distinct seasons. You could conceivably make changes in the boxes to represent those seasons just like we do in the gardens themselves.
On our projects we have used living plants and natural materials in our arrangements, but also artificial things as well.
The window box above is made of a decorative iron frame with a cedar wood planter box cradled inside.
We used a plastic insert inside the wood planter and had an artificial floral arrangement made in it.
During the warmer months the homeowner has the artificial arrangement showing. But in the colder months the window box is left empty. It’s so beautiful that it can easily stand on its own.
Alternatively you could do a cold weather arrangement using evergreen branches, cones and other natural elements.
Styles and Types
There are numerous styles and types of window boxes. Do a Google search and you’ll probably find what you’re looking for. When your design calls for something unique either because of style or size you can always have something made. The iron and wood window box pictured above was fabricated by a metal railing contractor and a carpenter.
Here are some of the manufactured types available:
- Decorative metal cradle with an insert planter of another metal (e.g. copper, tin, etc.), wood, or a natural fibrous liner like coconut mat.
- Wood in endless styles and types.
- Vinyl in various forms. Walpole Woodworkers offers solid cellular vinyl that is almost indistinguishable from real wood.
Hardware and Mounting
Most of the manufactured window boxes have their own mounting recommendations and hardware. Often the styles with decorative brackets use those brackets for mounting. Some models have an integrated mounting system that is hidden. There are mounting brackets for deck railings as well.
Needless to say you want the mounting system you use to be rock solid. Between the weight of the window box, the soil media inside and the wear and tear of the outdoor elements, you should not compromise on the mounting.
Soil Media and Watering
If you plant your window boxes you want to be conscious of soil media and watering.
Ideally the soil mix should be typical of a any good potting mix, i.e. rich, organic and well-drained. In terms of pH most annuals tolerate a range, but just be aware of what you’re planting and if it has a particular preference.
Check to make sure the window box has drainage holes and be conscious of what’s underneath them. They’re going to drip for awhile after watering.
There are soil moist polymer products that can be added to your soil mix to improve the moisture retention. These can dramatically help reduce the frequency of watering.
And finally, there are drip irrigation systems that can be set up to water on a scheduled basis. While some are manufactured specifically for this purpose, I would normally ask the irrigation contractor to design and integrate the planter drip system with the overall irrigation for the landscape. Just make sure you have independent control such as a dedicated zone or a separately valved feed.
Window boxes really do add a level of detail you don’t normally see in the landscape. It takes a bit of effort in terms of finding the right window box, mounting it correctly and tending to the plantings and arrangements, but the ROI is worth it. Your landscape will stand out for sure.