28 Old World Home Office

Want something that will make you smile every time you come home? The instant charm of window boxes brimming with flowers does the trick. I've long been a fan of window boxes, and I first used them to add even more charm to my old brick home years ago. They add color and style, and they can turn an otherwise dull home facade into a real head-turner. Talk about curb appeal! An added benefit to window boxes is that you also get to enjoy the flowers from inside your home. You can't change the view outside your window, so why not underline it with a perky array of bright blooms. In the summer, when I wake up, my eyes are drawn to the flowers right outside the window, and I'm just happy to be alive. One day, I was sitting in my home office on a mind-numbing teleconference when I looked out to see a little hummingbird dancing around my flowers. Now that's what it's all about! There's no way to do this half-assed, though. Remember, it's better to have no window boxes at all than to let them sit empty, or worse, full of dead flowers. And, fake flowers in your window boxes? Please, dear god, no!

Tips for Window Box Success

1. Materials - Window box planters can be made from wood, plastic, or other materials. Some are metal baskets with liners made from coconut fibers. Take the style of your home's exterior into consideration when choosing the best look. My personal favorites are classic, architectural boxes made from a matte-finished PVC material from flowerwindowboxes.com. They will never rot, look like wood, are paintable, and install on your home permanently. They are slightly more expensive than some other options, but they will last forever and they look great. Window boxes look great on garden sheds, too!

2. Colors - This is not the time for matchy-matchy. Aren't you trying to add color? Choose a tasteful color that compliments the rest of your home's exterior, but won't just blend in. For example, our current home has a creamy, very pale yellow stucco exterior with some stone accents on the front. To wake it up, I painted my window boxes a cheery French blue. They're a real conversation piece with flowers spilling over the sides in the summer, and I routinely catch passersby slowing down to get a better look.

3. The nuts and bolts - Be sure to securely bolt your window boxes to your house. They'll be pretty heavy when they're full of soil and plants, so you want to make sure they're not going anywhere. Depending on what your home's exterior is, you may need a large masonry drill bit, and it's a good idea to caulk around the bolts to ensure no water can leak into the gaps. Refer to the instructions that accompany your specific window boxes. We hired a handyman to climb up the ladder and install our window boxes, and it was worth every cent. Don't rule out foliage-only arrangements or even miniature evergreen shrubs for a sophisticated look.

4. Flowers - This is the fun part! Now, you get to choose plants to create the perfect look. Check out photos and gardening magazines for inspiration. Mixed window boxes will give a cottage look, while a single variety or plants in shades of a single color will result in a slightly more dramatic and formal look. Don't rule out foliage plants to accent your flowers. There are so many cool varieties of coleus that are perfect for mixed containers, and sweet potato vine in chartreuse or deep violet is lovely tumbling gracefully over the sides of the window boxes. If you're planting a variety, make sure they all have the same light requirements. Read your plant tags for further direction. Finally, get the most bang for your buck by choosing flowers that will bloom from spring to fall. It's a total bummer to plant pansies in the spring only to have to rip them out when the weather heats up. My personal long-blooming favorites are geraniums and petunias. These may seem ho-hum, but with all the new and brilliant varieties available, they can be jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

5. Planting - I use Organic Mechanics, but any good potting soil will do. Fill your boxes about 3/4 of the way to the top. Give some thought to the arrangement of your plants. Tall plants should go in the center and shorter plants or "tumblers" should go on either side, working towards the end. I prefer to really fill the boxes with flowers, leaving very little space between plants. I get instant gratification, and I don't have to wait weeks for everything to fill in. You can take the plants out of their little containers and simply place them where you want them. Fill in the gaps with soil and water thoroughly to help your flowers get settled in.

6. Maintenance - Now, you have to keep everything alive. When you spend a few minutes on maintenance every few days, your window boxes will stay gorgeous all season. Regular watering is very important, especially when the weather heats up. It's almost impossible to over-water since the excess will simply drain out the bottom. Each week, spend a few minutes with your hand pruners or kitchen shears trimming away any dead leaves. If anything's really going crazy and starting to dominate the entire container, do a little judicious pruning. That's all! When the cold weather sets in and your first frost is approaching, simply remove your plants. You may have to really wrestle them out since their roots will be very developed. You can leave as much of the soil behind as possible and just replenish soil as needed in the spring.

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