tiny garden: a window box to last all summer.

April 22, 2015

blooms to last all summer | reading my tea leaves A window box to last all summer. It’s a tall order, but nothing’s impossible.

It’s been nearly three years since I planted my first city window box. I bought my narrow teak box on a whim one afternoon and then prowled around Brooklyn looking for plant sales and nurseries stocked with starts to fill it with. James and I planted the box with friends on the double-wide sidewalk that stretched in front of their apartment. Down the block, elderly Italian men sitting in lawn chairs saluted our attempts at green thumbery with their cigars. After dark we strapped the filled up box to the back of my bike and walked the precious cargo fifteen blocks home.

Since then I’ve added another window box and a few small pots to the collection and moved the whole gangly mess down the street and up four flights. I’m waiting until there’s a little more variety at the market to fill up my window boxes, but since I’ve been hankering for a little splash of color outside the window, I decided to pot up a cheery early planter with flowers meant to last through the summer.
blooms to last all summer | reading my tea leaves At four dollars a pot, it’s easy for me to measure my annual tiny garden investments in lattes not ordered and feel a little better about where my few extra dollars are going. But I still want my plants to pull their weight. And when you only have a tiny garden, it’s kind of nice to have it be one that stays in bloom. This week, I stopped by the farmers’ market to search for plants with plenty of flowers but that can still thrive in part shade. blooms to last all summer | reading my tea leaves When we moved to our new apartment last winter we gained a big window ledge and four flights, but we lost even the few hours of truly direct sunlight we had in our old place. It’s not truly shady up here, but there’s also not much in the way of bright white sun beating down on our north-facing ledge. Last summer’s plantings suffered through a little bit of new-apartment trial and error coupled with a little bit of brand-new-baby-in-the-house-related neglect. (Lavender, for example, was very wishful thinking.)
blooms to last all summer | reading my tea leaves This year I chose my favorite salmon-colored geraniums, a white euphorbia which should billow out in no time, a variegated plectranthus for a little green and a little intrique, and a bright white trailing bacopa. blooms to last all summer | reading my tea leaves The geraniums I added to my window box last summer just after Faye was born did the best of anything I planted (and lasted well into early fall), so I’m shooting for a repeat.
blooms to last all summer | reading my tea leaves Delicate-looking euphorbia is always one of my favorite window box plants, and with enough water I’ve found it’s really hardy and goes gangbusters pretty quickly. blooms to last all summer | reading my tea leaves Finally, I got proactive about pest control. As part of my ongoing effort to terrorize the neighborhood squirrel (just kidding!), I sprinkled cayenne pepper along the edge of my pot and on the geranium leaves to discourage too much snacking. When I finally got around to doing it last summer, it worked like a charm, so here’s hoping. blooms to last all summer | reading my tea leaves

There she is. Taking photographs of a newly planted window box isn’t really terribly fair—the poor thing should be given some time to fill out a bit—but I couldn’t help it. Happy Earth Day!

Now: what are you guys planting?

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28 Comments

  • Reply Jules Theis April 22, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    I to am in a new house and got very excited to start planting early on.
    I planted a few herb seeds (basil, sage and mint) and some have already sprouted, which makes me happy. Since I live in the South of France I am hoping to get my hands on some lavender and jasmine as well. All this while maintaining my gigantic bougainvillea plant growing up the side of our house.
    Happy Planting!
    Jules

    http://www.mapleandmacaron.com

  • Reply Anita April 22, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Lovely! I've been wanting to plant a couple small pots for out little patio and this just inspires me more so!

  • Reply F Kelley April 22, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    Greenhouse List this year: Verbena, New Guinea Impatiens, Impatiens, Geraniums (agree on salmon.. love that color), Snapdragons and lately Salvia (annual) because it is hardy and survives in our sad soil. Five years living in our house and still working on the list.

  • Reply Anonymous April 22, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    I've had the bacopa on my balcony for the last couple of summers and I promise you it will grow huge and last a long time when you pick the whithered blossoms regularly. (And it's also a quite meditative occupation to do so on summer evenings.)
    Julia

    • Reply admin April 22, 2015 at 3:19 pm

      I found simple teak ones at my local garden shop, GRDN on Hoyt Street in Brooklyn! They age really beautifully and become much lovelier over time! There are also lots of roundups of planters on Gardenista where I used to work, if you want a more comprehensive list! (As for bracing—there are all kinds of approaches. Ours is a really wide ledge so there's no chance of these slipping off, thank goodness.

  • Reply Nom and Malc April 22, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    Any clues on where to buy lovely window planters from? And how do these things attach to the windows? I don't want angry neighbours downstairs from falling plants!

    • Reply Erin April 22, 2015 at 3:19 pm

      I found simple teak ones at my local garden shop, GRDN on Hoyt Street in Brooklyn! They age really beautifully and become much lovelier over time! There are also lots of roundups of planters on Gardenista where I used to work, if you want a more comprehensive list! (As for bracing—there are all kinds of approaches. Ours is a really wide ledge so there's no chance of these slipping off, thank goodness.

  • Reply Anonymous April 22, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    Such a great post! I just planted a window box full of daisies. I think the idea of mixing different flowers is great. Will do so with the other window box… Xo Valentine

  • Reply Christine Amorose April 22, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    My geraniums did SO well last summer too–definitely going to try for them again this year. I'm also planting a bunch of herbs–oregano, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, dill, basil–and might even try my luck with a cherry tomato plant!

  • Reply Rachel April 22, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    We are very fortunate and have a balcony where we house our collection of plants but there's something very dreamy about a planted window box. I have a few friends who have them in their apartments and they are just beautiful. Thank you for sharing the bit about cayenne pepper. I will be giving that a try right after I'm done typing this. Hope this will help keep the pests away 🙂

    xo
    Rachel
    picklesandchapstick.com

  • Reply Norma April 22, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Right now it's all about the veggie garden. New dirt and manure added. Some plants in last week and the rest are waiting because we're supposed to get hard rains this weekend. Slowly taking a half hour each day to clean and spruce up the rest of the yard bit by bit.

  • Reply Mrs. White April 22, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    I love it! Usually, that shade of geranium annoys me but now you've convinced me to see it as salmon (a color I do love) as opposed to off-neon peachy pink. Sweetness in a pot!

    • Reply Erin April 22, 2015 at 8:05 pm

      Ha! I'm kind of a sucker for light pink flowers!

  • Reply Jen April 22, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Pretty!

  • Reply Jenni Haikonen April 23, 2015 at 1:00 am

    We're also not getting much sunlight during the day so are limited in what kinds of plants we can buy. I'm loving this geranium/bacopa combo and am definitely keeping that in mind as I think about putting together a flower planter. We just planted a few edibles- lettuce, garlic chives, and strawberries…though it might also be wishful thinking on the strawbs. Ha!

  • Reply Sarah April 23, 2015 at 3:00 am

    Such a pretty little collection of blooms! I'm going to try my hand at growing some this summer. 🙂

  • Reply toni April 23, 2015 at 9:02 am

    They're all so pretty! And you take gorgeous pics! May I ask what camera you use?

  • Reply thebalconydresser April 23, 2015 at 9:24 am

    This is really pretty!
    I for my part am planting anything that fits on my tiny balcony. This year I will hopefully raise some tomatoes, chili peppers and different herbs. And since I have to wait for the colors of the fruits until late summer, I am looking forward to my lavender blooming in late spring.

  • Reply jsoxford.net April 23, 2015 at 11:28 am

    The geraniums are really beautiful! I love the delicate salmon colour paired with the white. It's so fresh and pretty. 🙂

  • Reply Katie Bedlow April 23, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    Such a lovely idea, and I adore euphorbia's delicate shape! I am borrowing the cayenne pepper idea immediately, sounds a great tip! Katie x

    http://www.long-may-she-rain.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Reply Small Acorns April 24, 2015 at 6:09 am

    Beautiful photos Erin, I espeically love the pink geranium. The cayenne pepper is such a great tip! This has given me some inspiration for a little weekend planting. Thank you x

    • Reply admin April 24, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      Ah, yes! So tricky these gardens! I admit I've never warmed up to coleus or caladiums but I have had great luck overwintering geraniums! Last year I lost mine to frost before I could rescue them but I once had plant thrive for two years (it even bloomed inside)! (Thankfully these were also $4—so not a huge loss!)

  • Reply Anonymous April 24, 2015 at 11:33 am

    I have the opposite problem. My NYC balcony gets a lot of morning sun making it too harsh for a lot of plants. After some trial and error, I found that petunias work best out there in the window boxes I hang off the railing (from the inside). If you don't have a lot of sun, then impatiens might work well for you, as well as coleus and caladiums. I love coleus and caladiums because it is really their interesting foliage that creates color and interest.

    Also remember that you can overwinter your geraniums inside. Just repot them in the fall and give them a hard prune. They may not bloom over the winter but they will get nice, green growth. Geraniums are expensive so it is nice to hang on to them each year.

    • Reply Erin April 24, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      Ah, yes! So tricky these gardens! I admit I've never warmed up to coleus or caladiums but I have had great luck overwintering geraniums! Last year I lost mine to frost before I could rescue them but I once had plant thrive for two years (it even bloomed inside)! (Thankfully these were also $4—so not a huge loss!)

  • Reply Brenna Kinkaid April 28, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    Thank you so much! This really helped me as a reader. I have more shade than sun and this gave me great ideas of plants worth planting!

  • Reply Tiffany Nichols August 10, 2015 at 9:35 am

    Nice idea and lovely flowers! This spring I planted few herbs in one of my window boxes and it was a great success. Next year I'm planning to plant some flowers too. Greets!

  • Reply Diana@Gardening Experts London August 22, 2016 at 8:24 am

    Your window box looks lovely! I also love euphorbia for planting in window boxes, you should also try sweet violets and primulas. The trick with the cayenne pepper is a must-try, I’ve never heard about it. Thanks!

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