container gardens
The Charm of Window Boxes

   Visitors to Europe, flower-minded or not, return with enthusiasm for the gay window boxes they have seen-the red geraniums in Germany and Austria, the tuberous begonias of Switzerland, these so perfect they seem to have been moved right out of a catalog! In fact, Switzerland suggests glorious possibilities for this country. How beautiful our cities might be if railroad terminals, apartment houses, department stores, and office buildings could all be decorated with window boxes, as they are in that small mountain country.

   With centuries of tradition behind them, Europeans have had rich experience in growing plants in boxes. We see them high above the streets of London, Dublin, Copenhagen, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Heidelberg, and Geneva. Along narrow, winding streets, they are a charming decoration throughout the growing season. In spring, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, pansies, wall flowers, and English daisies appear in profusion; in summer, geraniums everywhere radiate their dependable brilliance.

   Those who live in farmhouses share the enthusiasm. In Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, potted geraniums, grown indoors in winter, are moved out to window boxes in summer, but still kept in pots. Sometimes boxes are solid structures, more often, they are of latticework painted green or white. With cool weather, potted plants are put back on window sills, where they remain-and flower-until spring.

   In enchanting medieval Dinkelsbuhl in southern Germany, I recall a green high-gabled house with boxes of geraniums and tuberous begonias at windows on four floors, including the single one below the steep peak. In that village, even tiny windows are adorned with potted geraniums.

Gardens in Window Boxes

   In this country, boxes at windows offer apartment dwellers the enjoyment of a little garden from within or without. If you live in just one room or on a very small property, you, too, can have a window-box garden filled in spring with pansies and primroses, in summer with petunias or fuchsias, and in fall with chrysanthemums. In winter, greens and berries, like bittersweet or California pepper berries with pine, give color. Where English ivy is not exposed to wind, it can provide trailing green all winter.

Size and Materials

   To be serviceable, a window box must be large enough to accommodate comfortably the plants of your choice. Small shallow boxes are not worthwhile, because they hold too little soil and so dry out quickly. In hot summer sun, a small amount of soil also tends to overheat.