How to make them--Relation of box to residence they are intended to
adorn--Suitable soil--Window plants for different aspects.
Where gardens are small, one seems to need window boxes more than where
there is land and to spare. They
add to the number of one's flowers, and,
if carefully looked after, decidedly =improve the appearance of a house=.
That is a large "If" though, for unkempt boxes only make it look untidy.
=FLOWERS FIRST, BOX SECOND.= Though the tiled sort obtain a good deal of
patronage, nothing really looks much better than boxes covered with virgin
cork, if constantly renewed, for it acts as =a foil to the flowers=,
whereas patterned tiles are rather apt to take one's attention away from
them. In summer, certainly, they have the advantage of preserving the
earth in a moist condition, and in smoky towns they help to give a bright,
clean look to the houses so decorated. Old-fashioned houses, however,
should always have their window boxes made in the virgin cork style, as
they accord better with their surroundings.
When strong wooden boxes have been procured, it is quite easy to tack on
the cork one's self, provided one has a sharp knife and a good supply of
long nails, and it is =most fascinating work=; it is advisable to wear
gloves during the process, as the hands may become rough otherwise. Seven
pounds of the cork may be had for a shilling of any seedsman, and three
lots will do two boxes of the average size. =The soil should be fairly
light=, like that used for potting, but before the boxes are filled,
several holes, bored with a red-hot poker, should be made in the bottom,
and a thin layer of "crocks" spread over them; do not quite fill the box
with soil, but leave an inch or two free to allow of watering, and even
more if a layer of moss or =cocoa-nut fibre= is used to cover the surface
of the soil; this is certainly an improvement till the plants get large
enough to cover it themselves. Only =artificial manures= must be used to
fertilize the roots, and even those must not be given too often, but only
in the hot weather, when growth is quick, as they are stimulating to a
=Constant renewals are necessary=, if the boxes are to look gay all the
year round; even the best gardeners acknowledge this. If continuous
bloomers are chosen, however, the cost is considerably modified. Perhaps
the =winter shrubs= are the most expensive item; yet they are often chosen
without much regard to cheerfulness; indeed, the favourite kinds present a
most funereal appearance.
=Aspect= has always a good deal to do with the selection of plants, but in
the case of windows facing north and east, it is the cold winds more than
the absence of sun which restricts the choice. Shelter is a great factor
in their well-being.
=SHOWY IN WINTER.= In a cosy box with a western exposure, and protected on
the north, the golden-tipped retinosporas make =a pretty show during the
cold months= of the year, and form a welcome change from the prevailing
dark green tones. Cotoneasters, pernettyas, and the variegated
euonymus are also very suitable. The polypody ferns, being evergreen,
look very well too, and =will thrive facing all four points of the
compass=. In the spring, =dwarf wall-flowers=, interspersed with different
kinds of bulbs, make the boxes look bright, and the new pyrus maulei is
also very pretty at this season. The =perennial candytuft=, too, is a
splendid flower for late spring, particularly iberis correafolia, which
has a neat habit, and bears quantities of snow-white flowers; it likes
sun, and not too much moisture. The =yellow jasmine=, which is so pretty
in winter, looks extremely well when allowed to droop over the edges of a
box, as it flowers in quite a young state. The mossy saxifrages are
suitable for the edges of the box, and are always ornamental; their
charming white flowers, supported on red stalks, appear about May.
Such =bulbs= as the Duc Van Thol tulips are very bright, and mix well with
the shrubs; they should be put in some time in October. =Crocuses= look
well, too, but should not be placed in the same box as the tulips, or too
gaudy an appearance will result. A thick planting along the front of the
box of the Starch hyacinth--muscari--is =uncommon=, and an exceedingly
nice thing to have, as the moment the window is open fragrant whiffs,
resembling new-mown hay, pour into the room, especially on a sunny
morning. When these bulbs have to make way for the summer flowers, it is
advisable to plant them out in the garden and use another lot next year,
as the =constant transplantation somewhat weakens them=. Of course, one
could leave them in the box during the summer, if it were not for the
unsightly decaying leaves, which =must on no account be cut off=.
About the middle of May for the South of England, and a fortnight later
for the North, is the time to furnish the boxes for the summer. If the
window is small, low-growing plants and trailers should prevail.
=FOR COLD ASPECTS.= Some good flowers for north and east aspects are
fuschias, calceolarias, begonias, and the lovely white campanula
isophylla; the latter thrives best in such conditions, bearing finer
flowers for a much greater length of time than where the sun scorches it.
=These plants accord well with stucco=, which serves to show up their
whiteness more than anything. =Marguerites=, yellow and white, also thrive
in the cooler windows of a house, and are not so exigent in the matter of
watering when so placed. When selecting =begonias= for boxes it is well to
choose the single varieties with moderate-sized blossoms; the big flabby
ones soon become spoilt by rain, and are not produced so freely, nor is
their habit of growth so good.
=For hot situations= the double geraniums are splendid, but they should
not be mixed with lobelias, as they look infinitely better when grouped by
themselves, the shades ranging from dark crimson to the palest
=PRETTY TRAILERS.= The quick-growing tradescantia with its many-jointed
stems and glossy bright green leaves, softens =the somewhat formal
appearance of the geraniums=, and will cover all the bare soil in a
marvellously short space of time, and droop over the edges in long
streamers; it is quite distinct from the tall tradescantias mentioned in
a former chapter, and is the easiest thing in the world to propagate, as
any little bits saved over from a bouquet will make roots in a bowl of
water, or they can be "struck" in the ordinary way in a pot under glass.
The variegated tradescantia is =a very choice trailer=, but a little
more tender than the other, and requires a sunny position, while the plain
green variety will do anywhere outside in the summer, even growing well
=For autumn= there are the =hardy chrysanthemums=, and if dwarf varieties
with fibrous roots are chosen, a very good show can be made with these
till the middle or end of November. The protection afforded them by the
house keeps them in good condition longer than when they are in the open,
especially when a thin veiling, such as tiffany, is afforded them on cold
nights. Even newspapers will keep out several degrees of frost, and form a
very cheap method of protection.
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