Window And Veranda Boxes
Somebody had a bright thought when the window-box came into existence.
The only wonder is that persons who were obliged to forego the pleasure
of a garden did not think it out long ago. It is one of the
"institutions" that have come
to stay. We see more of them every year.
Those who have gardens--or could have them, if they wanted them--seem to
have a decided preference for the window-box substitute.
There is a good reason for this: The window-box brings the garden to
one's room, while the garden obliges one to make it a visit in order to
enjoy the beauty in it. With the window-box the upstair room can be made
as pleasant as those below, and the woman in the kitchen can enjoy the
companionship of flowers while she busies herself with her housewifely
duties, if she does not care to make herself a back-yard garden such as
I have spoken of in a preceding chapter. And the humble home that has
no room for flowers outside its walls, the homes in the congested city,
away up, up, up above the soil in which a few flowers might possibly be
coaxed to grow, if man thought less of gain and more of beauty, can be
made more like what home ought to be, with but little trouble and
expense, by giving these boxes a chance to do their good work at their
windows. Blessed be the window-box!
Many persons, however, fail to attain success in the cultivation of
plants in boxes at the window-sill, and their failures have given rise
to the impression in the minds of those who have watched their
undertaking, that success with them is very problematical. "It _looks_
easy," said a woman to me last season, "when you see somebody else's box
just running over with vines, but when you come to make the attempt for
yourself you wake up to the fact that there's a knack to it that most of
us fail to discover. I've tried my best, for the last three years, to
have such boxes as my neighbor has, and I haven't found out what's wrong
yet. I invest in the plants that are told me to be best adapted to
window-box culture. I plant them, and then I coax them and coddle them.
I fertilize them and I shower them, but they stubbornly refuse to do
well. They _start off_ all right, but by the time they ought to be doing
great things they begin to look rusty, and it isn't long before they
look so sickly and forlorn that I feel like putting them out of their
misery by dumping them in the ash-heap."
Now this woman's experience is the experience of many other women. She
thinks,--and they think,--that they lack the "gift" that enables some
persons to grow flowers successfully while others fail utterly with
them. They haven't "the knack." Now, as I have said elsewhere in this
book, there's no such thing as "a knack" in flower-growing. Instead of
"a knack" it's a "know-how." Ninety-nine times out of a hundred failure
with window-boxes is due to just one thing: They let their plants die
simply because they do not give them water enough.
Liberal watering is the "know-how" that a person must have to make a
success of growing; good plants in window and veranda boxes. Simply
that, and nothing more.
The average woman isn't given to "studying into things" as much as the
average man is, so she often fails to get at the whys and wherefores of
many happenings. She sees the plants in her boxes dying slowly, but she
fails to take note of the fact that evaporation from these boxes is
very rapid. It could not be otherwise because of their exposure to wind
and air on all sides. She applies water in quantities only sufficient to
wet the surface of the soil, and because that looks moist she concludes
there must be sufficient moisture below and lets it go at that.
Examination would show her that an inch below the surface the soil in
the box is very, very dry,--so dry, in fact, that no roots could find
sustenance in it. This explains why plants "start off" well. While young
and small their roots are close to the surface, and as long as they
remain in that condition they grow well enough, but as soon as they
attempt to send their roots down--as all plants do, after the earlier
stages of growth--they find no moisture, and in a short time they die.
If, instead of applying a basinful of water, a pailful were used, daily,
all the soil in a box of ordinary size would be made moist all through,
and so long as a supply of water is kept up there is no reason why just
as fine plants cannot be grown in boxes as in pots, or the garden beds.
There is no danger of overwatering, for all surplus water will run off
through the holes in the box, provided for drainage. Therefore make it a
rule to apply to your window-box, every day, throughout the season,
enough water to thoroughly saturate all the soil in it. If this is done,
you will come to the conclusion that at last you have discovered the
"knack" upon which success depends.
I am often asked what kind of boxes I consider best. To which I reply:
"The kind that comes handiest." It isn't the box that your plants grow
in that counts for much. It's the care you give. Of course the soil
ought to be fairly rich, though a soil of ordinary fertility can be made
to answer all purposes if a good dose of plant food is given
occasionally. Care should be taken, however, not to make too frequent
use of it, as it is an easy matter to force a growth that will be weak
because of its rapidity, and from which there may be a disastrous
reaction after a little. The result to aim at is a healthy growth, and
when you secure that, be satisfied with it.
The idea prevails to a considerable extent that one must make use of
plants specially adapted to window-box culture. Now the fact is--almost
any kind of plant can be grown in these boxes, there being no "special
adaption" to this purpose, except as to profusion of bloom and habit of
growth. Drooping plants are desirable to trail over the sides of the
box, and add that touch of grace which is characteristic of all
vines. Plants that bloom freely throughout the season should be
chosen in preference to shy and short-season bloomers. Geraniums,
Petunias, Verbenas, Fuchsias, Salvias, Heliotropes, Paris Daisies--all
these are excellent.
If one cares to depend on foliage for color, most pleasing results can
be secured by making use of the plants of which mention has been made in
the chapter on Carpet-Bedding.
Vines that will give satisfaction are Glechoma, green, with yellow
variegation--Vinca _Harrisonii_, also green and yellow, Moneywort,
German Ivy, Tradescantia, Thunbergia, and Othonna. A combination of
plants with richly-colored foliage is especially desirable for boxes on
the porch or veranda, where showiness seems to be considered as more
important than delicacy of tint or refinement of quality. In these boxes
larger plants can be used than one would care to give place to at the
window. Here is where Cannas and Caladiums will be found very effective.
Ferns, like the Boston and Pierson varieties, are excellent for not too
sunny window-boxes because of their graceful drooping and spreading
habit. They combine well with pink-and-white Fuchsias, rose-colored Ivy
Geraniums, and the white Paris Daisy. Petunias--the single sorts
only--are very satisfactory, because they bloom so freely and
constantly, and have enough of the droop in them to make them as useful
in covering the sides of the box as they are in spreading over its
surface. If pink and white varieties are used to the exclusion of the
mottled and variegated kinds the effect will be found vastly more
pleasing than where there is an indiscriminate jumbling of colors.
A foot in width, a foot in depth, and the length of the window frame to
which it is to be attached is a good size for the average window-box.
Great care must be taken to see that it is securely fastened to the
frame, and that it is given a strong support, for the amount of earth it
will contain will be of considerable weight when well saturated with
Veranda boxes, in which larger plants are to be used, should be
considerably deeper and wider than the ordinary window-box. Any box of
the size desired that is substantial enough to hold a sufficient amount
of soil will answer all purposes, therefore it is not necessary to
invest in expensive goods unless you have so much money that economy is
no object to you. If your plants grow as they ought to no one can tell,
by midsummer, whether your box cost ten dollars or ten cents. If it is
of wood, give it a coat of some neutral-colored paint before you fill
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