Window boxes are used more often in European cities than in the United States, according to Carol Spier, the author of "Garden Ideas." That may be because streets are narrower and there is barely room for traffic, much less plants, in European cities. Gardening has to be taken up off the streets. Perhaps it's time to take a cue from Europe and incorporate window boxes in your garden landscaping.
Rustic boxes call for country garden flowers planted in an informal manner, as if you scooped up a section of the cutting garden and put it in the box. Try bright pink geraniums, accented with purple alyssum and white candytuft. Accent the box with a few yellow pansies. In the spring add orange tulips and yellow daffodils. In the fall switch out the pink geraniums for dwarf chrysanthemums and purple asters. Winter calls for evergreens. An alternative would be to plant with spring bulbs such as daffodils, crocus and hyacinths in late fall. At the first sign of spring the bulbs will send up shoots.
Boxes made of hammered metal with sleek lines and primly painted call for a formal, studied arrangement. Plant the box with dwarf conifers. Interplant miniature roses between the conifers. Edge the box with lobelia, which will spill over the edge but still maintain a formal feeling. Limiting the flower selection to one type and color is a good choice as well. Petunias flower abundantly but will stay within the bounds of the box.
Plant large boxes with amaryllis bulbs. The plants will need to have the flower stalks staked because the stems are top heavy with flowers. The look is stunning when the stalks bloom with three to five flowers each.
Over the Top
Don't stop at one box for the window. Place a box that measures the full length of the window underneath it. On both sides of the window on the walls of the house place half baskets. Fill the half baskets with tall growing flowers like snapdragons, zinnias and marguerite daisies. Fill the window box with pansies and marigolds. Edge the boxes and baskets with the same low-growing flowers for a consistent look. Add in greenery such as asparagus fern, vinca or ivy. The window will nearly be surrounded by flowers.
Plant an herb garden outside the kitchen window in a box. The herbs will be easy to snip whenever needed. The herbs will benefit from the additional sunshine from being outside the window rather than inside on the window sill. Choose herbs that don't grow too large like basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme and parsley. Include some edible flowers just for fun, such as violas and nasturtiums.