A Bit More Box Talk

The east side of my shop is heavily shaded by a row of 15 year old lindens.  The shop landscape is mostly about displaying our collection, and pots we plant.  Given that the lindens are the only in ground element, there is plenty of additional visual interest.  The window boxes light up that heavy shade, especially if I concentrate on pale colors.  The lime and white in this box put plants at eye level, and out of the way of foot traffic.  These iron boxes have galvanized steel liners that I paint whenever the mood strikes me, and however that mood strikes me.   The color of the box is an important part of its appearance. I like the chance to change. 

Spring plantings do not have the heft of the summer-the season is short and sweet.  Some plants definitely show better up off the ground-lobelia is a case in point.  The plant and its flowers are diminuitive and delicate; they need a seat up front and center.  Ornamental kale grows large, but its effect is lacy.  I like this type of planting up off the ground. 

Summer for me is all about sumptuous-no matter what style of planting appeals. An austere and edited can be sumptuous-just think about it. This year, the liners of the boxes got a rustic, dribbled and worn paint surface that complimented the style of the planting I had in mind.    

Not all boxes need to be under a window; this row of boxes provides welcome screening for a second floor condominium terrace, set squarely on top of a rail wall.  In an instant, this terrace became private. The planting-a graceful meadow two stories up. The client has since gone the route of arborvitae in the boxes; they have lived in them for squite a few years now.   

This old French iron box also sits on a wall enclosing a terrace, and adds another level of planting that makes the space cozy.  The wall was built with an integral box, seen in the right side of this picture. A gardener can vary the levels of planting by choosing plants that vary in their mature height. Window and wall boxes, containers on stands-this is an equally effective way of transforming a collection of pots into a beautifully styled vignette. What do you need, in the way of up and down?  Ask this question before you giving any arrangement your blessing.  Just as soil can be amended, an arrangement in your garden can be changed, modified, unexpectedly effective-given your visual study. 

My boxes on stands make a strong statement on a large brick wall.  I could handle that wall differently to be sure-an iron panel, a series of shelves, trellises for the pots-I have options.  I chose the height of the stands to put the decoration of the pots at my eye level when I am sitting close by-I love my pots as much as the plants. The top half of this wall looms over me.  I have not forgotten this; whatever time it takes for me to figure a top to bottom solution, so be it.

A window box is a big, stolidly rectangular object.  When planting them, I make every effort of vary the height of the plants-in contrast to the rigidity of the box.  This spring planting undulates softly, pleasingly.  The Persian Queen geranium color gets acknowledged with a few bits of lime marjoram in the front.  The white phlox is loose and open, compared to the uniformly cheery violas.  The lettuce bookends bring a smile to my face.  The most important part-give the time it takes to really enjoy your gardening. 

When the outside of the shop was in its yellow and whitewash phase, I thought my brown, lime and lavender window box scheme looked good.  The lime green hops went on to almost cover the walls on either side of the box.  The wispy Victorian era single dahlias-so subtle you can hardly see them. I refrain from grading my window box planting-who needs to be graded?  I appreciate history, change-the record of a given season. This is enough to keep me gardening.  

OK, I will choose a new topic, until the next great box comes along.


  1. judy lombardo says

    I love your work so much! Both your plantings, and your words, inspire me!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Judy, thanks for writing. Any garden is inspiring. I am tagging along! all the best, Deborah

  2. Lynette Tarr says

    I love the iron window boxes. Any info you have on them would be greatly appreciated. Are they a custom order? Do you sell them at your shop? I have two large windows that flank the front door of our professional office, which is a historical brick building. We have all cement up to the building and I’m dying to get some soft greenery at eye level. Any info you have is greatly appreciated.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Lynette, these boxes were custom made. We certainly could quote them for you. If you are a long way from us, perhaps you could consult a local iron company about making them for you. Best, Deborah

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