The Solver Boxes

I have no idea whether you are enjoying the Buck week posts-but I know he is.  It is tough when you make things, and never see what becomes of them. The finish of a box is not really the finish.  The placement in a garden, the plants-there is a whole other melody to come once they leave Branch.  Any garden box asks for planted material-he is seeing that relationship in some cases for the first time.  Some boxes are one of a kind, but have no name-as they are much more about what gets planted inside, than their aesthetic appeal as objects.  These galvanized and painted sheet metal boxes are a vehicle for a planted expression.  Sturdily made, and held by substantial steel brackets, they are a forum for a planted discussion on a garage wall. The garage wall-not so prominent now. 

This giant box at the end of this driveway has a purpose.  Drive an additional three feet-you and your car would be presented with the prospect of a steep ravine.  This box is a not only a stop sign, it will stop you should you be coming down the drive on icy pavement. The boxes and plants are so much window dressing-who would guess they are more importantly a substantial safety feature.    This home is paved right up to the front of the garage and house-not much opportunity for landscape to soften all this hard surface. These boxes on the second story are galvanized sheet metal-with a sanded and painted finish antique like finish.  The color is much more punchy up close-at a distance the color is soft and unobtrusive.  This makes the view much more about plants, than about boxes.  They also make the house look warm.

A corner sun porch just 3 feet from the lot line makes an in ground garden all but impossible.  The wall hung boxes permit a garden to be viewed from inside, and do not obstruct traffic from the front yard to the back. The square footage of soil is considerable; my first complaint about most boxes like this is that they are too small.  It is not long before the planting virtually obscures any mention of the word box.

This box I did name-but Buck only made four, and they are gone now.  I call this the Charisse box, as in Cyd Charisse.  A dancer whose long legs were a legend in the entertainment business; this box has legs I like.  The flared bell flower shapes on those legs-a beautifully decorative detail.  The scroll arms and handles were time consuming to make; I never hear Buck ask when we are making them again.  But I  have not forgotten them.  They went to homes not known to me-I have never seen them planted. They do indeed make me smile-they are so light on their feet.  Not every space asks for a handsome box-some spaces call for pretty. 

These massive boxes are also contructed of galvanized sheet metal-this is a much less expensive material than 18 inch or 1/4 inch steel.  A second story balcony terrace was completely exposed to view from neighboring buildings; this client needed big boxes, and lots of them.  The first year, we planted them as a meadow.  In recent years, they have done a good job of providing a permanent home to a hedge of arborvitae.  The trick to maintaining evergreens year round, above ground-as big a soil mass as you can manage.  This minimizes the effects of freezing and thawing that ejects plants from pots, and exposing their roots to the air.  This client has a completely private outdoor terrace, thanks to this wall of boxes.

Some less than visually thoughtful builder installed a giant downspout dead center in an alcove on this client’s rear balcony terrace-unsightly. One of our two extra balcony boxes was modified and placed here.  Buck made a steel stand for the box, which includes an armature on the back which bears most of the burden of supporting this substantial decorative iron panel.  A morning glory, and a pair of cherry tomatoes will help to obscure the drain pipe from view.   

The last of the balcony boxes landed on the ground-in a bed.  I like this unexpected treatment; flowers at the bottom of the box look great.  The bed is too narrow for any garden of size; the wall behind it is very tall.  A little change of level provides some interest in a tight space. In retrospect,  I probably should call these boxes the Solver boxes.


  1. What beautiful window boxes! Your blog has been such an inspiration to my current project (replanting the front of the house). I have a window box in partial shade and have tried verbena, geraniums and the only thing growing is the ivy and impatiens. Can you recommend any other plants that might grow there? Lisa

    • Deborah Silver says

      Lisa, Geraniums and verbena like sun. Coleus, green irisine, caladiums, solenia begonias, ferns-lots of things like part shade. Good luck to you! Deborah

  2. Maria DeNardo says

    The charisse box is wonderful, love the brown. Some of the boxes shown are as beautiful as jewelery boxes or faberge eggs. M

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