The Window Box

Detroit-Garden-Works.jpgI cannot remember what summer it was that I broke my leg, but I do remember being happy that it came after I planted the garden in front of the shop. In fact, I could have planted the window boxes dealing with a broken leg.  Window boxes are at an easy height to plant, and of a scale to encourage and support any planting idea. The shop garden is not so complicated.  A boxwood parterre, lots of gravel, and three big window boxes.  The big window boxes are the star of the summer show.  How I love planting those window boxes!   I am a big fan of generously scaled window boxes.  The planting is at counter height. Easy to plant.   A window box is a cross between a container planting, and an in ground planting.  There is more room and opportunity for a detailed expression in a window box than a container.  A window box can be filled with the most compost rich and friable soil.  I like planting with my fingers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlanting annual beds in ground requires a lot of digging  and turning with a shovel.  The work of this is daunting.  Real work.  Sometimes annuals planted in ground at grade do poorly.  Heavy clay soil, or sandy soil, can contribute to a poor show.  I like bedding out for the summer with my choice of soil, great drainage, and a place to work that is elbow level.  Planting in ground comes with a whole host of trouble.  I like minimizing the trouble, and maximizing the opportunity.   Big window boxes are my idea of a venue that affords lots of expression with not so much digging. I have seen plenty of window boxes that are 8″ wide, 4″ deep, and 18″ long.  What does one plant in a box of that edited a dimension?  Succulents are a good choice.  But if succulents are not your style, make bigger boxes.  I like window boxes that are wider than the window, deep enough to hold moisture for 2 days, and wide enough to plant plenty of plants.

mandevillea 2012 014Most commercially manufactured window boxes are made to sizes that fit UPS shipping requirements.  What gardener wants to be limited by those dimensions?  An investment in a custom sized window box will result in a lifetime of planting pleasure. The boxes at my shop are roomy.  I would suggest that if you have a mind to invest in window boxes, go for roomy.  Plants need a place to live.  They do not so much mind being crowded by a neighbor.  But they do need some space to put down their own roots.

DGW13You can see from this picture that my window boxes are wider than my windows.  And wider than my shutters.  In my opinion, whatever element is closest to the ground needs to be the widest and most visually sturdy element. A window box is a foundation which complements the window.  Any planting box framing a window is an empire.  Size those boxes accordingly.

DSC09624The window boxes at the shop are of a size that enables me to explore an idea about color.  A story about texture.  These boxes, which have been my pleasure to plant for summer once a year, for 18 years, are little cities.  The have a style.  A language all their own. A particular set of rules.  A commentary on design. A look.  The day I plant them is a good day indeed.

gleason0The window boxes take on a life of their own, once I have planted them.  They grow out, however they will.  The best part of any planting is seeing how nature responds to my ideas.  The big idea is to give every voice a chance.  And chance what you will. A properly scaled window box means you have room to explore.


Opperer 2011 042Shade window box


shop boxes

Picture 006shop box


DSC_2670window boxes made to fit on a wall

Derda (3)window box planting

Celani 8-07 (42)roof boxes

Sept 16, 2012 043The roof boxes at the shop last year were as good as I could make them.  All of my boxes provide me with a chance to grow a community of plants on to a greater visual good.  Thinking about window boxes?  Go long and deep.  You won’t regret it.



  1. excellent advice deborah.
    just arrived at a new clients with window boxes 5″ wide, ridiculous!!

    stunning as usual

  2. Gorgeous, and more gorgeous ! Thanks for the beauty.

  3. Starr Foster says

    Another excellent post Deborah. I am in awe of ever creating anything that outstanding, but at least you have given us the good rules to follow. I have always been a fan of your window box plantings: so many plants and great color combinations which change each spring.

  4. These are spectacular!!

  5. Your window boxes look beautiful. Mine are 8 feet wide (length wise) and about 18 inches front to back…, they’re a good size. However, mine don’t look as full and gorgeous as yours’. Do you leave space for the plants to fill out, or do you disregard the spacing suggestions and just “stuff” the boxes full from the start?? Mine always end up looking nice, and I do enjoy them, but there’s always room for improvement!!

  6. Seriously gorgeous! You’ve truly inspired me!!

  7. Kathryn Binns says

    Can you tell me what is in the shade box please.
    Kind Regards,
    Kathryn Binns
    United Kingdom

  8. Lynn Fiorentino says

    Wow, your boxes are magnificient! Do you have colors/theme already picked out when you start to do your window boxes? Or does it just develop as you work? Thanks

  9. Thank you for the eye candy window boxes today! Loved them all. I had to go out and measure mine…….my husband made mine years ago and did a great job! 5 feet long and 12″ deep, and wide. Always a pleasure to plant! Thanks for the great ideas, and for your blog. Love them both.

  10. Roof boxes are stunning! I still would like to know if there is any secret/recommendation to feeding your plants to have them looks so bountiful and with large flowers? Bloom buster food by chance or other options? Thanks Deborah.

  11. Beautiful! I would love to put some window boxes on the front of my house but that side of the house gets afternoon sun in zone 6 – pretty hot and humid! I would be afraid everything would fry. My two pots on the front porch wilt if I don’t soak them every day. Would you recommend something other than a metal frame with coco fiber lining? And do you change out the soil every year? I have no idea how to begin. Thank you for any advice.

  12. Very beautiful. Is it possible to keep a planter with agapanthus through the winter using heating cable that is used to keep pipes from freezing? Maybe this is wishful thinking.

  13. Heather Burkhardt says

    Magnificent. Last year was the first time I ever saw roof boxes. So cool.

  14. Mike Haynes says

    ROOF BOXES? What a clever creation! I never would have thought that look would be so appealing to the eye. I love it! This is “The Year of The Container Planters” for me and I’m driving my partner crazy. I can’t wait till he notices our covered porch roof line. (Sometime this summer! lol) I’ll be sure to give you credit Deborah…. 🙂

  15. Every planting combination is positively voluptuous. Your work is amazing.

  16. Carol Papas says

    I am a complete garden snob. These are the MOST BEAUTIFUL window boxes I have ever seen. Works of art!

  17. The picture below the shade box seems to show a double tiered window box. Is that right. It is so lovely with the two layers, top and bottom, complimenting one another and leaving room for growth for both the fillers and spillers in the bottom tier and also for the taller thrillers and climbers in the top tier. Everything looks so healthy and happy this way.

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