I love designing a window box for all four seasons.
Not only because window boxes provide yet another opportunity to plant, but because they’re a fantastic way to add vertical interest in the garden.
When standing in line at the grocery store, I can easily pass by all the fashion magazines, except for articles like ’10 Ways to Wear 1 Dress.’ Then I’m hooked!
So, with a slightly different twist, here’s my own version where the star isn’t the little black dress, but a copper and iron window box that I change throughout the year.
1. Summer Hummer-Haven
The window box I’m featuring in this blog post is one that I found many years ago at Smith & Hawkins (RIP.)
It’s mounted at the base of a narrow kitchen window, which allows me to discreetly watch all the hummingbirds that visit.
Sometimes I feel like a peeping Tom, spying on these little birds while sipping my cup of coffee.
A few of the hummingbirds’ favorite nectar-rich plants in this combination are:
‘Little Lanterns’ columbine and Trailing ‘Creeping Fuchsia’ with its tiny fluorescent flowers (below, right.)
‘Lemon Slice’ Million Bells, dwarf zinnias and lobelia (below, left.)
2. Introducing Fall Colors
When re-designing my window box for fall and winter, I decided to keep the echeveria ‘Topsy Turvy’, the euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’, and the trailing Creeping Fuchsia.
I added a long-lived kalanchoe tomentosa ‘Chocolate Soldier’, with its fuzzy brown foliage as the centerpiece, along with vibrant yellow flowers of a calibrachoa.
This color combination is one of my favorites, with the kalanchoe tempting anyone who passes to stroke its fuzzy leaves.
3. Delightfully Drought Tolerant
The following summer, I swapped out fall’s dark colors with lighter, softer shades of glaucous blue, silver, pink, and yellow.
The plants chosen also needed to require very little water to prevent root-rot in the neighboring succulents.
Hands down, the star of this season’s window box is the low-water ptilotus ‘Joey.’ Its unusual pale pink and silver flowers look like feathers interwoven with slender hot pink threads.
Ptilotus (also called Mulla Mulla) is the perfect companion plant to neighboring echeveria ‘Topsy Turvy’ and euphorbia myrsinites.
Once the ‘Topsy Turvy’ blooms (usually in mid-summer) it’s a veritable hummingbird feast.
Colorful salmon and pink flowers slowly unfurl on long, slender stems, and last for weeks at a time.
The burst of color is a welcome addition to this otherwise tranquil color combination.
4. Fall’s Cool Colors
For my new fall window box, I decided to keep in place the existing echeveria ‘Topsy Turvy’ and euphorbia myrsinites.
I added darker and more vibrant colors (like magenta, burgundy, and lime green) to help highlight the changing seasons.
I’ll admit, at first I wasn’t a big fan of the dark burgundy oxalis ‘Zinfandel’ combined with the magenta flowers of the stock, and the silver-blue of the echeveria.
Which surprised me, because I love glaucous colors combined with purple (click here for proof!)
So, my solution was to create a color echo by adding a bright chartreuse Creeping Jenny (lysimachia) to harmonize with the yellow colors of the oxalis flowers.
By the way, this oxalis isn’t invasive like the dreaded oxalis weed variety! It’s one of the many lovely ornamental varieties on the market (click here to read about some of my favorites!)
And, when the euphorbia myrsinites blooms, with its acid-yellow flowers, the chartreuse color echo is amazing.
Isn’t it funny how adding a particular color can tie everything together?
5. Echoes in the Shade (for those of you counting, yes this is 5, even though the title says 4!)
I was so thrilled with my copper window box that I bought one more to mount on the north-facing wall of my office (click here to see this magical transformed space!)
However, unlike my other window box (where I change its design seasonally) I wanted this one to look good every day of the year.
Therefore, instead of relying on fleeting flowers for color, I focused on foliage for year-round interest.
I also wanted to emphasize the lush feeling of this shady part of my garden, so I chose plants with various shades of green and burgundy.
Burgundy and maroon colors are found in just about every plant in this window box:
– the stems of the ‘Lady in Red’ hydrangea
– the stems of the crassula ‘Calico Kitten’ succulent (below, left)
– the new foliage of the Rosy Maidenhair Fern (adiantum hispidulum)
– the tiny little flowers of the fuchsia thymifolia (below, right)
And FINALLY – one last set of window boxes!
Several years ago, my daughter and I spent the summer living in Los Angeles.
We explored every corner of that amazing city, and one of my favorite surprises was stumbling upon this incredible (and very public) garden on a busy corner.
Everywhere you looked, this small space was jam-packed with TONS of gorgeous flowers.
The owner even had overflowing window boxes placed along the top of the wrought-iron fence.
Alas, I tried to find this garden on google maps and I think it’s long-gone (if I’m wrong, someone please correct me!)
I hope you’ve been inspired to create your own window boxes. And, if you’d like to see even more examples (several of which include caladiums) click here.
Good morning sweet Rebecca,
What a joy to see these stupendous images of your window boxes! I think you should write a book about them. Isn’t it amazing how a small, concentrated area of color and texture can bring so much life into your life. I can see you at your kitchen window observing the bees, butterflies, hummingbirds. Wonderful!
I so enjoy your photos, ideas, but most of all actually “hearing” your voice as I read.
Thank you for your wonderful posting. See you soon.
Thanks so much, Sharon, I SO appreciate your words of encouragement. I had to leave those gorgeous window boxes behind when I moved away and pray the new owners cherish them as much as I did (they’re so hard to find now!) Best of luck with all you have going on in the next few weeks and I can’t wait to show you my neck of the woods (and perhaps a bear or two) xoxo ?
Well I wrote my comment out, but I guess it got lost so I will try once more.
There is a plant called “Tecoma” in a garden up the street from me that I have admired greatly. It is a clear yellow, takes full sun and heat, and even might be somewhat deer proof . It is a large plant so too big for my garden, but I thought people might like to know about it.
Juan at Ladera Garden Center has the yellow one plus a variation which is yellow to orange and the same funnel shaped blossom.
Obviously this has nothing to do with window boxes, but still, nice to know. this plant is not widely used. I have never seen this in central Menlo Park except in this one garden.
Hi Rebecca – this is completely off the subject of window boxes, but I have been admiring a plant in a garden up the street from me. It is “Tecoma”, a beautiful clear yellow. It’s a large plant eventually so therefore too big for my garden.
It takes almost no water, blooms all the time, can take the heat and it might even be somewhat deer proof. Juan of Ladera Garden Center is carrying this plant and he has another variation – a yellow to orange blossom, trumpet shaped like the yellow one.
I am surprised more people don’t grow this. this one plant up the street is the only one I know of in central Menlo Park.
Anyway – thought i would pass on the news about this plant in case anyone would like to try it.
Love your articles – thanks, Nan
Hi Nana (both comments came in – not sure what happened!) – thank you so much for your Tecoma suggestion. I’ve seen it growing in Arizona and the one I saw gets HUGE. I believe it’s somewhat frost tender so zone 9 would probably be the lowest it would thrive as a year-round addition to the garden (or those in colder climates could treat it as an annual, similar to Lion’s Tail) I have the room here in my garden and might just have to hunt one down – thanks again for the comment and I hope you and your garden are doing well!!
Your windowboxes are breathtakingly beautiful – just like everything else in your garden. I’m so excited to hear about this book and will be getting it for sure! Can’t wait!
Thank you so much, Greenwords, and so nice to hear from you – its been awhile! I hope life is good for you healthwise and otherwise? I was talking with some Australian friends the other day and thought of you!
Hey Rebecca, I’m Begi, a retired Delta Flight Attendant living in Charleston, SC. I ran across your blog address last night and thought I’d check it out—what a wonderful blog!
I’m not a MG or anything…just garden loving fool..((^_^)) I look forward to your book release. I have so many questions…. I planted a small vegetable garden and a small flower garden this spring for the first time. So far I’ve had fresh homegrown tomatoes (since Mother’s Day), cucumbers, yellow and zucchini squash, bell and banana peppers! Oh, some strawberries too. However what I have the most of is questions!
I felt compelled to share my excitement of finding you as my new best friend!!
How nice to meet another ‘garden loving fool’, Begi! 😉 I’m happy to hear about your garden successes – I can’t believe you have tomatoes already! Mine are marble sized, green and hard as a rock. Soon, though, soon. Sounds like you’re definitely doing something right out there in Charleston!!
I took down the “window” box (actually it was between 2 windows) because I have really wide eaves and the area beneath seldom gets wet. What can you plant in a situation like that? The previous owners were “growing” silk flowers in it when I bought it.
Hi Diane – all of my window boxes are under eaves as well. One of them relies on me hand-watering them, but since it’s located right outside of my kitchen window it’s unlikely that I’ll forget since I see it every time I walk in the kitchen. The other one, however, is hooked up to irrigation, with the tubing running discreetly up the back of the box, hidden by the trailing plants (ivy and succulents). If you’re unable to irrigate yours, then succulents are the way to go as they’re so darn tough and if they’re not in the full baking sun can go without water for several days (sometimes weeks) at a time. They’re very forgiving! If you’re trying not to have any water drip down on the surface below, can you place another container under the window box to catch the run-off? There’ll still be draining water, only not quite as much.
Congrats on the new book, Rebecca! How exciting! I love the different looks for your window box, and I’m not sure I could even pick a favorite. Sometimes you just need to try out all the looks, one right after the other, right?
Thanks, Pam! I love window boxes precisely because I can so easily change them whenever I feel like it (versus my garden which is not so easy). They’re like wardrobe accessories, in a way 😉
I can’t wait to get my hands on your new book! Congratulations!
And thank you for the great window box ideas.
Thanks, Pat – I hope you enjoy the book!
Wow Rebecca, is there nothing you don’t do fabulously? 🙂 looking forward to your new book!
Thanks, Christina – coming from you that’s a real compliment!!
As always, no matter what you do in your garden it is always so perfect. You have just motivated me to do more window boxes. My biggest challenge is the watering although since I have incorporated Succulents in to my garden and containers, it has been more fun than work. Thanks for the inspiration Rebecca.
Laura – I have no doubt you’ll create a fantastic succulent window box!! And when you do, please send a pic (or better yet invite me for iced tea so I can finally see your gorgeous garden!!) 😉
I just redid my windowboxes which get blasting heat in the late afternoon because they’re west-facing. I planted succulents of course. But even if I weren’t “the succulent queen” they’re a great problem-solving plant for hot, dry locations. Previously I’d had geraniums (zonal and ivy) which looked great for a while but then got leggy. Any thoughts on challenging locations for windowboxes? How much sun exposure do yours get?
Well, Succulent Queen, you’re definitely doing what I’d do if I had a box in the full, blazing sun. And yours is even worse because it gets the reflective heat from your driveway and stucco wall – triple whammy! I think succulents and cacti would be about the only thing that would thrive in that location. Good thing we love succulents so much, right?? I’m lucky because one of my boxes is in morning sun and the other is in full shade.
Your next book…congratulations! When is it going to be published?
I love to put plants together, and I am learning everyday. One thing though, it is a time consuming activity to maintain containers, they only last one year and they need to be redone. Since I hate throwing plants away I have few containers that need to be replanted and not having enough time, they are looking rather unattractive.
I hope to see you presenting your book to the Marin Master Gardeners.
Hi Laura – it’ll be published this September (yay!). Just like I told Becky (below) I always include something that stays evergreen in my containers or window boxes because, like you, who has the time to constantly fuss with them?? My shady window box is evergreen year-round (or nearly so) and I haven’t had to replant anything in several years. I can’t believe how it thrives on neglect!! I hope to see you at another MG meeting, too!! Are you going on the Marin Garden Conservancy tours this year??? They’re coming up, I believe….
Rebecca, I think the tour is this Saturday.
Good idea about always having an evergreen planter. I think I need to change plant selection because some plants don’t work well in my containers. Oh well….
There is MG event this Fall, maybe I will see if they still need presenter, you could come and give a talk with your new book….
Fingers crossed – thanks, Laura! 🙂
I fear I can only dream of putting together planters that look as gorgeous as these! I never seem to get the mix right. I better pre-order your book, too. Thanks for sharing these incredible photos. They really are inspirational.
Thanks for the nice comment,Becky, but I know you can do it!! I rarely plant containers using only perennials or annuals, preferring to mix in something that’s evergreen and beautiful year-round (the succulents, ferns and fuchsia in my case). Maybe that little tip can help tie everything together for your planters?
Amazing! I’ve never been a big fan of window boxes, but these take it to a whole new level! Also I think the fuchsia could be Fuchsia thymifolia.
Ahhh – you’re right, Max! It IS a Fuchsia thymifolia – thanks so much! 🙂
The flowerbox is amazing and the photos are superb. I really appreciate the tips.
Thanks for the kind words, Charlie – I’m glad you enjoyed my post!
What good timing for this article, dear friend. You gave me some thoughts for a new client that loves pinks, purples and whites but no yellows! It will be an interesting challenge to do about 12 sun containers without yellow! As always, you inspire me.
Excuse me though, I’ve gotta go and pre-order you new book. Have a good rest of your week!
No yellows? Not even the palest shade? Well, if anyone do it YOU can, Sheila. Have a good week, yourself, and good luck! (any orange??)
I’m hoping to sneak some orange in somewhere! Life without yellow… really?