Window Planters to Complement Your Home
Window Planters and Flower Planters
At all times window planters and other containers should be chosen to marry up with the building on which they are displayed. Perhaps the best window planters, like the best cut flower containers, are unobtrusively in keeping with the plants and the surroundings. A mock 18th century lead box (glass fibre copy) embossed with sporting wood nymphs or something similar, would look out of place on a modern glass and concrete building, but plain shapes, even plastic ones, in quiet colours fit in anywhere.
In some instances, however, buildings with a strong character of their own are made even more interesting by an off-beat choice of. I know an angler who has wickerwork fishing baskets spilling along the window sills of his old cottage by a river, and in a cathedral city I noticed a flower planter faced with pottery tiles depicting English cathedrals. The tiles were designed in donkey brown on white, and the woodwork of the house was a matching gentle shade of chocolate. The box itself was bright with marigolds and the effect was memorable.
In a small country town I saw agaily painted in blue with a white heart design, and nearby a planted box hanging by the side of the door had the house number painted on it — practical as well as unusual. The number itself, by the way, was fashioned from thick cord tacked into position and then painted. A house named Pen Cottage had a deep window planter decorated with a metal replica of a quill pen.
They say every house and garden should have at least one memorable feature, and even if you have no garden a window box could be such a feature. Happily there is the very widest possible choice of containers about nowadays. You can take your pick from every shape and size, wood or plastic, plain or fancy, real antique or mock. Certainly there is something available to suit every style of home, from modern flat to country cottage. Whatever the depth of our purse, however, the first consideration must be the size — and especially the depth — of the window box.
A deep box will always be more practicable than a shallow one, which has too little room for the roots of most plants and also quickly dries out. Even if we plan to use the box simply as a means of holding a row of plants in pots the effect is less attractive if the pots all stick up above the rim. The old adage ‘Buy the best you can afford’ does not necessarily apply, for the most expensive may be totally out of keeping with the property. Wooden window planters may be fairly easily made by the average handyman and can be painted or stained. Here more expenditure will certainly result in a better job, for the better the wood the better the box will be. Hardwood or cedar is obviously better than old orange boxes!
Don’t use creosote on a window box – plants do not care for it. Instead use a proprietary wood preservative, with two coats worked well into the joints. If they take your fancy, you can decorate the front of a window box by making your own decorations with such pretty and interesting things as seashells, horse shoes, or coloured glass.
Expanded polystyrene troughs or boxes make a wonderfully comfortable home for plants. Unfortunately I have not seen these in full-scale window box sizes recently, though I have some which are about ten years old. I paint them every year to keep them spick and span. These polystyrene boxes are always warm to the touch. even on cold days. Many electrical goods and other household items are packed nowadays in moulded boxes of polystyrene to protect them during transit. Shops will often give you these moulded shapes to save throwing them away and over the years I have collected many and used them as plant boxes or seed boxes. Some are in unusual shapes, some have recessed circles or squares which make a decoration, and when painted they look like expensive sculptured creations. Ordinary gloss or emulsion paints can be used to colour them. A fault with polystyrene – possibly why it is not apparently used for big window planters any more – is that it is brittle and needs careful handling. Any plant container in this material should be placed in position before being filled with compost. It is easy to bore holes through the back or sides for wires or cords which can be secured to hooks in the window frame to keep the box in position.
Wooden window planters are traditional cottage tare with a decoration of tree bark. Nowadays we can buy pieces of interestingly-textured cork bark sold by florists for flower arrangers’ use. It is rubbery and seems almost indestructible. I like, too, the white picket fence effect sometimes seen on window planters in the countryside.
And how about this for a really great idea? – On holiday in Devon I saw a rowing boat secured, upright, to a wall, with the seats supporting pots of scarlet geraniums!
Window planters could, of course, be suitably shaped baskets, fitted with some kind of lining to hold the compost and prevent its dampness rotting the wickerwork. I have managed to keep some of my baskets for ten years by lining them with polythene and spray painting them both -side and outside. Flowers and plants do however always have a look of the country when seen against the texture and quiet colour of a basket left in its natural colour, undoubtedly giving distinction and originality to any window. Plastic baskets sold for various household purposes are often suitably shaped to become practical ‘window planters’. Baskets of all kinds are easily kept safely in place by passing a length of wire through the weave and securing the ends to ring eyelets screwed into the wooden window sill or frame.
Going to the other extreme, you can spend a lot of money on genuine old lead window planters which can sometimes be bought at country house sales or from antique dealers. Unless well secured they could tempt thieves to lift them from your wall, but less easy to steal are antique or modern terracotta, concrete, stone (or mock stone) troughs, sinks, urns, and so on, which are particularly suitable for old houses with deep windows and strong ledges. They look equally handsome standing free on the ground outside a large window, where their shape is seen to advantage.
The antique look can be obtained more cheaply with the very attractive glass fibre, aluminium, cast iron, etc., boxes now available. They are often moulded replicas of very old patterns, though recently I have noticed some less heavily decorated ones in the shops. Glass fibre is very strong, light, and weather-resistant and these boxes should last for years with the minimum of attention.
With any mock antique box it is a good idea to go for a really old appearance. I rub mine all over with clods of really wet earth. Lightly brush off the earth; some will remain in the cracks, crevices, or rough surface texture and help to give a patina of age. Placed in a shady spot, the box will acquire its own moss or lichen.
Useful self-watering planters can be bought nowadays. Made of plastic, they employ various methods to keep the plants watered automatically for as long as three or four weeks. Apart from helping the forgetful, these planters can also be a protection against the fault of over-watering, as they are designed to control the amount of water the plants receive. Although meant primarily for indoor plants, I see no reason why they should: – be used for window planters, and possibly principle will be extended to bigger boxes.
Turning again to ideas from the past. I have seen old-fashioned iron fire grates and hearth curbs fitted to window sills, painted, and thus making attractive settings for a display of plants. If you don’t have anything like this in the attic. a blacksmith would make you something similar —perhaps a simple plain iron band to fix above the sill and in front of a box or a row of pots. Again. a blacksmith would make decorative iron brackets to hold up a heavy window box, in place of the ordinary shop-bought kind which are usually practical rather than specially good to look at.