Window with a view
Kiran Narain

Window boxes lend colour to a house
Window boxes lend colour to a house

THOSE living in flats and rooms without any scope for gardening can grow flowers on their windowsills. Particularly suited for town houses or flats, window boxes add colour to the house, and even to the entire street as is the fashion in Europe.

Window boxes can be made of wood, sheet metal, plastic, wrought iron or fibreglass. The preferred size is six inches wide and eight to nine inches deep, running across the length of the windowsill on which it is to rest. However, care must be taken to limit the size and use strong material since they have to carry a great deal of weight and are exposed to different elements of nature like rain, sun, and dust etc. If wood is being used, very strong hard wood must be used and the boxes be painted in a colour of your choice from outside giving a coating of tar in the inside. Ideally, portable inside metal liners that can be taken out and replaced should be used. Strong iron brackets should be driven into the wall, at regular intervals, to support the weight (say about one running foot of the box with plants will weigh nearly 30 kg) ensuring that all of them are fixed securely.

The gardeners can exhibit the well-grown pots in the window box or grow them in the box itself. For the latter, the box will need about one inch drainage holes spaced about nine inches apart. Each of these holes should be covered with an inverted crock. A layer of smaller broken crocks or small pebbles with the layer of moss or coconut fibre under the soil will look after good drainage. The soil should consist of three parts loam, one part moss, one part leaf mould and half part of sharp sand with a layer of organic manure on the top.

After thorough watering to settle the soil within about an inch of the top level, small plants of choice can be planted and soil firmed around them. However, for a better display in your window, you may get flowering pots from the nursery and arrange them in the box camouflaging them with a layer of coconut fibre or thermocol nuggets (like the ones in bean bags). Using plastic pots reduce the weight also. The top layer of moss, fibre or thermocol will not only check rain splashing the soil on to the windowpanes but would also retain moisture for longer periods. A tray each under the pot, to catch surplus water will save you from complaints from neighbours downstairs.

While selecting your plants for the window boxes the colour and growing pattern of the plant would be vital. Choose colours that do not merge against the colour of the wall and avoid selecting tall plants for the window. Some of the plants could be of trailing nature while others around the corners could climb up or may be comparatively taller. Usually geraniums of all kinds, especially the ivy-leaved trailing ones, petunias, calceolaria, pansy, dwarf antirrhinum, verbena, lobelias, alyssum, dwarf marigold, nasturtiums, kalanchoe and cascading chrysanthemums make good specimens. Small evergreens like syngoniums, asparagus, Cyprus and chlorophytum add character to flowering plants. Remember to put sun-loving plants in a south-facing window and shade loving ones in the north.

It is good practice to give liquid manure every two to three weeks during growing seasons as also to remove spent flowers promptly. Watering should be done in the evenings preferably. Constant watering will pack the soil in due course of time, so loosening it occasionally would be necessary.