By: Liz Baessler
If you live in an apartment with no yard to speak of, the prospect of gardening might seem unattainable. You can have flowers and fresh vegetables all summer long, though, with urban window box gardens. As long as your window receives light, you can tend your own mini garden in the privacy of your own apartment. But what do you do with it when winter comes? How do you keep it from looking drab? Keep reading to learn more about window flower boxes in winter.
The first thing to remember when creating winter window boxes is that some plants will keep producing and even perform better after a frost. Swiss chard, kale, parsley, and mint will all thrive through a frosty autumn.
You can plant them in late summer when hotter weather plants start dying. Alternatively, if you plant everything in grow bags, you can start them indoors earlier and switch them out to your urban window box gardens when the temperatures start to drop.
If you want plants that will truly last the winter, try growing winter-blooming plants. There are actually many to choose from, like hellebore, winter jasmine, and daphne to name a few. Likewise, you can plant miniature evergreens in grow bags, switching them outside when everything else has died.
If you don’t want to plant anything, of course, or if you don’t have grow bags, you can always decorate your winter flower boxes to look like they’re full of life and be very festive about it.
Cut some evergreen shoots and holly boughs with berries on them. Tuck the ends into the soil – this should help to keep them looking fresh for a month or two. If they start to fade, simply switch them out for new branches. The snowfall won’t hurt them, and they might even look better for it.
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Our gardening expert suggests ways to lift your soul on dark December mornings
Mixed hellebores laid on a carpet of winter heather. Photograph: Gap Photos
Mixed hellebores laid on a carpet of winter heather. Photograph: Gap Photos
Y ou are a fickle lot: in summer, you had pots full of annuals and window boxes dripping with colour, but when the first frost came along you and your bedding gave up the ghost. A pot half-full of compost will not lift your soul on a dark December morning, but something in flower may.
The selection for winter bedding plants is limited the obvious choices are violas and pansies. In the darkest days of December and January, they don’t flower much, coming back into play as the days lengthen, so the best displays will have something else in the pot, such as erica species heathers that flower from December to April. The white and cream is the least offensive and can be incorporated among ivies and cyclamen to create a restrained look.
I can’t stand the pompom bedding daisies, Bellis perennis, but I won’t judge you if you go there they remain buoyant in bad weather. I’m fond of winter-flowering cyclamen, C. coum. I like those stout little flowers, often in pink or magenta, that appear even in the severest weather, and even if these halt for a bit they have pretty, silver-marked leaves. I bought deep-crimson flowering ones from my local garden centre and potted them up into terracotta pots an inch or so wider than the pots they came in. Between these, I planted cut-leaved ivies and butcher’s parsley, the curly kind, which is hardier than the flat-leaved sort, again in old terracotta pots. It’s a cheap, simple and strangely satisfying combination that will hold through winter.
Cyclamen are tough, but liable to grey mounds, which can cause the plant to collapse and fuzzy grey mould to appear. Check the base for signs of fuzz and steer clear of it it spreads quickly.
A number of shrubs and perennials can be used as bedding, such as small pots of dwarf cultivars of Skimmia japonica. These make dense gloves of leathery, green leaves and white, green or pink flower heads that appear in winter, bursting in early spring with a heady sweet scent. These shrubs want to grow larger than the pot in which they are sold, so when they finish flowering put them in the garden or bigger pots. There will be pots of winter-flowering hellebores, such as Helleborus x hybridus and Christmas rose, H. niger, which will flower from late winter. These plants aren’t going to do much growing and won’t need feeding, but, as they won’t get their roots down, they rely on you for watering.
Finally, winter cheer shouldn’t come at a wider cost – cheaply produced bedding plants are often grown in peat and with lots of chemicals. Local independent garden centres and horticultural charities are a better bet for homegrown, pesticide- or peat-free plants. The market will change through demand and the bees that fly on warmer winter days need a clean meal just as much as you need a little cheer.
Learn how to make a cold frame for the garden with these tips. When those first frosts of fall hit, you’ll want to protect your precious plants!
At their simplest, cold frames are bottomless boxes that are set over plants in the garden to protect them from adverse weather. They are usually built low to the ground and have a transparent roof to let in light and a hinge for easy access.
Cold frames protect plants from strong winds and retain heat. Gardeners use cold frames to extend their gardening season—both in the autumn to protect plants for a few more weeks and in the spring to get a jumpstart on sowing seeds. Cold frames are also used to “harden off” seedlings that were started indoors.
Cold frames can be bought or constructed from timber and plastic, but concrete blocks or bricks can also be used. You can even construct a simple, bottomless wooden box and set it in the garden or atop other good soil in a sunny location. Watch our video, below, for step-by-step building instructions!
Cold Frame Building Tips
A hot bed is a cold frame that is heated. Some gardeners use electric heating tape or cables, but the age-old method of using horse manure or compost works well, too.
Do you use a cold frame or hot bed in your garden? Share your technique in the comments below!
Container gardening doesn’t have to stop when the growing season is over. Taking advantage of strong plants and seasonal cuttings keeps your pots going into spring.
During the cold months of January and February, when the setting is bleak and the sky is gray, winter containers can cheer up the soul and provide a colorful punch to the landscape. Many gardeners give up on their potted creations in the fall, but that can be a horrible waste because winter is when color and interest are most vital.
Creating a winter design is not difficult. The general rule for container-plant survival through the winter is to use plants hardy to at least two zones colder than your USDA Hardiness Zone this, however, is not always a steadfast rule. Many trees, shrubs, and perennials that are hardy in your zone will live and even thrive in containers through all four seasons. In this case, a frostproof pot with a drainage hole is important. Fiberglass, lead, iron, heavy plastic, and stone are the best weather-resistant containers to use terra-cotta will eventually expand and crack with repeated freezing and thawing.
Assemble your designs early enough that the plants have time to acclimate to their new pots before the hard freeze. Also, winter containers usually need to be checked only monthly for water to make sure they haven’t dried out when the soil eventually becomes frozen solid, watering is no longer necessary. Apply an antidesiccant such as Wilt-Pruf to broad-leaved evergreens and to branches of cut greens to protect against drying winter winds. When it comes to design, I like to use a mix of live plants, cut branches, colorful berries, and interesting evergreen foliage to dress up the pots for maximum seasonal appeal.
By following these simple guidelines, you may find winter a whole lot brighter and maybe you’ll even be a little less anxious for spring.
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The vibrant colors of this container planting set it apart. Redtwig dogwood’s scarlet stems are strikingly prominent and add a structural component to the container. To highlight them, it helps to have a solid evergreen background so that the thin branches stand out. Surrounding the base of the dogwood are two small Japanese pieris, whose glossy, dark green leaves provide bulk and texture to the design. The lemon yellow foliage of ‘Golden Sword’ yucca complements the dogwood. Two perennials, ‘Bressingham Ruby’ bergenia and ‘Caramel’ heuchera, are tucked around the bottom of the pot to add an additional punch of color. The ‘Ivory Tower’ Japanese hollies on each side of the dogwood add more color interest with their creamy yellow berries. Branches of gold-thread sawara echo the yellow tones from the holly berries. The result is a colorful explosion dynamic enough to brighten the grayest of winter days.
1. ‘Elegantissima’ redtwig dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’, Zones 2–8)
2. ‘Ivory Tower’ Japanese holly (Ilex crenata ‘Ivory Tower’, Zones 5–7)
3. ‘Golden Sword’ yucca (Yucca filamentosa ‘Golden Sword’, Zones 4–11)
4. Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica, Zones 6–8)
5. ‘Bressingham Ruby’ bergenia (Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’, Zones 4–8)
6. ‘Caramel’ heuchera (Heuchera ‘Caramel’, Zones 3–8)
7. ‘Winter Red’ winterberry (Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’, Zones 5–8)
8. Gold-thread sawara cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera Aurea’, Zones 4–8)
If a container is striking on its own, then winter is the perfect time to show it off. The rust color of this container is echoed in the russet brown undersides of the southern magnolia branches, which provide mass and bold texture with their glossy, wide foliage. Trailing variegated vinca vine accentuates the height of this container and takes the eye up and down the 5-foot-tall pot. Three other types of cut branches polish off this arrangement. Winterberry branches add a splash of color, while the fine texture of Japanese cedar and Lawson false cypress soften the overall look of the arrangement. When you want the container itself to shine, it is best to keep the plant palette simple.
1. Variegated vinca vine (Vinca major ‘Variegata’, Zones 7–9)
2. ‘Winter red’ winterberry (Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’, Zones 5–8)
3. Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora, Zones 7–9)
4. Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica, Zones 6–9)
5. Lawson false cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, Zones 5–9)
Many people feel that winter containers are a waste of time because they can’t be appreciated when covered in snow or ice. Using strong architectural forms in your containers will allow them to stand out even when encased in snow. Hardy ‘Green Mountain’ boxwood has this kind of profile. Its clean, simple lines stand out against almost any backdrop, especially when dusted with snow.
To highlight the dark foliage of the boxwood, I pair it with the slender leaves of silver-variegated Japanese sedge. The soft green and white mottled foliage of ‘Snow Angel’ heuchera gives mass to the arrangement, and ‘Angelina’ sedum is wedged in for its cascading tendency. The yellow pansies may not survive throughout the winter but are wonderful for a short time. The strong form of this design will make it a showstopper throughout winter.
1. ‘Green Mountain’ boxwood (Buxus ‘Green Mountain’, Zones 4–9)
2. Pansies (Viola × wittrockiana cv., Zones 8–11)
3. ‘Ice Dance’ Japanese sedge (Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’, Zones 5–9)
4. ‘Angelina’ sedum (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’, Zones 3–9)
5. ‘Snow Angel’ heuchera (Heuchera sanguinea ‘Snow Angel’, Zones 3–8)
Although the hues featured in this planter are not necessarily traditional, they are still dramatic and seasonally appropriate. The strong vertical form of the evergreen beaked yucca makes it a perfect focal point for a design.
The dark foliage of a ‘Plum Pudding’ heuchera provides contrasting color at the base of the combination, and steely blue cut stems of smooth cypress pick up the silvery hues of the shimmering hairs along the edges of the yucca. With their opposing shape and color, orange winterberry branches also accentuate the sculptural yucca leaves. These fruits usually form earlier than red winterberry, so the berries do not last as long on the branch, but the color is worth the effort. The thick vertical leaves of the yucca and unexpected hues of this design stand out in winter, despite the absence of traditional red and green.
1. Beaked yucca (Yucca rostrata, Zones 5–11)
2. ‘Plum Pudding’ heuchera (Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’, Zones 4–9)
3. Orange winterberry (Ilex verticillata ‘Aurantiaca’, Zones 5–8)
4. ‘Carolina Sapphire’ smooth cypress (Cupressus arizonica ‘Carolina Sapphire’, Zones 6–9)
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We will take a closer look at 11 plants later in this post that we particularly like for window boxes.
We decided to give you a more extensive list of winter window box appropriate plants so you can kick your imagination and gear.
Here are 44 plants to consider for a winter window box:
These plants are great for containers or window boxes because they produce clumps of rounded leaves. There are two kinds some have green leaves and very colorful flowers while others have hardly any flowers but their leaves are very striking such as the plum pudding varieties. They grow well in zones three through eight and can take full sun to what light shade.
By Nataraja Via Wkikpedia Commons
Rosemary that has been grown and cut into the shape of a small tree can be a wonderful focal point or end cap in an evergreen window box. It will survive winters in zone seven through 10, but in zones lower to seven it will need to be brought indoors. It is drug-resistant and a very hearty plant. It has wonderfully aromatic leaves.
The creeping Juniper goes by several different names it is called the blue rug Juniper and also the blue mat Juniper. It grows to approximately 6 inches tall and spreads horizontally rather than vertically. This makes it ideal for year-round window boxes. The USDA recommends hardiness zones of three through nine for this plant. They thrive in full sunlight and fast draining soil.
Kirill Ignatyev via Flickr
This plan is used traditionally as a groundcover in gross 1 to 3 inches tall. The green leaves will form a dense carpet and does produce star-shaped weight flowers in the summer. As winter approaches, the leaves will change to a rust/pink color. If you’re using the thrill fill and spill design theory of containers and window boxes this is a perfect ‘spill’ plant. Planted near the front of the box it will spill over the front with some wonderful trailing greenery. This groundcover is adaptable in that bulbs and other plants can grow through it.
By Puchatech K Via Wkikpedia Commons
The ‘Smaragd’ is a semi-dwarf, compact, with a narrow pyramid shape evergreen. The American arborvitae in really non-technical terms is your basic evergreen. It comes in many variations and is the epitome of a harsh winter tree or shrub. They are generally needled evergreens that do not flower.The ‘Smaragd’ is an extremely low maintenance plant that will grow in partial shade to full sun. It prefers well-drained soils but has a very wide range of solid soil tolerance. It needs good draining soil but is drought tolerant. Is typically used in a garden as a background or foundation plant and in hedges.
This plant also goes by a common name of ‘stonecrop’. It is an evergreen that has needlelike foliage with yellow green tips to turn it reddish orange in fall. It grows to a height of 3 to 6 inches needs full sun but will handle light shade also. It is normally used as a groundcover but it works well in containers and window boxes. Arborvitae
By KENPEI Via via Wikimedia Commons
Boston ivy, Virginia creeper, and English Ivy are all hard defines the tolerate cold weather very well. They are perfect for arbors, window boxes, and trellises. English Ivy is notorious for being a great climber. But, you can grow English Ivy in pots with a vertical steak or small trellis for some height. You can create a small topiary by training it to grow around the wire mesh. It can also simply droop over the front of the window box.
By Alvesgaspar Via Wkikpedia Commons
Sempervivum are commonly known as houseleeks and hens and chicks. They are succulent perennials and can serve as groundcover in your larger pots. They are adaptable to dry and sunny locations with fast draining sandy soil. Their low profile makes them very wind resistant. They grow as tufted rosettes. They are not necessarily held in high regard for their flowers but rather their geometric and architectural interest in design. These are great plants for window boxes or high-rise balcony gardens especially in terra-cotta or concrete planters or pots.
Violas produce small and abundant flowers and are low growing perennials. They actually produce more flowers than pansies. They come in many varieties in different colors. Violas thrive in cool weather and like a lot of light, but not a lot of heat. Violas have 3 petals pointing down and 2 petals pointing up.
Pansies are actually a cross between two types of Violas, Viola lutea and Viola tricolor. They are renowned for the ability to grow just about anywhere. The major distinction between pansies and other violets is that the happy ‘face’ seen in the flower is much more distinctive and pronounced. Pansies have 1 downward pointing petal and 4 that point up.
Jasmine Tokuda via Flickr
This a plant that thrives living near the seaside. It grows in zones four through nine it has ever green foliage that is a spiky blue silver and is attractive all year round. The sunlight requirements are full sun to light shade.
Window boxes are quite contemporary and very flexible in their design potential. You may hang them on deck rails, and on your fences besides keeping them on your window sills.
They can hold only a limited amount of soil, thus making it important that you create boxes with similar soil and watering needs.
Make sure that the window box you select will hold up to possible freezing and frost cycles. One handy trick that I would recommend to leave the plants in their own containers and just drop them into the window box. The entire window box becomes your cachepot.
If you look online you can actually find modular window boxes. But, it is simple enough to drop the pots directly into the window box and cover the top with moss, or good layer of mulch.
If you are setting up a window box for the first time, make sure there is room for air circulation around the box itself. Also, make sure that the water can drain from the window box away from your house to prevent water damage.
Another important consideration with having a window box is to make sure that it is secured extremely well to your banister, rail or fence. It is in an exposed location and will bear the brunt of strong winds. It is safest to go a bit overboard in securing your window box. Don’t cheap out here.
Some shrubs and perennials actually need the cold to send them into a dormant state so they can bloom or fruit the following season.
There can be some problematic issues with plants and severe, extended cold:
The above-mentioned points just how critical it is to select the proper plants for a winter window box.
Did you know that there is a formula for putting together plants in a container that will almost guarantee a visually appealing display?
Although I am a novice, weekend gardener, (trying to improve my skills). I stumbled across a formula that is used by experienced gardeners, florists and landscapers. It is as easy to remember as 1,2,3.
It is called the thrill, fill and spill.
Thrill And Spill
Those rules work very well for container gardening and can work real well for window box design. However, often window box is far wider than it is deeper so the rules of placing plants forward and further back need to be adjusted slightly.
Because you have a very wide and relatively narrow container with a window box we need to think in terms of left or right more than in terms of front to back.
If you visualize a window box as having 3,4 or five ‘zones’ from left to right certain design ideas immediately start to become apparent.
Some design elements can be illustrated using the simple key of:
S = Short plants
M = Medium height plants
T = Tall Plants
A Pyramid Effect
A Zig Zag Effect
The still images above were excerpted from the video ‘Know About For Window Boxes And Winter Window Boxes – Their Maintenance’, a YouTube video by Beautyof garden https://youtu.be/Xent6MF7gbw Below
A greenhouse is one of the most important additions you can make to your garden. It can help you to meet your goal to grow your plants perfectly. With a greenhouse, you can grow plants for winter use. Plants can grow perfectly in slightly lower temperature and much higher than humidity maintained in our houses. Learn from Keith Walters on how to make a planter box greenhouse in your patio and be amazed with its many uses.
To start, build a small frame goes inside the planter box. Measure the length of the planter that you have.
Cut the wood with the same size. For this planter box, we will need 3 pieces of wood.
Fold over the plastic onto the wood and attach the plastic to the wood, use the staple gun or duck tape.
Now we have a simple greenhouse on a planter box. The good thing about this greenhouse you can easily remove it to access the plants or to use it to another planter box.
This DIY planter box greenhouse will help you grow your plants easily.
Gardening was invented in 1822 by Albert Gardener
Don’t forget to send us picture of your planter box greenhouse or leave us message in the comment box below.
The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.- Alfred Austin
Vines suitable for window boxes do not cling to supports with tendrils, but drape elegantly over the sides and front of the container. Just prune back the ends of the stems to control the size of the vines. Asian star jasmine vines (Trachelospermum asiaticum) reach 1 to 2 feet tall in USDA zones 7 through 11 and sprawl up to 12 feet with stems covered in green leaves and small, creamy-yellow flowers throughout the summer. This showy flowering vine gives off sweet scents while in bloom. Creeping raspberry (Rubus pentalobus) grows best in USDA zones 7 through 9 reaching less than 6 inches tall, but cascading over the window box with stems that can reach 30 feet long if left untrimmed. The thick, round leaves develop an interesting textured surface with bronze-colored undersides. The white raspberry blooms, which appear in the summer, are followed by red berries.