THE GARDEN GUY: Get bountiful blooms with ‘Window Boxes of Yore’

These Window Boxes constructed of copper and with metal framing bloomed for 180 days in Columbus, Georgia. The plants were fertilized, and pinched or pruned as needed every two weeks. This photo taken May 2 shows the plants selected, Superbena Stormburst verbena, Superbells Tropical Sunrise calibrachoa, Diamond Snow euphorbia, summer snapdragons and geraniums. (TNS/Norman Winter)

Nov. 1 marked the conclusion of a group of the warm season window boxes created by son James and partner Anthony of Eden Estate Management in Columbus, Ga. As best as I can calculate this has been a terrific 180-day display of what I have been calling the "Window Boxes of Yore."

I called them that because they had a look that was special. The boxes made of copper with metal framing gave that feel of nostalgia. Oh, they did magazine worthy wooden window boxes and planter boxes elsewhere, but these were exceptionally blooming nonstop on one of the hottest west Georgia summers anyone can remember.

A while back I was getting a brake job done at a repair place and I gave the attendant my name and he looked at me and said, "You are the one with the garden Facebook page, I follow you!" He then said, "I am waiting on some top soil for my boxes." As gently as I could, without hollering, I tried to steer him away from that, directing him toward potting mixes.

Window boxes, planter boxes and virtually all containers need premium potting soil. Eden Estate Management uses the best professional grade potting mix they can buy. I asked James about the drainage holes in the copper and he said he got out the drill and added more. That is his modus operandi on all boxes. Fill your window box about half way, place your plants in their positions and add soil to the top of the root ball. Lastly an irrigation system with small tubing and tiny mist emitters is put into place.

If you have hopes of a showy window that will last for six months, your plant selection is critical. Most everyone will talk thriller, spiller and filler or tall, small and fall followed by instruction on color and texture. Certainly, remember those suggestions, but think also about tough-as-nails award-winning plants too. If the plants you choose are winning university trials you know your chances of success will be increased.

The "Window Boxes of Yore" featured two Superbena verbena varieties, Stormburst and Whiteout. There were also Superbells Tropical Sunrise calibrachoa, Luscious Royale Cosmo lantana, Diamond Snow euphorbia, geraniums and summer snapdragons too! Of course, they took advantage of creating repetition in the design like you do in the landscape.

The client's boxes were on a two-week maintenance where James and Anthony would selectively hand-prune or pinch, fertilize and check on irrigation. This triggered new growth and repeat blooming until the day they were pulled for cool season color. Just like your beds at home, the flowers would go in and out of bloom cycles but not all at the same time.

There is a high probability that the boxes would have been dazzling at the 210-day period, maybe even longer, which you might select to do at your home. But in the commercial world, once the green industry has switched to Christmas, your choices in cool season transplants drop substantially.

Though there is no such designation, I would encourage the powers to be in the garden world to designate a Year of the Window Box. Until then, I'll do it, Norman Winter, The Garden Guy, designates 2024 "The Year of the Window Box." Plan now that you will do it too and send your photos to facebook.com/NormanWinterTheGardenGuy/. Please identify your plants and I'll share them with the world.

So, with that in mind I hope you will make 2024 the year you get on board, it will transform your home to a real garden, and put a happy spring into your step.

Norman Winter is a horticulturist, garden speaker and author of "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden."

  photo  Early October shows the summer snapdragons at peak with all other flowers beginning a new fall flush of blooms. (TNS/Norman Winter)