We have a love/hate relationship with the window box on our American System Built Home. We love it as a design feature. Filled with plants in the summer and evergreen branches in the winter, the window box creates a natural landscape right outside our living room window. But we hate the fact that the window box takes on more water than the Titanic. And did I mention that the box doesn’t have a drain or even a rudimentary hole that allows the water to escape? Yeah, so frequently the window box is more akin to a reflecting pool than a flower box. (The sunlight reflecting on the collected water does make beautiful patterns on the living room ceiling!)
Over the years of house ownership I’ve learned some important lessons about the window box. The first – and perhaps the most important – lesson is do not fill the box with dirt and plants. Yes, that does seem like an obvious lesson that perhaps didn’t need to be learned the hard way. And yet learn it the hard way I did! Our first spring in the house, I overzealously filled the window box with soil, grasses and beautiful green plants. And within a few weeks I was scooping out a flood of mud and dead, slimy plant carcasses. Since that first disastrous (and messy!) experience, we’ve been placing containers of plants in the window box.
The next lesson came the following year. We were still using a bucket to bail the water out of the flooded window box. Every time the box would flood we would have to stand on ladder to reach into the box and use a bucket to slowly empty it. It was messy, it was time consuming and it was literally a pain the back. And then one day when I was facing the laborious task of bailing out the window box I thought to myself, there must be a better way. And there is!
Perhaps if we were boaters we would’ve come up with the solution sooner. The electric water pump has made short work of draining the box. Simply stick one hose in the box, one house leading out to the yard, plug in the pump and let it do all the work. Game. Changer.
Which bring us to lesson number three. While placing containers in the window box has helped the plants survive, we’ve also had to learn which plants can handle the situation. You see, it’s feast or famine in the window box. It’s either Noah’s Ark level flooding or Sahara desert dry. We tried geraniums in the box one year and they survived the extreme wet/dry conditions. And then last year we spent $300 on ornamental grasses for the window box. Two weeks later they were all dried up and dead. (Although the good news it that I planted their roots balls in the ground and they did come back this year.) I had always envisioned grasses in the box. As you can see in the photo above, shot the day we put the grasses in the box, they do a great job of creating a privacy screen. Alas, the grasses are not meant to be.
We were recently invited to lunch at another American System Built Home and learned that the owners had installed a drain system to their window box. This is definitely part of our future plans. But for now we’ll take all the lessons learned and continue loving and hating the window box.