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If you enjoy the company of houseplants, consider cultivating a window garden, which is ideal for showing off plants in the winter.
Creating a window garden is easy and adds some hygge to your home—you need only to extend the existing sill and then mount on the window frame, glass shelves, brackets (if you want them), and lengths of wire (for training vines).
In my window garden, I think it is essential to change the plants to reflect the seasons. Want to take a look? There are many various window gardens one can create in their own home.
It’s no trouble to outfit a bay window with glass shelves and brackets. Extending the sill, however, will likely require the skill of a carpenter. For a bay window, sheets of heavy plywood can be used to form a broad surface for plants. In January, this window affords copious quarters for geraniums of all kinds, pansies, amaryllis, blue hydrangeas, and vines. On the brackets are rose-scented geraniums, so you can literally wake up and smell the roses.
Let’s take a look at some easy tips for starting your first garden.
When you think of most window gardens you think of them by the window sill. If an ordinary window is to become a “Still Life with Plants,” it must first be outfitted for a multi-level display of pots. The sill is the most logical place to start.
Most windowsills are pathetically narrow. The most straightforward answer to a narrow sill is a foot-wide board or wooden shelf, fastened on a level with the sill as an extension. Paint or stain the board to match your window’s existing trim.
Or you can use an attractive piece of furniture that matches the height of the existing sill – as an idea, a bookcase makes a broad surface for plants.
For me, a window garden confined to the windowsill alone feels inadequate—a natural window garden must be a complete horticultural portrait. Consequently, vertical elements are necessary to generate eye movement. And here, gleaming glass shelves come to the rescue.
Three shelves are generally adequate for the average window. Align one stand with the latch ledge above the windowsill and another at the two’s midway point. Position the third shelf at an equal distance above the latch ledge.
I should probably mention that heavy, tempered glass is costly—often $100.00 per shelf. But you can ask your glass cutter to make shelves from half-inch-thick salvage glass. One can easily get these shelves for about $10.00 each, and non-tempered glass is acceptable.
Most of my shelves are 10-inches deep. They are held in place with 10-inch scrolled shelf supports.
You can find both new and salvage glass from your local glass-cutting shop. Shelf supports are available at any hardware store.
Brackets are mounted to the window frame, making useful accessories for holding trailing or spreading plants that require a “perch” of some sort. I favor old, cast-iron kerosene lamp holders to support my holiday cacti, cascading petunias, and sprawling scented geraniums. (I buy my lamp brackets on eBay!)
Change with the seasons
One enjoyable aspect of a window garden is that it can be redesigned on a whim. I tend to change mine with the seasons or the window to feature a particular theme.
For Thanksgiving one year, I composed the garden in my upstairs bathroom almost exclusively with plants from East Africa. This included standard, miniature, and trailing Saintpaulias, which adorned the sill and shelves. Tolmiea menziesii (left), the fascinating “piggyback plant,” and a pink double impatiens (right) survey the world from brackets.
Natural Window Frames
The window garden, like any artwork, deserves a suitable frame. Here, I threaded a string or wire length through 2-inch staples attached to three sides of the window trim. The wire serves as a guide for the long strands of philodendron.
Winter Window Gardens
In December, the window garden is holiday-themed, with red poinsettias, narcissi in a bowl, and pink and rose cyclamens.
In snow-cloaked February, the window garden offers a preview of spring when fragrant hyacinths make their appearance in a setting that includes miniature roses, azaleas, and crocus. (I plant hyacinth, crocus, and other Dutch bulbs in early October for February bloom—here’s my guide about How to Force Bulbs.)
If you have curtains in your window, and you can’t bear to remove them for the enjoyment of vines, consider these hangings as a frame for your garden in the house.
Here, I made a windowsill from foot-wide boards that I stained to match the existing trim and that I then cut with a jigsaw to fit the bay. Pink hydrangeas, a white petunia, African violets, dwarf geraniums, and fragrant Jasminum polyanthum flourish in the flood of winter sunshine this south-facing exposure admits.
A window garden is neither expensive nor difficult to make, but the beauty it provides a room—especially in winter—is priceless. It’s pretty easy to make a garden both inside and out.