Hostas in window boxes

It’s the time of year when I plant up my window boxes. This will be their 3rd summer season, after Mr MBaF very kindly made them for my birthday in 2014. 

The boxes on the dark, north-facing, front of the house have always presented me with a bit of a challenge.
Last year trailing fuschias performed fairly well, particularly outside the upstairs (bedroom) windows, so I’ll be using them again up there. 

But I’m taking a different approach in the darkest spot, outside the living room. 

I’m going for greens. 

I’ve been mulling over trying smaller-leaves hostas in there for a while. The challenge was that I know hostas like to have nice moist, rich, soil. But window boxes are prone to drying out, and already in the box are a couple of ferns, which like a lighter soil (I believe). 

My solution has been to try creating a micro-environment that suits the hostas. So, I cut a deep bottom off two 2 litre plastic milk cartons, filled them with garden compost and manure, and plunged them into position in the boxes. The milk carton bottoms have a rectangular cross-section, which fits perfectly into the window box. 

Then I split one of the smaller hostas from a collection I’ve been growing in a tin bath. Prizing the bugger from the bath was tricky, but splitting it was pretty easy – just a stomp down between the shoots, into the rootball, with my spade. 

I planted the hosta-halves on top of/in the manured milk cartons, topped up with multipurpose compost mixed with garden compost, and hey presto. 

I planted them a week or two ago, before any leaves had burst forth, and they’re already looking great. 

Alongside them are the ferns, trailing nepeta and silvery lamiums – which the bees love if they flower. 

Fingers crossed everyone plays nicely together and I have a verdent, fresh and jungly outlook from my living room all summer!


Noisy b—–

Mr MBaF is in the midst of a major building project on in our garden (a workshop/potting shed/bike shed) so there’re piles of displaced shed contents on the decking, and building materials in the front garden.

Why am I telling you this? Because it’s my excuse for why the window boxes have been a bit overlooked – they struggle to shine bright enough to get noticed over the general scruffiness outside.

But as if demanding my attention, this morning at 6am I was woken by a very noisy diner at the floral breakfast buffet outside our open bedroom window. A bumble bee, bumbling his way between the fuschia blooms, with his deep, loud, and persistent buzzing.

It’s not the worst way to be woken – certainly beats the alarm clock, or a crying toddler, hands-down. So I lay awhile, watching the insect methodically disappearing into and reappearing from the skirt folds of the fuschias – before moving noisily on to the next one. After a few minutes I did shut the window, as I figured the snoring Mr MBaF would rather stay asleep.

It made me reflect on how well this north-facing box is doing this year. It’s a tricky position, but these fuschias seem pretty happy. Out of the three boxes on the front of the house, this one is by far the best so far. I think I must’ve have inadvertently put the later-flowering varieties in the planter outside Miss MBaF’s bedroom, but hopefully they’ll perform for her soon too.

The largest boxes, outside the living room, look green and healthy but it remains to be seen if they flower. Unlike the upstairs boxes, these are also shaded by the sticking-out porch on their east side, so miss out on the short slice of early morning sunshine that creeps around the house.

Big frilly blooms, like many of the fuschias I chose, aren’t my usual style. But I’m prepared to compromise to get some colour on the north wall, and they are looking pretty good from inside and out. It seems that the later-flowering types are going to be a bit ‘cleaner’ in form, so I think I’ll like them even better.

The bee’s blousy breakfast buffet

The latest variety to flower, more my style, and with distracting building materials visible in the front garden below

The south-facing kitchen window box is looking OK too, but that’s for another day…

In the eye of the beeholder!

Bees have been enjoying a very shady character at our house.

I’ve struggled to find pollinator-friendly plants for my South-facing window boxes amongst the usual garden centre offerings. But, by-chance, the northerly one seems to contain a beaut for the bees.
A shade-tolerant heuchera (‘Apple Crisp’) is doing nicely in the frankly dank window box outside our living room. Since early spring – and some new compost – it’s sent up its spindly spikes of teeny tiny white/green bell-shaped flowers.

They really don’t look particularly impressive (though I take what I can get in the north-facing planters!) but buzzing things seem to enjoy them.

Heuchera ‘apple crisp’

I’m hoping for a bit of colour from trailing fuschias in these boxes this year, but I’m actually coming around to the idea of giving up the fight against the conditions and trying a foliage-based display.
Next spring I will divide some of my smaller hostas (which, are so far still snail-free!!!) to add in, and I’ve just bought a few ferns to try.

This one (common polypody) should reach 35cm if it does well, which would look fab alongside the heuchera.

Any other tips for shade-loving plants that would suit a window box or three???

(Ps The strange pink thing behind the fern is Miss MBaF’s toy saucepan on the windowsill inside!)

I only popped out for some seeds…

Breakfast at the garden centre today. Part of the promise to Miss MBaF of a fun morning out with Mummy!

We were really there for more sweet pea seeds. I get so focused on flowering plants’ colour, habit and size, that I’ve tended to neglect choosing flowers for their scent. This is definitely an area I want to improve on. Having a scent-filled garden – and the occasional fragrant treat at lotsville – would be wonderful.

At the sweet pea ‘bar’ I let Miss MBaF steer the colour choice, and I refined the decision to those that were described as having great scent. We ended up with Spanish Dancer and Painted Lady – sounds like a good night out in Soho! 

Our racy ladies in their loo rolls

 Then I got trapped by the allure of cheap baby plants…

I’ve been thinking about my window box strategy for a while. Mr MBaF made five wonderful window boxes for me when we moved here. We have two that face south (whoopee!) and three that inevitably face north (boo-hiss).

I used begonias on the shady side last year. They did ok, but frankly I hate most begonias so I need to find an alternative. Today there was a great selection of trailing fuschias, which the labels claimed do fine in cold shade! So I bought about three varieties of large flowering trailing fuschias,  all with partly white blooms that I hope will shine out of the northerly gloom.

For the sunny side, Miss MBaF picked some lovely looking pink Calibrachoa (mini petunia-like flowers) ‘hot pink star’ for a little hedgehog planter she was given. I thought I would continue the theme for the windows, adding some Calibrachoa ‘cabaret purple glow’ and some white Bacopia for a cool hue.

Because these plants are so young (and £1.49 each) I need to pamper them until it warms up a bit. So they’re squished into a couple of dishes on the inside of the window for now.

The future window box lovelies

The south-facing kitchen box today

Finally, I treated myself to a new set of bypass secateurs 🙂