Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
New England
August, 2000
Regional Report

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Santolina, sage, rosemary, and thyme in my window box

Herbal Window Boxes

We've battled for years trying to find the "perfect" plant combinations for the window boxes hanging off our back deck. The deck faces east and gets morning light and some afternoon sun before being shaded by trees and the house. It seems we always guess wrong with the plant choices. One year we anticipated a sunny, hot summer and planted portulaca and verbena, only to have it rain and be cool all summer. The next year we switched to cool-loving flowers such as pansies and snapdragons, only to have them burn up in the heat and drought of a sunny, hot summer.

Herbs Are the Answer

After trying a variety of flowers, my wife, Barbara, suggested herbs. Though not as showy as annual flowers, herbs offer colorful leaves, interesting textures, and, of course, something to eat. That's something I could relate to!

The last two years we've grown culinary herbs in the window boxes, and they've thrived, no matter what the weather. The best choices we've found are creeping thyme, silver thyme, and lemon thyme. These thymes have colorful, variegated leaves and a creeping habit that fills in the box. For some height we added rosemary, French tarragon, santolina, and sage.

Growing Herbs in Boxes

Our window boxes are made from faux terra cotta (plastic), with three drainage holes drilled in the bottoms. We fill them with light soilless potting soil and plant two to three herbs per 12-inch-long box. By this time of year they're cascading over the window box edges, flowering and providing beauty and fragrance to our deck. They're so beautiful it's hard to pick any for dinner for fear of deforming the plants. But when we do pick some, they seem to grow back stronger than ever. What I really like is that they require no additional fertilizer and actually taste better without it. Now, there's a carefree plant I can love.

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