A GREAT many people, especially of those residing in large cities, have neither the room to grow well, nor perhaps the money to spare for the purchase of expensive palms or vases for the decoration of their sitting-rooms. But all have a window and a window-sill where a surprising number of different kinds of handsome foliage and flowering plants may be grown well. Even if the window-sill be no wider than six inches, a very good window effect may be had, and nothing adds more to the appearance of a building than a few window boxes.
The window box should not be narrower than six inches, with a depth of about eight inches, and should be as long as the width of the window. After the box is made, bore holes about one inch in diameter and about five or six inches apart in the bottom of the box; over each hole place a flat piece of broken pot or a flat stone; without disturbing these flat stones, put into the box an inch of gravel or broken pot-sherds, and, over this, a layer of moss to keep the soil from mixing with the drainage material; then fill the box to within one inch of the top with soil composed of one-half good surface loam, one-quarter leaf-mold and one-quarter sharp, clean sand together with a sprinkling of old manure well-rotted, the whole having been turned over and mixed together several times before being used. In this soil set out the plants selected for the window box.
Among window plants which generally succeed well, Ivy Geraniums of various colors may safely be depended upon, as they stand rough treatment and grow well in any exposure.
Where the window faces East or North, the common Fuchsia does splendidly; the Nasturtium and the Mesembryanthemum also give fine results, while the Pelargonium zonale and the common scarlet Geranium can always be counted upon to flourish. Blue Lobelias, Heliotrope, Mignonette, Sweet Peas, the dwarf Campanulas and the Tuberous Begonias, when placed in a window facing East, will give gorgeous masses of color. Many of the dwarf Cactus, etc., also do well if given a Southern exposure.
Great care should always be exercised in regard to the watering of the plants; see that the soil is kept moist but not too wet. When watering, give enough water to thoroughly wet the soil but do not give any more until the soil shows signs of being dry at least one-half inch from the surface.
The window box should be overhauled once a year, the best time being in Spring just before growth commences. All of the plants should be taken out of the box, and fresh soil as well as clear drainage material put in, preferably young plants being set in the box.
When it is desirable to have a more continuous color effect than is possible with Summer and Fall-flowering plants only, it is well to have a double set of boxes, one set for the Summer and Autumn decorations and another set for the growing of plants which make an attractive showing in Winter and early Spring. Some of the popular Summer and Fall-flowering plants have already been described. Prepare the Winter and Spring boxes as suggested for the other plants and fill them with the same class of soil. Secure as early in the Fall as possible (say October 1st to 25th) a collection of Hyacinths, Tulips, Narcissus and other • bulbs, and plant them about six inches apart in the boxes. The box in which the Hyacinths are planted should be set out of doors in a position facing North, given a good soaking of water, and covered with sand to the depth (over the top of the box) of six inches. Allow them to remain in this position until they have made a growth of from four to five inches, then carefully remove the sand from the top of the box and gradually expose the blanched leaves to light and air; as soon as the leaves assume their natural green color the box may be placed in the window.
Tulips and Narcissus require the same treatment, excepting that only three inches of sand, instead of six inches, will be required to cover them.
Pansies and Viola cornuta as well as Forget-me-not make excellent subjects for Winter and Spring-flowering window boxes. Sow the seeds of Pansies and also Forget-me-not in early July and plant them three inches apart in boxes as soon as they have made from four to six leaves. About November first they will be ready to be planted six inches apart in the window boxes. The Viola cornuta seeds should be sown early in June and grown on as suggested for the treatment of the Pansy and Forget-me-not.
Another charming Winter and early Spring-flowering plant suitable for decorating the window is the modest little Silene (catchfly); sow in July and grow as recommended for the Pansy.
It may be stated that the dimensions of the box given here are for the narrowest window-sill; should the window-sill be twelve inches or more in width, much better results may be expected both in the health of the plants and the greater number of plants which may be grown.
Should insects attack any of the plants, sponge the leaves with soap-suds, and, the following morning, sprinkle them with clear water. Keep the foliage clear of dust by syringing or spraying the leaves with clear, soft water. This will greatly encourage growth and assist in keeping the plants in good health.