This section is from the book "The Florists' Manual", by William Scott. Also available from Amazon: The Florist's Manual.
This style of ornamental gardening is very much in vogue in some cities, in none I think more than the fine residence city of Buffalo. They are an evolution from the more humble window-box which I noticed was very much in use in humble dwellings of European cities, where the yellow Calceolaria aurea floribunda was one of the most useful and gaudy plants, and with the blue lobelia made a most striking show. The calceolaria is useless here.
Veranda-boxes are not suitable in connection with a brownstone castle, and they don't have anything so common as a veranda, but in many of our beautiful homes where part of the front or side of the house is a veranda they are most appropriate. They are seldom on the top of the rail, but usually on the level of the floor of the veranda, and the tops of the plants reach up to the rail.
If asked to furnish the boxes you should be able to do it and have some planing mill man of your acquaintance know how to put them together. Have them made of cypress and well painted to suit the color of the wood of the veranda. A very good size is six inches deep, nine inches wide at top and eight inches at bottom, all inside measure. We fill many larger, but they should not be smaller for plants to do well. Holes are bored in the bottom to afford drainage. If they are made in sections of six feet they are easy to handle and can be taken to the greenhouse to fill, but if very large we cart the soil and plants to the lawn. Such a box as I have given the size for is worth to make of cypress and painted 75 cents per lineal foot and you should get the same price per foot for filling it. Like the vases a good appearance is expected from the very start.
If in the afternoon sun, the same plants are used as those mentioned for vases, but more cannas can be used in the back of the box, and don't use too many colcuses or they will smother the geraniums. The drooping vines will be the chief beauty of these boxes and it matters not how common they are if they grow freely. The pilogyne and lophos-permum- are two splendid droopers for this purpose. Mignonette and lemon verbena can be used for their sweet odor.
If the boxes get only the morning sun, or very little at all, the geraniums will not flower, but you can use several plants that you could not in the sunny bleak exposures of the cemetery. Begonia Rex looks well. Fuchsias will thrive and flower if not too crowded, and small plants of latania and kentia, and better for fine effect than all is the beautiful nephrolepis, both the Boston form and tuberosa. Nothing is equal to these ferns, and if kept watered they stand the sun finely.
Veranda-boxes are nearly always satisfactory. They are more or less sheltered and get plenty of water. Instruct your patrons that, the soil being crowded with roots, the plants want a good soaking every evening, and tell them that when the coachman or they themselves handle the hose not to stand and let drive at them as if they were putting out a fire, but let the hose run in on the soil till it is well wet.