Where Window Boxes Go to Die

by Abby on August 15, 2012

Nice window box full of flowers

Nice window box

My window box, full of dead plants

My window box

Every spring, I start out strong. I head to the garden center or the school plant sale with good intentions and a list of annuals. I have cross-referenced my selections with gardening-savvy relatives like my mom or mother-in-law. Impatiens? Shade. Petunias? Full sun. Begonias? Partial sun.

After loading what seems like acres’ worth of plants into my car, I head home. First, I must confirm that my husband is on kid duty. I don’t need a preschooler pouring out a 20-lb. bag of potting soil. Then, I must yank the heavy window boxes out of the brackets, through the windows, down the stairs and outside. Several of our wooden doors bear deep gashes from this process in the past.

In the yard, I crouch over the window boxes, filling the bottom with packing peanuts so they won’t be as heavy and won’t require as much soil. In the outdoor storage box, I dig through wiffle ball bats and badminton rackets looking for my little-used gardening tools. I end up using a plastic shovel from the sandbox and a rusty rake. Or is that thing called a claw? A fork? Whatever. The little pointy-pronged digger thingie. (Expert Gardener Alert! Sorry to get all technical on you with the gardening lingo.)

I know some people enjoy the process of gardening. They love to get their hands in the dirt, inhale the scent of earth and plants, feel the sun on their backs. I don’t. I like the finished results, but I could do without the grit under my fingernails and the bug bites and aching back.

When I have finished transplanting the flowers from their plastic pots to the window boxes, I sit back on my heels to admire my handiwork. Not bad, although for all those plants, some boxes are looking a little sparse. No matter. I’m sure they’ll fill in.

Next comes the only part my kids are interested in – watering the flowers. They unroll the hose, fight over who gets to turn on the spout and hold the nozzle, spray each other, scream, fight some more, slop water over the edges of the now too-heavy watering can, and finally water the flowers. “Good job,” I smile, even though they risk flooding the delicate blooms.

For a few weeks, all is well. I water the flowers every few days. Then I start to forget. And the boxes on the upper windows are hard to reach. Watering them requires opening windows, filling and refilling cups in the bathroom sink, dripping on the bedroom floors. At least they’ll get rain now and then.

Then we have a dry spell. A couple weeks of super hot weather. We go away for a weekend. I forget about the plants entirely. By now, the bottom boxes are half-empty and mostly dead. Something’s been digging in them. A squirrel? A cat? The upper boxes are overgrown and half-parched.

Why am I so bad at something that seems to come naturally to most people? How hard is it to water a few plants a few times a week? I start to berate myself and envy the lush, well-tended gardens all over the neighborhood.

Then I catch myself. I’ve got my hands full taking care of 2 energetic boys, a house, and a writing career. And sometimes a husband, though he’s quite capable of taking care of himself. Mostly. I try to pawn off the dog on him, but we’re lucky if we remember to give her food and water daily. Too. Much. Going on. Sorry, all living things besides those who share my DNA. I’m tapped out. I love the look of flowers and plants, but it’s not exactly a personal failing if I don’t have time to tend a garden worthy of a French Impressionist painting, is it? I’d rather spend my time on things I actually enjoy, like reading and writing.

So I’m cutting my losses and cutting myself a break next year. A couple potted plants on the porch and I’m calling it day. If you’d like to come over for some lemonade, I’ll be sitting around my overgrown yard reading books with my boys. You’ll know our house when you see it – it’s the one with the dead window boxes.


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Pamela August 15, 2012 at 9:44 am

Funny (and oh so true). Love your use of photos to illustrate your point. :+)


Kathleen Basi August 15, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Your pictures are awesome.

I gave myself a break this year and didn’t plant tomatoes, which only once have done what tomatoes are supposed to do. I count myself successful because my trees haven’t died this whole blistering summer.


Malia Jacobson August 15, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Three words: drip. watering. system. $50 investment and you’ll won’t need to think about it all summer. I’m a terrible waterer–I feel like I’m watering tons, but really I’m having huge lapses and the plants inevitably die. Last summer we rigged up an auto system and I love it. Especially for the hanging planters and other “up high” pots and windowboxes.


Abby August 16, 2012 at 7:55 pm

No way! That sounds perfect for me. I had no idea such a slacker’s dream existed, thanks! 🙂


Melinda August 16, 2012 at 8:49 pm

I see that we have a very similar approach to “gardening.”. My porch planters are a big dead mess. I also feel like they’re just one thing too many- I can handle the 3 yo, 6 mo, full time job and two cats (1 diabetic), but it seems I cannot water flowers after approx mid-July! To add insult to injury, this year had a kidney stone attack the night after I did all my planting bc made my planters on a warm day, while nursing and became dehydrated. Can’t wait to toss the lot and replace with mums for the fall (which I will also kill).


Abby August 18, 2012 at 7:56 am

Yikes!! Kidney stones would be enough to put me off gardening forever. No flowers are worth that!


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