Window Box | steam, salad, experiments
Part three of my window box diary, which I’m currently keeping for the Guardian.
I found a squirrel in my window box yesterday. There was a pause as we looked into each others’ eyes, while great clouds of steam billowed from the bathroom into the cold morning air. Ridiculous, but I do love the way the low autumn sun filters through the vapours a shower creates at this time of year…
Anyway (!), the squirrel braced itself, defiance rippling through its taut body; my dreamy steam-gazing face melted into a frown, and then a yell. A sudden puff of disrupted soil later and it was gone, and I was alone to upright my ruffled but ultimately unharmed plants.
I left you at the beginning October the proud possessor of two boxes and a beautiful basket, but sadly lacking in vegetation. Empty window boxes look depressing so I’ve been quick to make decisions. I want a mix of hardy edibles and evergreens, and flowers too. I like the idea of whites and greens, spiked with elements of heat – hot colours or hot tastes.
The smaller window box is now hosting a variety of cut-and-come-again winter salad leaves. Land cress is quietly creeping about in one corner – its vibrant leaves hiding secret fires. Mizuna red knight and giant red mustard add colour and height, while frills mustard brings some shaggy texture.
And so the bathroom window ledge has been painted several shades of green, veined with warm streaks of dark burgundy. The lush young leaves are a mix of soft circles, messy frills and sharp serrations. All this detail is blurred by the frosted window, but is gloriously revealed on throwing it open.
The larger window box – held in place by balcony brackets – is decorative rather than edible. Ornamental doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’ve created something that I at least think looks good. I’ve mixed an architectural Carex oshimensis with a dwarf Hebe albicans, added a couple of laser white cyclamens, and topped the soil with smooth pebbles.
The bronze striped grass overspills the container pleasingly, while the punky hebe has sharp, frosted foliage. The flowering cyclamens have heart-shaped leaves, tightly printed with white graphics. The slightly cheesy pebbles are actually a squirrel deterrent that seems to be working.
The hanging picnic basket is, for now, still a work in progress. It has an increasingly sickly jalapeno pepper and some ivy in it at the moment, but I think its future is herbal. I’ve inherited a small sage plant, and think perhaps some thyme would fit nicely too. And maybe a bonsai bay, if such a magical thing exists?