When the island’s holiday season begins with a yearly extravaganza held on Thanksgiving weekend—the Festival of Wreaths held annually at the Nantucket Historical Association—the windowboxes are decorated again with festive designs reflective of New England’s holiday season. Windowboxes burst with holly, bright-red swamp berry, even tiny live evergreen trees. Hardy beach grasses—and perhaps a starfish or two—are sometimes added in for a touch of coastal flair. Color schemes range from silvery grays and blues, often accented with ornaments of the same color, to traditional red and green motifs created with both native and exotic evergreens, including conifer foliages in every hue of green and yellow.
There is a reason why many homes and businesses on Nantucket and also in several Cape Cod communities such as Provincetown, Chatham, and Osterville replant their windowbox displays several times during the long seaside season. Windowboxes may look easy to assemble and care for, but the truth is these miniature gardens need a lot of care, including near constant watering, fertilization, deadheading, and maintenance. It is a tough job keeping the flowers in perfect condition, which is one reason why commercial customers in high-profile communities like Nantucket and Provincetown replant their windowboxes several times between April and October.
For those of us who don’t have the limitless budgets—not to mention the time—to replant windowboxes, follow these planting tips and view these photos of actual Nantucket windowboxes. Of course, you will still need to provide the basics for your windowboxes: good soil that drains well, regular watering, doses of fertilizer every two weeks, and yes, that dreaded practice known as deadheading. But with patience and perhaps a little help from the pros at your local garden center, your windowboxes can stand up to the floral wonders brightening seaside scenes from the Cape Cod Canal to Nantucket’s picture perfect village streets.
Susan Dewey is the editor of Cape Cod Life Publications, a Garden Club of America judge, and a design consultant for Dewey Gardens of Centerville.