The Wonderful Window Box
Colorful windowboxes provide touches of beauty to homes and businesses all season long.
One of the joys of summer on Nantucket is the beautiful windowboxes decorating homes on nearly every street. Displays of gorgeous color come alive as soon as the daffodils come into bloom during the island’s annual April Daffodil Festival, when more than 50,000 bulbs burst forth all over this island, attracting visitors from near and far for a popular seaside festival.
Many businesses in the village’s famous shopping center change their windowboxes with each season, starting off in April and May with boxes of all shapes and sizes full of spring flowers like tiny yellow Tete e Tete daffodils, fragrant hyacinths, and bright primroses in purple, pink, and yellow. By the time Memorial Day explodes on the Cape and Islands scene like a burst of fireworks, many windowboxes have been completely replanted with summertime high performers, like the popular Wave petunias in pink, purple, and white, cascading chartreuse or deep purple sweet potato vines, varieties of multi-flowered verbena, and of course, geraniums galore.
Miniature beach grasses and interesting foliage plants, like sedum and even tiny cactus, add whimsical texture and drama to many of Nantucket’s gardens in miniature. The creativity of the island’s floral designers seems to increase every season. By late August, the boxes are often bursting with color and texture. However, when the island’s increasingly popular shoulder season of September though November arrives, new autumnal flowers are often planted, including chrysanthemums and asters in a rainbow of colors.
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.
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