Sunday, August 22, 2010

Window Box Emergency Surgery

This has not been the best year for my window boxes. The potato vine has taken off most grandly--those in the lower boxes are brushing the porch floor and the upstairs boxes drip nearly to the tops of the downstairs windows.

Not My House
The geraniums, however, are being stubborn, waiting for cooler weather when they will begin blooming magnificently ... just in time to be yanked for the winter. What's most colorful are the red berry branches that I stuck in last Christmas. As they're phony, this stands to reason. 

The window boxes in these first two photos are -- gallingly -- not mine. I came upon them yesterday while cruising Georgetown for a parking space. Well, technically, Alice was cruising and I was staring out the window. This made it possible, when we came across this house on 32nd Street, near where it intersects with Q, for her to pull over any whichwhere and me to hop out and take pictures with no fear of gendarme interactions.
Not My House Either

These boxes are fabulous, if stupidly simple. There ain't much else here but common begonia and caladium. But the effect is spectacular.

I imagine they get more water than mine do, since there's not much of a roof overhang to shield them.

Oh, who am I fooling. Clearly, someone takes care of the damn things, cheaply planted (sniff) as they are.

Which depressed me, coming home and seeing my own kind of languishing there. Where, I ask you, did all of these bare spots come from?

Sadly. Mine.
And the geraniums, which just that morning I thought were merely boringly green, seem to have acquired a rather unpleasantly gothic twist to their stems.

Looks Better from a Distance
And here it is nearly the end of August and even if I could find stuff to fill in -- is it worth it at this late point in the season? When there are five boxes to deal with and shortly I'll be looking at pansies and bitty cabbages or something more autumnal?

But over coffee and the paper this morning, somewhere between being horrified at the continuing devastation in Haiti and Ask Amy, it occurred that I have a few resources to fluff the boxes AND! They're not even fake.

Same Box stuffed with Cuttings
More than a few, in fact, since I've been pinching off stems of variegated and purple wandering jew all summer and sticking it here and there in planters and bare spots in the garden and the back porch. More recently, and doubtfully (since sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't), I've pinched caladium leaves and watched them take root in other barren spots. So I actually have a harvest of both to tuck into the boxes.

When I say pinched, I mean with no care other  than not to upset the balance of whatever I'm pinching them from -- so take from the bottom or back. Use scissors if you must, but fingers work fine.

Wandering jew is particularly forgiving and easy to cultivate (making me resentful of the garden centers that gouge for it).  Snatch a few 6 or 7 inch stems from a neighbor's display, break them into 2 or 3 pieces, and stick them in soil and you'll have a flourishing, quite established looking plant in 2 weeks.
Finding that my caladiums--or at least THIS variety of caladium (whatever it is since I didn't write it down)  would root just as easily happened by chance. I bought three sorts in early July to fill a planter and they were quickly enormous. Meanwhile the fuscia in the umbrella stand went belly up, and as it is supposed to be the focal point of a particularly sensitive corner of the garden, and we were having guests for dinner, I plucked a few stems of caladium and stuck them in the dirt. Happily, they rooted.

While neither the caldium or the wandering jew need rooting powder to establish themselves, I did use it this morning. This is largely because I spent five bucks for it last year in New Orleans and have most of it left. What could it hurt, I'm thinking.

To make the process easier, I watered the boxes well before beginning, Then I poked a hole in the soil with a  chopstick (perfect for this job) dipped a stem  in the rooting powder and stuck it into the hole--and continued stem by stem until all of the bare spots in all of the boxes were once again lush.

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