The history of window boxes

Just as plants and flowers have been around for centuries, so have window boxes. Although there isn’t much on record before the Roman times, there is some evidence that the very first ones were planted in the Hanging gardens of Babylon, by order of the Queen, Semiramis.

The Romans

As long ago as the first century B.C, most Romans would cultivate their gardens growing food for sustenance and flowers for religious rituals. Alongside these small plots of land, the Roman wives would grow herbs in boxes for medicinal purposes. These boxes were kept close to the windows for convenience.

The Romans were passionate about flowers and as much as they loved the lilies, pansies, violets and irises, roses were their favourite. A Roman natural philosopher, Pliny the Elder, is said to have “reminisced about the days when the villagers’ windows were brimming with colorful window boxes” before crime forced people to lock up their windows.

The window box not only retained its popularity in Italy but it ignited the imagination of the affluent Romans who took the idea of the window box to another level. Focusing on upwards rather than outwards, they created balconies and rooftop gardens filled with boxes of flowers, vines, small trees and even fish ponds!

The future of gardening certainly took off in Italy, with stunning gardens adorned with fountains, pristine lawns and uniformed lines of trees, but as you walk down nearly every Italian street today, it’s rare to find a window without a plant filled box underneath it.

Europe

From the Romans, the Europeans inherited many things including the window box. The popularity of the original terracotta pot brought over from Italy soon spread through England, France, Germany, Holland and Ireland. It didn’t take long before France evolved their window boxes into elegant wrought iron containers which still stand today, and are almost on a par with small balconies due to their spaciousness.

The English moulded their window boxes into the wire hanging baskets that at one time were to be found on every English cottage wall. They are still popular today. With a myriad of flowers and plants to choose from, there’s a great recommendation from gardening experts Thompson & Morgan for your hanging basket /window box design:

“Why not grow fresh herbs throughout the winter with an indoor basket next to a sunny window”

America

Eventually window boxes spread to America, where they became a huge feature of colonial homes. Adding charm and elegance to homes is still a top priority for American home and business owners today,  so the window box is still going strong.

One of the most spectacular sites is the Bienville House Hotel in New Orleans’ French Quarter, which up until 200 years ago was an old grain house. This now Stately Hotel is renowned as much for its cascading flower covered balconies as it is for its Mississippi river location and french courtyard. The custom made French wrought iron window boxes are the envy of many a horticulturist with their clematis, cape honeysuckle, tall bamboo stalks and Chinese jasmine vines.

Coming soon we will give tips and ideas for those of you who would love a window box, but just aren’t blessed with green fingers. It’s worth the wait!

[Photo by Romi] Tags: ,