The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 2, 1997 · Page 8
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 8

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Salina, Kansas
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Friday, May 2, 1997
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Page 8
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AS FRIDAY, MAY 2, 1997 HOME & GARDEN THE SALINA JOURNAL Photos by Scripps Howard News Service An Uncle Sam window box goes patriotic. This tiny format can make a gardener out of just about anyone. Window boxes give any home a ra flo By JOYCE ROSENCRANS Scripps Howard News Service Germany must be the window box capital of the world. A legion of ledges there have little painted boxes overflowing with red geraniums. Every last window seems to have its own mini-box garden beneath, hooked onto charming Bavarian cottages and the most imposing civic buildings. Panes above are often open in the cooler summer climate, so Germans can enjoy their window boxes inside and out. Imagine a cool breeze wafting across a window box stuffed with fragrant plants and herbs. Or to please the palate, a little mint, lemon verbena and scented geraniums could be planted at the level of a kitchen window. But window boxes don't have to be for harvest or the human nose. Window boxes are just plain wonderful for their looks alone. They soften the hard planes of a house. They help make a house a home. More than geraniums Geraniums are the Germanic choice, but there are so many more plants suitable for window boxes. You can pick a favorite or go with a mixed planting that resembles an untamed English cottage garden. Colors can be coordinated with a house. Soft pink impatiens or petunias flatter stern gray-stone walls. Or a sage-green Victorian house might do with deep purple flowers spiked with day-glo orange blossoms. Some garden designers hold that grouping one flower color makes more of a visual impact than mixing flower colors. But window-box builders should be allowed to please themselves. Flowers never really clash with each other or anything else. One very popular color scheme now is inspired by the Monet gardens of Provence. That sunny yellow and assertive blue are everywhere in home decorating, in fabrics, paint colors, wallpaper, and gardens, too. The fun of a window box full of flowers is that you are encouraged to crowd it for a ifacelift One popular color scheme Is inspired by the Monet gardens of Provence. That sunny yellow and assertive blue are everywhere In home decorating and gardens. full, lush look, to experiment, and to try something different for next year. Mistakes can be pulled out mid-season, something else plugged in, even if it's only green. What wall of a house couldn't do with a little chlorophyll? In other words, window boxes are bite- sized botany for anyone to enjoy. We're not talking about huge investments for annuals to cover a swath of land. And even brown-thumbers can feel a sense of accomplishment when a window box shows its colors, because things just seem to grow better in a box. There are special problems encountered by window-box gardeners, however. Metal-lined wooden boxes conserve moisture; you don't want your plants waterlogged, so drainage holes are crucial. Some walls reflect sunlight and raise the temperature surrounding window-box flowers and dry out the soil quickly. Karen McMullen of suburban Cincinnati is good at solving window-box problems. Working part-time at a commercial greenhouse, she often finds herself giving customers tips on better window boxes. Hayrack-style is one option Last spring a customer bought a window-rack style of window box, made of weatherproof black plastic over a steel wireframe, also called a "hayrack." The customer didn't want to fuss over it, so McMullen filled it with moss, potting soil (regular soil is too heavy for window boxes) and a variety of low-watering plants and succulents: hoy a (with a variegated green-and-white leaf, a touch of pink); sedum (dark-burgundy leaves, red bloom); kalanchoe with pink bloom; some trailing sedum, and purslane (lots of pink flowers). HORTICULTURE Low-growing junipers cover sloping ground Steep slopes can be vexing landscape problems. Homeowners often agonize over what to do about their front bank, ^ or side or back bank. Mowing steep inclines is highly dangerous, so turf is not a reasonable option, Perennial and woody plants can solve the problem, but they come with a high price tag. Although in- CHIP MILLER KSU-Saliiie County Intension Horticulture Agent dividual plants might not seem costly, the num- her it takes to ' densely cover a large area usually costs more than homeowners are willing to spend. The cost of labor is also high, as each is planted individually, not merely spread as seed. Still, perennial and woody plants can make beautiful and long-lived groundcovers and address those maintenance problems. Nothing is flood-proof, but mature plants with dense, fibrous and extensive root systems will hold soil as well as anything else. However, the period of plant establishment will leave the soil prone to erosion, so you will need to take other precautions. Erosion-control mats Several soil covers can be used to temporarily stabilize soil. Erosion-control mats can be used in planting areas to hold the soil between the plants. Even a landscape fabric will give some protection from pounding rain. However, once a slope is thoroughly saturated with rain, it can "slide." Low, prostrate junipers make attractive groundcovers. They can appear either formal or informal, depending on how they are arranged and maintained. They are especially useful on south-facing slopes because they tolerate sun and heat very well. They also tolerate half shade. Junipers have a central stem and do not root from their branches, but the foliage is very dense and the root system is extensive. Several juniper cultivars are widely available. Blue Rug (4 to 6 inches tall) has bluish gray foliage that retains the same color fairly well over winter. Prince of Wales (4 to 6 inches tall) has bright green foliage tinged blue when new and turning purplish in winter. Bar Harbor (10 to 12 inches tall) is bluish green in spring and takes a purple tinge in winter. Each reaches a mature width of 6 to 8 feet. Euonymus fortune!, or winter- creeper euonymus, is a prostrate vine that roots along stems that touch the ground. It will climb if it reaches an upright surface. It does best if it has winter shade because rapid temperature fluctuations caused by direct sun in winter can burn, or winterkill, parts of the plant. Wintercreeper foliage varies in. appearance as there are dozens of cultivars. They are usually 1 to 2 inches long and have margins and veins colored silver, cream, gold, white, or combinations of those colors. It is a vigorous grower and can cover large areas when given reasonable care and average soil. If you like the looks of un- mowed native grass, consider buffalo grass as a groundcover. Buffalo grass needs full sun, so south-facing slopes are ideal. Buffalo grass spreads by stolons, but not nearly as aggressively as bermuda grass. Once established, it survives heat, drought and cold. It will not tolerate deep shade, sandy soil, wet or poorly drained soils. It has a gray-green color and turns brown after the first fall frost. Crown vetch along interstates Crown vetch is a leguminous groundcover that the interstate road system has used extensively nationwide to control erosion on road banks and provide low maintenance. It has pea-like leaves and flowers, blooming June through Setpember. It is slow to establish, but once established, it will spread rapidly by underground stems. It will climb upon itself forming mounds 1 to 2 feet high. ' • The list of herbaceous perennial plants that can be used to control slopes is almost endless, if you are willing to plant individual specimens every 6 to 12 inches apart. 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