Inside the box | Monocle

thumbnail text

Tools of the trade

  1. Trug by Burgon & Ball,
  2. Potting Scoop by Joseph Bentley, 3 Pruning shears by Hana-tsukuri,
  3. Wooden window box by Clifton Nurseries,
  4. White Senetti
  5. Aluminium labels with pencil by Labour and Wait,
  6. Orange princess tulips
  7. Osmocote slow-release plant food
  8. Senetti magenta bicolour
  9. Twine by Nutscene,
  10. Spray bottle by Muji,
  11. Pruner by Burgon & Ball
  12. Skimmia
  13. Wooden labels by Burgon & Ball
  14. Dibber by Labour and Wait 16 Fork by Joseph Bentley
  15. Pruning knife by Opinel,
  16. Erica persiculata
  17. Gloves by Labour and Wait
  18. Trowel by Joseph Bentley
  19. Watering can by Haws,


Guy Pullen

Nursery manager, Clifton Nurseries

Founded in 1851, Clifton Nurseries is one of London’s smartest and oldest one-stop shops for anything garden-related.

How do you decide what to put into a window box?
Choose plants most suitable for your location, whether your window box is north-facing in the shade or south-facing in the sun.

How do you get started?
Put a layer of soil in first, the plants on top and then another layer. You can’t just pour the soil in as you need to firm the soil around the plant to push the air out so the roots have something to cling onto and don’t dry out.

How should you care for your window box?
Dead-heading, feeding and watering. When flowers look sickly it’s important to pluck them off.

How often should you use plant food?
You should feed your plants every two weeks if you’re using a liquid feed, otherwise you can use a more concentrated capsule feed that will last for six months at a time. Fertilisers need to have a balanced ratio of nutrients and have an NPK value (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium).

What kind of window box should you use?
If you’re looking for a wooden window box, cedar is very good because it doesn’t rot too quickly.

And what about essential tools?
I just use my hands to pinch everything off but other people use scissors for deadheading. You also need a trowel to firm up the soil and dig in the plants.

Top three garden shops

  1. Terrain at Styer’s, USA
    Located on the site of the former J Franklin Styer Nursery, Pennsylvania, Terrain reinvents garden centre retail. The five-acre space houses a café and homeware store, and the centre offers landscape design services along with weekend gardening classes.

  2. Tokyu Hands, Japan
    With around 30 stores in Japan, this legendary DIY department store has an exceptional home and garden section. The shelves are filled with everything from bare essentials and bonsai clippers to round pellets of compacted earth that expand into pots with water.

  3. Tage Andersen, Copenhagen
    Pop into this Copenhagen store for a sought-after consultation with former confectioner-turned-florist Tage Andersen. He can advise you on how to grow the spectacular floral sculptures he specialises in.


Home chefs who don’t want to pop to the shops for their herbs grow them in a window box.

Caring for herbs:

Keep picking and using the herbs so the foliage grows thicker and more flavoursome. The plant will become stringy if you let it grow out and only the tips will have an intense flavour.

These are the hardiest herbs that will grow all the year round:

  1. Mint
  2. Rosemary
  3. Thyme
  4. Oregano
  5. Sage

Five north-facing plants (left to right)

Choose plants that can adapt to shady north-facing areas

  1. Begonia: Easy to grow, the begonia and its large colourful flowers come in an array of shapes and heights.

  2. Fuchsia: There are a huge number of fuchsia species. They are highly adaptable and are one of the most widely grown flowers.

  3. Ivy: Will provide an eye-catching stream of trailing green leaves that will grow all year round.

  4. Euonymus: This evergreen shrub is good to bulk out flowerbeds. North-facing flowers will not grow as full as in the south-facing sun.

  5. Bacopa: Great for inter-planting between flowers, its tiny white flowers will cascade over the window box.

Five south-facing plants (left to right)

An endless variety of plants will bloom in the sunny south

  1. Lobelia: The low-maintenance lobelia is known for its profuse purple-tinged flowers and trails into a waterfall effect.

  2. Petunia: One of the most popular bedding flowers, petunias come in every colour and bloom prolifically throughout the summer.

  3. Geranium: Red geraniums are notoriously low-maintenance and will last for five or six years at a time – a window-box classic.

  4. Scaevola: Also known as the fanflower, its trailing stem flowers are fan-shaped and commonly come in blue, violet or white.

  5. Osteospermum: Known as the African daisy, it provides bulk and solidity to balance out trailing plants.


Norifumi Kimoto, bonsai specialist,

Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, Saitama

The Omiya Bonsai Art Museum – the world’s first public bonsai museum – opened in March this year.

Which bonsai would you recommend for a beginner?
Generally, strong plants that don’t have blossoms such as pines, junipers and maples.

What advice do you have?
Watering and location are very important. Check your bonsai every day. When the surface of the soil is dry, water it. Use enough water so that it comes out of the bottom of the pot.

What about light?
Place your bonsai where it gets enough sunlight. Don’t leave maples in the strong sunlight as the leaves get sunburnt. They turn brown instead of their beautiful red.

How do you keep the bonsai small?
By pruning [sentei] – you have to clip the new buds. Pruning requires experience as it depends on the type of plant, the conditions and the appropriate shape. Pruning is the most difficult bit of managing bonsai but, at the same time, it’s the most enjoyable part for bonsai lovers. Follow instructions from specialists or books.

Share on:






Go back: Contents



sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio


  • The Urbanist