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One of the best things I ever did was to purchase three windowboxes and decided to fill them. The color each year is amazing, and the care is incredibly easy! Here is what I do for instant color all summer long.

START WITH A GOOD CONTAINER

My windowboxes are long, white and plastic -- and I got them at my local discount store for an incredibly low price. My mom contributed to my cause and bought me hanging brackets so that I could mount the boxes on my front porch easily. The brackets are great -- they allow me to take the boxes off and on easily, but they hold up the weight, even when I've watered them a little too much. All it took was a tiny bit of elbow grease -- the brackets are the type that simply attach to the railing, so no installation was really necessary. Once you have the brackets mounted, you are ready to fill your windowboxes.

GOOD SOIL

I use a combination of potting soils, one that is very light and fluffy and filled with organic materials so there is a lot of nutrient rich material in the soil and good drainage, and the other contains a water-absorbing material that helps the container to retain moisture better in the heat of the summer. I mix the soils in a large bucket, and I also mix in some time-release fertilizer to provide extra nutrition for my plants.

FILLING THE CONTAINERS

Make sure any window box that you have selected has some drainage holes in the bottom so that you will not have a problem with standing water on your plant roots. If there are no drainage holes in your chosen container, make some with a hammer and a nail. I sometimes just place a few handfuls of gravel in bottom of boxes. A container which is completely full of soil can get very, very heavy after you water it, so you want a little light filler in the bottom -- trust me. I then fill the containers about halfway to the top with soil. Now you are ready to plant!

PLANTS

Selection of your plants is very important. Find plant varieties which are compact in their growth habits, so that they will not have root or expansion needs beyond your container's capacity. Also, choose plants which will blend together well in color and texture, but that will add a variety to what you see -- or choose plants which are all of the same type for a stunning visual effect. Some great container combinations that I have used are:

-- A windowbox herb garden: lavender, basil, flat-leaf parsley, thyme, chives, and oregano.

-- Butterfly garden: parsley (good for swallowtail butterfly larvae), allyssium, blue cascading lobelia, moonbeam coreopsis, vincas, and salvia.

-- Hummingbird garden: red salvia, red or pink vincas, geraniums, petunias, allyssium, and blue cascading lobelia.

-- Scented Windowbox: lavender, heliotrope, allyssium, rose-scented geranium (perennial), lemon basil, tri-colored sage.

Some fantastic plants for foliage in a windowbox are:

-- Dusty Miller
-- Nasturtiums (plus you get lovely blooms!)
-- Snapdragons
-- Lavender
-- Tri-colored sage

The combinations are endless, and can take only a couple of hours to assemble and enjoy. Especially from mid-July forward, most garden centers begin to have wonderful sales and you can often put together a windowbox filled with blooms for less than $30, depending on your choices!