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Sprays of evergreen can dress up a bare window box in winter

Window boxes can "make or break" the attractive appearance of a house or apartment dwelling. If they are kept filled with fresh plant materials, boxes can be a joy at any window, both from inside or out.

If, on the other hand, the summer season drags into fall and winter with no apparent change in planting, a box can become an eyesore rather than a pleasure. Summer petunias, for example, caught by an early frost, can look pretty bedraggled during the months of fall, and by winter their trailing vines are a brown and uninviting sight.

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Winter is a bleak season, and many people forfeit the advantages of cheerful window boxes as soon as the growing season is past. Winter displays can be just as effective as those of summer and really require much less upkeep and constant care.

To prepare a box for winter use, first remove all the faded plants left over from warm-weather boxes, roots and all. Smooth the soil, and the box is ready to "plant."

Actually, a winter box is more showy if sprays of evergreens are inserted into the soil, rather than if rooted plants (in pots or not) ar sunk into position. The evergreens are easier than doing plants, too.

Trailing hard ivy can form a foreground, with evergreen pachysandra or vinca filling in the back of a window box. But such rooted specimens react to the variations in temperatur and are apt to appear unpleasantly curled when the weather is below freezing, which, unfortunately, is often the case in the North.

Cut twigs require no fertilizer and little watering, since the cold weather conserves any moisture that accumulates from rain, ice, and snow.

If the window is to be viewed primarily from the outside, the front of the box can be filled in with shorter branches up to a foot high. It is quite likely that you will want to insert low twigs on the inside edge of the box so as to maximize the view from within the house.

A choice of evergreen variety can be limited to one or, for added interest, a mixture of two or three kinds. Hemlock is to be avoided, because its needless shed, leaving only bare brown stems. Spruce branches are long-lasting and present an assortment of color ranging from bluish gray to dark green.

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The needless of spruce are sharp and cutting. Gloves are advised when working with the branches of this tree. The foilage of fir (the traditional Christmas tree) is soft and will last just as long as spruce. White pine, with its long needless, adds a different texture. And not to be overlooked is the feathery foliage of the cedar tree, which has a charm of its own.

If there are yews available that might profit from a judicious pruning, their branches can be useful, too.

Before inserting a branch into the soil of a box, measure the desired length of appear above the edge of the container.Then add four or five inches that can be pushed down into the box. This extra lenght is important for two reasons:

"It will be surrounded by damp soil to help keep the needless well supplied with moisture.

* Since it is deeply anchored, strong winds cannot loosen the twigs.

Needless on the section of a branch that is to be beneath the soil are best removed. Cut a sharp slant to ease inserting the twig firmly. Use only bushy sprays. The foliage of pine may not be very thick, so a group of two or three twigs is better than only one.

A box with a variety of interesting greens can be a source of beauty at any winter window. For added appeal as special holidays occur, appropriate additions may be made to draw attention to the box and commemorate the occasion. For year-end decoration, for example, bows of bright-red plastic ribbon can be made, fastened to a pointed stick, and then inserted at the ends of the box for a festive note.

Sprigs of artificial red berries interspersed among the evergreens will also be attractive and brighten the foliage with their conspicuous color.

To emphasize the coming of spring, branches of golden forsythia bells can be forced in the warmth of indoors until they are almost in full bloom. Nine or 10 days will be needed for this development. Then these flowering sprays are ready to add their gaiety to the greens of the window box.

Damp soil will keep the forsythia in good condition as the flowers foretell the arrival of spring.

One's own imagination in the arrangement of evergreens and the tasteful additions of timely features can "plant" window boxes that will delight a passer-by as well as reward the designer.

The dormant months of winter can transform the dull appearance of all too many window boxes into delectations that are worthy of any gardener's skill.

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