If you’ve spent anytime in Austria, Germany, or Switzerland, you’ve been sure to notice the abundance of flower boxes in these alpine regions. Across Europe, in fact, flowers bloom beneath windows, along bridges, on rails at train stations, and anywhere else someone can attach a flower box.
The Alps region is especially famous for its boxes of red geraniums and trailing ivy. My family and I are spending a month in the Tyrollean region of Austria and I am having a hard time not oohing and ahhing at every box of blooms I see. And there are a lot of them.
You know I love raised bed gardening, now I can’t wait to fill outdoor planters with bright flowers and create my own flower box at home.
Austrian Window Boxes and Balcony Planters
Flower boxes are sometimes called “balcony flowers” as they adorn almost every balcony in the region. These large planters seem to be an important part of the culture. We’ve also seen a lot of window flower boxes and potted flowers—keep scrolling, there are a lot of photos!
Red geraniums are the most iconic flower box choice. These aren’t your typical flower pot variety, but a special “cascade” or “balcony-type” geranium. They tend to drape or cascade, rather than grow up. Some of the “mini cascade” flowers can drape a couple feet. They can be hard to find in the U.S. Use the names above or “European Alpine Geraniums” and ask your local landscaping store if they can order some in. You can also find them online.
While we often think of balcony boxes consisting of red flowers, the flower planters here in Tyrol are full of other colors. This one is a pleasing mix of purple and pink petunias with white and purple pansies. It’s also a little more subtle than most we’ve seen.
Some people take a more modern approach like this house. They’ve created a little vignette, matching the flowers in the large pot and little window box planters with their shutters and door trim.
At a nearby train station, red-orange and white geraniums fill ten railing planters. It makes waiting for the train a treat.
At our favorite restaurant, red and purple balcony boxes decorate and already lovely building. The flower-filled fountain in front adds another burst of color and turns this square into a gorgeous spot for tourists and locals to gather.
A stairway beside a flower shop is festooned with fifteen or so baskets. Red geraniums, white petunias, ivy, and other flowers are clustered together to create a beautiful, wild, art installation. This rather drab, utilitarian area is now somewhere I want to hang out and enjoy.
Hearty flowers overhanging the river that runs through town, are chosen to be able to withstand the summer heat. Here begonias mix with petunias and a lavender mustard. From this bridge you can see two other bridges, all decorated with matching flower boxes on either side of the bridges.
Even the milk barns, high in the mountains, are decorated with lovely flowers. I hope the cows appreciate it.
A parade isn’t complete without a tractor flower box!
Make Your Own Austrian Window Boxes or Balcony Box
If you want to bring a little of Austria to your town, it’s easy to recreate these beautiful garden planters.
- Choose a box that’s three or four feet long. You want it big enough to show off an abundance of flowers, but not so large you can’t move it. Plus, it needs to attach to a balcony or windowsill without pulling part of the house off. We have mostly seen wooden flower boxes, but you could use plastic or even copper.
- Pick flowers based on color and sun exposure. Dark colored flowers will be lost on a dark house, as will light flowers on a light colored house. Bright colored houses could clash with the wrong colored flowers, so choose varieties that go well with your paint color. You’ll also need to consider how much sun your flower boxes will get and choose plants that are appropriate. Look for cascading varieties of geraniums or petunias and ivy. Most flower boxes are seen from below, so they need to drape.
- Line your box with plastic and fill with a rich potting soil.
- Arrange the flowers with the tallest in the back and shortest in the front. Depending how deep your box planters are, you may get two or three rows of flowers in. Pack them fairly tight, because you want the look to be overflowing.
- Top the box with peat moss or other mulch to reduce water loss.
You don’t have to stop at balcony planters and window planters. In Tyrol, the balcony flowers often compliment container gardens, potted plants, fence planters, and in-ground plantings. I have all kinds of container garden ideas to try out when I get home.
Summer in the Alps is filled with color and vibrancy. So do as the Austrians and overflow your home with flowers.
I’d love for you to check out my guide to the best wheelbarrow and my guide to kids gardening tools.
The humble window boxes make a huge difference to the overall hardscape design. Properly arranged and placed, they are the missing piece to the picture perfect home puzzle. Still wondering what could be so great about a box.