The Online Gardener

Would you trust your window boxes to a gardener you’d never met? Our writer went online to find the future of gardening

The Online Gardener Philly Facades

Come summer, when suburbanites start eyeing each others’ expansive green lawns, homeowners from Society Hill to Rittenhouse Square get down to grandstanding the best way a rowhouse-­dweller can: via the window box. As iconically Philadelphia as a Ben Franklin-era fire-insurance plaque or a laughable dearth of closet space, window boxes start throwing up blooms as early as March, and throughout the summer, the show can get quite elaborate.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time or (if I’m honest) the patience to cultivate my own thriving container for my brick Center City home. So in May, I went online and found Philly Facades, where owner Beatrice Ryan was waiting to save me from the judgy glares of my neighbors.

Philly Facades is an online-only business, but Ryan serves all of Center City and Fairmount. While she may never meet her clients, she knows her clients, who, as she puts it, “hire me to keep up with the Joneses.” She adds, “I handle everything.” Exactly what I wanted to hear.

While Ryan’s happy to give guidance via email or phone or text, I took the route of her typical customer and ordered everything online. The process took about five minutes: I made selections from a few dropdown menus (sun/shade conditions, etc.) and paid. You also choose a theme—options range from “Asian” to “Patriotic,” but I went with “Surprise Me!” (Ryan later told me that’s what most people, including repeat customers, select.)

I had a hay rack already in place, but if you lack even the basics, Ryan sells and installs wrought-iron, wood and vinyl boxes, starting at around $150. She also designs planters for small patios and roof gardens. Window-box plantings are based on size and start at $95.

About a week later, I got an email that began, “It has been a pleasure installing your Philly Facades selection today!” and ended with basic maintenance instructions. No calls, no arranging a time window; Ryan had come and gone and left only a beautifully appointed window box behind.

Now all I have to do is remember to water. GRADE: A

>>Even you can grow this garden. Here is the hortikiller’s DIY shopping list.