Established in 2003, West Ridge Bungalow Neighbors is a voluntary group of neighbors in Chicago who desire to assist each other in preserving and appreciating the homes in our neighborhood; educating each other and the broader public in the value and the story of our neighborhood; and providing resources to each other to improve the quality of our homes, enrich our lives and assure our neighborhood's future.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bungalow Gardens and Window Boxes

It's not just stained-glass repair and woodwork refinishing that get the attention of the Historic Chicago Bungalow Initiative, which works to encourage the preservation and restoration of the classic style of brick homes found all over Chicago. They also honor landscaping. This year Lyndie & Matthew Sherman won a top Driehaus award from the initiative for creating a small formal garden where there once was a back-yard pool.

Beth and Ken Martin (photo at top, also proprietors of two rain barrels and a worm compost bin) won an honorable mention for planting woodland gardens to replace grass in their front and back yards.

The bungalow initiative's Web site is a font of information and sources for green and historic remodeling, much of it interesting to owners of other old houses or anybody interested in remodeling.

Speaking of sprucing up, see the window boxes on the Martins' house? That's what those mysterious stone projections are that you see sticking out of the fronts of so many bungalows: They are brackets for window boxes. Most of the boxes are long gone. But when they are there and well-planted, what a difference they make!

Unfortunately, it takes a loooong window box, much longer than you can pick up at the local home center. Octagon bungalows like the Martins' have a combination of three boxes, but some bungalows have brackets for a single box all across the front of the house.

Such a sizable box is likely to be a custom item and can be pricey. It needs to be strong and well-built. Finding just the right one is a great source of frustration to Chicago bungalow devotees.
Before you start shopping, measure your brackets. And it also might be a good idea, before you place an order, to cut out the silhouette of the window box in cardboard to scale, set it on the brackets and step back to make sure you like the look. The mockup will help you decide on just the right length. You could even paint it to help decide on a color.

Urban Prairie Planters in West Ridge makes wooden flower boxes designed for the bungalow brackets and can custom-make other planters. Call Jo Stavig at 773-743-4386 or e-mail them at

Another material for boxes is polystyrene, which is plastic but can be painted with latex paint. Check them out at or has fiberglass window boxes up to 6 feet long. None of these is exactly in the Prairie-cum-Arts-and-Crafts style of the original boxes that came with the houses in the 1920s, but if you choose a restrained and simple one you might be satisfied.

This post is part of The Chicago Gardener, a blog of the Chicago Tribune. See more posts on container gardening here. For information on the Tribune Home&Garden section's Glorious Gardens contest, click here.

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