Window wells bring sunlight to your basement but not much visual appeal to your home’s exterior. While a window well cover is a must, you still have limited options for what you can do to beautify the area around the window well without blocking sunlight or a possible emergency exit. But there are several workarounds that can spruce up your wells without keeping them from doing their jobs. When you consider ways to embellish your home and grounds, consider these tips for how to landscape around window wells.
Note: No matter how you choose to decorate the space in and around a window well, take safety into consideration. Make the window well unobtrusive but not invisible to prevent people from accidentally falling in. Also, consider how to keep pesky creatures from making a home in the well. The smartest thing to do is to install a well cover and then work around it. Finally, if your basement windows function as egresses in case of fire or other emergencies, never block your escape route with odds and ends!
On the Edge
Since it’s slightly below ground level, a basement window is already conveniently partially concealed. However, it’s the window well itself that makes it hard to provide a natural—or at least non-industrial—look to the space. But being flush with the ground also allows you to garden on the edge, so to speak. If possible, paint the window well a pleasant green. Next, circle its perimeter with a short and pretty gardening fence, then plant assorted flowers and plants up against it. Don’t pick anything that might grow too high and block the sunlight. The fence, flowers, and plants can divert the eye from the sudden drop in the ground.
Don’t want to tend a flower garden? Plant bushes on all sides of the window well, leaving at least a foot of space between the plants and the well. Again, don’t pick tall shrubs and bushes. Pick small- to medium-sized ones, and make sure they’re deciduous instead of coniferous. Deciduous plants allow sunlight most of the year and even more during the winter months. Flowering shrubs, especially, will add charm and beauty to the area. Cacti, roses, and similar prickly plants aren’t the best idea if you intend the window to function as an emergency exit. Consider the unpleasant possibilities of trying to make a quick escape into the night through a small field of thorns or nettles.
A Great Wall
Have some extra paving stone on hand? Build a short wall around the edge of the window well. If you want to add some green, some sites recommend building matching planters on either side. Don’t have stones? Encircle the well with bricks, flowerpots, or larger rocks. It’s another excellent way to redirect a viewer’s line of sight away from the well and up to the plants on display.
With Our “Complements”
If you choose to grow a garden, plant bushes, or encircle the window well with other plants, don’t overlook the possibility of putting vegetation inside the window well as well. Covering the bottom with a single low layer of decorative stone or the like is a nice way to liven it up; however, you absolutely cannot turn your well into a planter without risking damage to the windows and water in the basement. On the other hand, consider placing a freestanding pot or planter down there with plants that complement the surrounding greenery. If you do this correctly, you’ll effectively camouflage your window well and improve the view at the same time. Whatever you choose to plant, consider how much sunlight the area gets to determine whether sun-loving or shade plants are best. Also, account for how much water pools on that side when it rains. Some plants and shrubs are great at soaking up excess water, which is another buffer against seepage in your basement.
Here’s another fun idea: Some people install transparent or translucent window well covers and turn their window wells into terrariums. But if you go this route, be ready for the extra work of tending to the plants (or cheat a little and use artificial plants!).
A Terrific Terrace
If your window well is on the larger side—say, large enough to stand and perhaps even stretch out in—and you’re particularly handy, consider building a terraced garden. Plenty of plans are available online that require only a few treated wood timbers, some hardware, and a little bit of elbow grease. You can create a lovely series of stacked platforms where you can rest potted plants or outdoor decorations to view from inside and out. Keep in mind that the purpose of the window well is to let sunlight in and keep water out of the basement. Consider waterproofing during construction. Don’t let all that natural beauty blind you to the need for a dry basement.
Get Ready to Rock (Garden)
If you aren’t keen on plants, consider the eternal beauty (and low maintenance) of a rock garden. Add a custom window well cover and surround it with a soothing and visually arresting pattern of decorative rocks and stones. If you have a green thumb, intersperse the hard with the soft using shrubs, flowers, succulents, and other rock-loving plants. Remember the earlier suggestion, and build a wall around the window well that allows it to flow seamlessly with the rest of the garden. Looking for a place to meditate surrounded by the nature of your yard? Consider going with a Zen garden.
Is It Time to Replace Your Window Well?
Here’s something to consider along with the above tips for how to landscape around window wells. There may be a place for shabby chic, but it’s not here. Rusty metal wells and crumbling concrete and stone wells aren’t doing their jobs anymore. What’s more, you can’t just slap on some paint and glitter and surround it with foliage. Seriously consider replacing it, and keep the above ideas in mind when you do. Does the rock garden notion appeal to you? Then rebuild the well with paving stones. Brick is another great way to give a window well a smart and solid look, and you can stack them to accommodate planters and other accoutrements. Let your imagination run wild!