Garden column: Building sturdy flower boxes |

Garden column: Building sturdy flower boxes

Tom Glass
Vail CO, Colorado
Tom Glass

I met a man this week that I’ve been looking for all over the place. I knew he existed because I’ve admired his work for some time now. I couldn’t find him because he’d moved away. Now he’s back and looking to get to work.

John Duffy builds wooden flower boxes. Nice ones that are substantial with copper liners and drains aimed at keeping people and things meant to be kept dry below the box dry.

You’ve probably seen his work displayed on railings and below windows on some of the finer homes in the valley.

After examining his portfolio of the boxes he’s built, knowing some of the homes, and listening to him talk of his desire to build more boxes similar to those he has hanging around the valley, I became convinced he is as committed to building the perfect flower box as some of my customers are committed to having perfect flowers.

My guess is he works fairly efficiently, but, upon examining his work, one comes to the conclusion that mass production and economies of scale are not the targets he’s aimed at hitting.

His work exhibits strong engineering. The problems involved in retrofitting a heavy wooden box filled with wet dirt and flowers onto a railing or out on a window sill are not to be taken lightly. Without visibly utilizing treated 2-by-6 trusses, 6-inch lag bolts, a come-along and a matched pair of mules, John manages to hang everything over the edge quite nicely with a proven record possessing a strong measure of security.

Describing his work as possessing strong engineering is not intended to imply his flower boxes resemble oxcarts and packing crates. Some of his boxes bear some of the earmarks of Craftsman furniture in their honest display of joinery, even combining copper into the visible and hidden elements of construction. Other examples of his work are of a lighter design. I think John sees a flower box somewhat as a piece of furniture.

In fact, he also builds custom garden furniture. Describing the furniture as sturdy does not do it justice. It is most definitely sound and built as if for an era now passed and with an eye on the generations to come. It is heavy. It is durable. It is built to survive winter and grandchildren.

There’s a Biblical proverb that says a wise man makes provision for his children’s children. It appears John is thinking of great grandchildren when he’s making plans for flower boxes and wooden benches.

And, that’s the part I like most about his work. It’s not veneer. It’s real and meant to solve the problem of growing plants and placing furniture out in the elements as a part of a plan for living a full life. He’s also familiar with the rigors attendant to living more than a mile-and-a-half above the level of the sea.

His boxes are built for those people who value having the color of flowers in their lives as much as they value having a warm home, good health, and a good time. Here’s to your health and happiness in the valley, John. Keep up the good work. In the grand scheme of things, I think it has great value and will last many years.

Tom Glass writes a weekly gardening column for the Vail Daily. Send comments or questions about this column to

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