Can an herb in your garden be too cute to eat? That's how I currently feel about "Windowbox" basil. I can't even bring myself to pinch the developing flower buds so it doesn't flower and go to seed. The seeds for my "Windowbox" basil came from Renee's Garden, but before seeing it her online seed catalog I never knew such a basil existed. On the product page "Windowbox" is described as being "truly a bonsai basil" and while the bonsai purist in me bristles at a basil being called "bonsai" I can't help but nod in agreement with this description. At certain angles, this little pot of basil looks like a miniature forest. I find myself going out to the porch garden just to look at it.
The compact growth habit of "Windowbox" basil is umbrella shaped with plants growing 8-10 inches tall. Even though the leaves of this basil are tiny; they are no less aromatic than the larger basil varieties you've grown in your herb garden.
Where to Grow "Windowbox" Basil
Obviously you can grow this Italian import in a window box, container garden, or on a kitchen windowsill , but the miniature plants are giving me whimsical gardening ideas. In a fairy garden "Windowbox" basil could look like forest. "Windowbox" basil would be a good plant for a model train garden, its scale is perfect to represent trees and shrubs. In a knot garden created out of herbs or vegetables this mini basil could replace boxwood hedges their leaf growth is so similar.
Keeping "Windowbox" Basil Small
I've done nothing to my pot of basil to keep it neat and compact. I've not trimmed or pinched it as it has grown. The tiny leaves and compact growth is all attributed to growing in full-sun. My herb garden is located on the back porch where plants get full sun. Plants grown in full-sun will naturally grow smaller leaves because they need less leaf space to carry out photosynthesis.
Here is a closer view of the leaves of this basil. The plant has been growing in full sun since I sowed the seeds and the first seedling emerged. Now, if you live in a desert environment I don't recommend growing your basil in full sun, but for me in Chicago it works out pretty well as long as I make sure to water regularly.
The opposite side of the same potted "Windowbox" basil plant. See the difference in the leaf size and spacing between the leaf buds between this picture and the one just above? This side didn't receive as much sun because I forgot to rotate the pot.
If you're looking to start an herb garden, either in containers or in the ground, I hope you're persuaded to grow some "Windowbox" basil. Even if, like myself, you aren't a cook or have much of an interest in edible gardening grow this mini basil simply because it is charming. What's not to love about a basil whose tiny leaves and compact growth are evocative of bonsai?
I got my "Windowbox" basil seeds from Renee'sGarden which you can visit here, the page for "Windowbox" mini basil is here. I think my basil is even cuter than the ones they have pictured.