Beautifying Seattle, One Pot at a Time

One of the exciting changes happening at Swansons this year is the creation of an in-home Container Design and Installation Service here at the nursery. This new department designs, creates and installs container gardens for Seattle-area residents and businesses, including one of Seattle's fastest-growing populations: urban dwellers who want beautiful landscaping but do not have traditional gardens.

Examples? A houseboat on Lake Union, a condo on Capitol Hill, a house on Lake Sammamish, and many, many more.

I visit prospective clients for an on-site consultation and, with my team of installation specialists, Juan and Bill, create gardens that are a perfect fit for their individual spaces.

Since this is a new endeavor for us, we want as much feedback as we can get, so we can do the best job possible. We are also excited to share some of these great container gardens with you, so I asked some of our new clients to talk about their spaces and their experience with us. Here are a few of their stories.

Ingrid, West Lake Union

Ingrid lives in a charming floating home on Lake Union, with both sunny and shady areas. She loves saturated colors and fragrant plants and enjoys attracting bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. She also loves her cats and wants to provide a safe environment for them.

She writes:

Years ago when the kids were growing up, we had a garden. And fruit trees. And rock gardens. All on a hilly slope, from the top of which we could see the gardens and Mt. Rainier. Then the kids grew up, we got divorced, and life changed. So about 11 years ago, I bought a floating home. It has always appealed to me as a concept, but the decision was made on a whim. I happened to be wandering on a dock, saw a house for sale, made an offer, and in less than 24 hours it was mine. I never asked a single question about what living on the water would be like (lest you worry - it is unbelievably fabulous - once you figure out the "garden")!

So, a friend gave me a book on container gardening and I still had my trusty Sunset Western Garden Book. Turns out they were excellent volumes to check into after I made my (many) mistakes. Such as - I've always had fruit trees. No reason they can't grow in a pot. Just has to be big enough. People came from far and wide to photograph the four different types of apples that grew in succession from mid-August through late October. My wonderful apple tree was in pride of place where I could see it from the kitchen. Until I couldn't - that was the year the beaver needed it for its lodge. I was so proud! It chose MY tree!  So I got a bigger pot and a bigger (this time cherry) tree. One day, when it was as tall as my two-story house, we had one of our annual 70 mph wind storms. The beautiful cherry tree in its beautiful pot sat straight upright in the lake so I could see it bobbing from my kitchen window. After two days of winching, pulling, and swearing, we gave it a blessing and cut the ropes. A diver told me recently it is standing upright at the bottom of the lake looking as lovely as ever.

You would think by now that I would have learned a thing or two - right? Turns out a thing or two is not enough. It took a third thing to clinch the deal. When the stunning Japanese maples got too big for the upstairs deck, I managed to get someone to manhandle one of them to the downstairs deck. Ahhh - now I have this figured out! Oh, they need root pruning? Hmmmm - okay. Let's just gloss over this as one made its exit with someone with a dolly and a friend who moves furniture for a living. The other one will stay where it is until it is miserable - then it becomes kindling.

By now you think I am just totally stupid. Not so fast! I did consult with several nurseries and tried to find landscaping experts to help. To no avail - until I found Charlo Wang and the Container Gardening Program at Swanson's Nursery. You do not need to be a former landlubber on a floating home to benefit from her/their expertise. Do not wait! Run there right now! And tell Charlo that Ingrid sent you.

I now have planters with mixed veggies and flowers, a coordinated look and feel to the entire scene including a huge trellis for my jasmine that grows in a flower box that hangs (as one of three such boxes) over the edge of my lower deck. And my upstairs deck has a large planter that is a playground for my cats - cat mint and other fun plants for them to lie on, eat, roll around on, etc. Oh - and this planter shares the deck with that Japanese maple - you know, the one that will be kindling in a few years.

Working with Ingrid has been so enjoyable. It's fun to find creative ways to add color, plants and flowers to a floating home. We have learned together about plants that attract wildlife and those that are safe to grow around cats.

The rooftop deck is the designated Cat Playground, so I created a raised box with ASPCA listed ‘cat safe’ plants on which the kitties can nap, nibble and roll, including Deschampsia f. ‘Tatra Gold’, Origanum  ‘Kent Beauty’, and Astilbe.

The dock is off-limits to the kitties for their safety and security. There, I was free to plant a variety of heat-loving plants, such as Sedums, Grevillea, Manzanita, Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’, Hemerocallis, Erysimum, and Delospermum.

Because of limited space on her dock, I planted hanging baskets with strawberries and colorful plants and flowers. Now that the Jasmine has finished its second bloom, I took it out and replaced it with Bonfire Begonias and Sweet Potato Vine.

On the shady, north side of the deck, a trough planter is thriving with Daphne ‘Mae Jima’, Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’, Sanguisorba, and Nonstop begonias. Ingrid's kitchen garden sits below her kitchen windows. Leafy greens and herbs grew there earlier but are now replaced with color such as flowering Sweet Peas and Black Mondo Grass. This is a planter that will evolve with the seasons.

Kathy, Capitol Hill

Kathy lives in a condo in the heart of Capitol Hill. She wants a beautiful and manageable garden. She now has pretty ornamentals and tomatoes ripening right outside her sliding glass door!

One of the things that I looked for when I purchased my condo was the availability of outdoor space. For me part of the enjoyment of having outdoor space includes having plants. I’ve had containers on my deck for a number of years, replacing plants almost annually. A few years ago I looked for a container service that could advise me on the best plants for my environment and provide installation. One company provided a landscape designer, but the cost didn’t include plants, containers or installation. I invested in the design, but it wasn’t much different than what I had done on my own.

A few years ago, I checked Swansons' website and found a lot of DIY information about container gardening, which was great. I’ve made several visits to Swansons, purchased containers and plants. The logistics are a challenge without a car and storage for planting supplies is non-existent. And I haven’t always had success with making the right plant choices.

In May, I thought I’d try again to find someone that could help me evaluate my containers, choose new plants and deliver the materials or possibly even install. I was so excited to find that Swansons offered a container service!

My experience with Swansons has always been great, but it got even better when I took advantage of the container services. Charlo did an outstanding job developing a design strategy for my containers. The approach to my project was very successful: Charlo visited my home, assessed my environment, asked a lot of great questions, and offered suggestions. I was really impressed that Charlo recommended new plants for my containers while considering some of the plants that were still doing well.

Everything that Charlo suggested worked out beautifully for me. I’m even growing cherry tomatoes! The installation went very smoothly. Charlo planted and transplanted plants efficiently and very neatly. She positioned the containers and also shared helpful information about the plant care. I’ve been looking for a service like this for a long time and I’m so happy to know that Swansons has a container service available. I know that I will need help again with my containers and I will definitely contact Swansons. This is the perfect service for those of us that live in apartments or condos and want to enjoy a well-landscaped outdoor space.

I will be visiting Kathy again soon to install a container garden for the North side of her balcony.

Jane, Pioneer Square

Jane is a resident of the Florentine Condominiums in Pioneer Square. She enjoys spending time on her deck with her little dog, Rosie. She used to have a view of King Street Station and beyond to the north and west but a new residential high-rise has been constructed across the street and now, as she tells me, her view is what the new residents are cooking for dinner. Her objective was to screen the new neighbors to give them and herself a sense of privacy, and add beauty to her already pretty deck. She likes artistry, primary colors and interesting texture combinations.

Hi Charlo,

I want to thank you for the wonderful service you provided in helping me create a lovely tree and flower container garden on my deck. The trees, flowers and pots you helped me choose and then install are giving me so much pleasure and provide a wonderful screen to hide the new apartment building facing me.

Your patience and aesthetic talents made the process a real pleasure and the installation went smoothly and efficiently thanks to you and Bill.

I have been a customer of Swanson's since 1977, but this is the first time I decided to avail myself of this service and I'm so glad I did!

Cheers and kudos!


Phoebe, Queen Anne

Phoebe and her husband live in West Queen Anne in a lovely house with a shady front garden and a sunny back patio. They enjoy their outdoor space and like attracting hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and birds to the garden. They had a number of pots that needed a little refreshing.


I would be happy to share my thoughts particularly since they have been growing more beautiful everyday.

The plant variety and the color combinations for my container plants are spectacular!  Its been such a joy to see them bloom and grow week after week creating a beautiful outdoor space for us.  Though I have filled my own containers in the past, after seeing you have put together, I will leave it up to your talents in the future!

They really are spectacular.

Thank you,


It was one of our first big projects, so I'm glad it was successful and that the clients are so pleased.


Jan, Eastlake

Jan lives in a condo just off of Eastlake Avenue with a large deck overlooking Lake Union and the Seattle skyline. She was having a 4th of July party and wanted to soften the lines of the deck with some height and movement. I added a mix of grasses, perennials and annual color for long-lasting containers with visual interest. I also planted tomatoes, which have grown huge!


Hi Charlo,

You and your crew did an outstanding job on our 2 decks. I marvel at how artistic yet natural the plants are. I asked for and you installed plants that were breezy and colorful. I have perennials and annuals with lush greenery. Your work is beautiful, thoughtful, and you worked me into your schedule for an event I had planned.

Thank you. I will see you again.


Diane, Lake Sammamish

Some of our clients do have traditional gardens, but need container design and installation as well. Diane lives in a house on Lake Sammamish. Her property gently slopes down to the waterfront. Diane was having a 4th of July event at her home and wanted window boxes to enhance the façade.

Diane wanted a mix of greens with a little soft color. I chose a mix of two trailing ivies: a small-leaved English variety and Algerian ivy for its bold texture. I added lavender flowered Angelonia 'Angelart' and Dianthus 'Green Ball' for height, and Yerba Buena (Mexican Mint) with its small leaves and tiny white flowers. Sweet Potato Vine and blue Bacopa were included for trailing greens, texture and color.

Here are my beautiful flower boxes Charlo did. As always, Swansons never lets you down! Top quality! Everyone compliments us on our beautiful flowers!

Thanks Charlo! Awesome!

I find it very fulfilling to help people create beautiful container gardens no matter where they live. I enjoy the design challenges and successes. There is a wide variety of plants that can thrive in containers. I'm so glad our clients are pleased with the results!

Thank you for touring our container gardens with me. See you soon!

Want to learn more or contact us? See our website for details or contact Charlo Wang, Designer & Container Design Installation Manager:

(206) 782-2543 x226 or