Meet Steve, Swansons' Container Designer

The container designers here at Swansons are outstanding. Together, their unique styles and personalities are apparent in designs that fit a variety of environments and the designers really take on the challenge of continuing to produce dynamic, beautiful creations to complement a range of lifestyles. We are fortunate to have such talented designers on our team to create beautiful containers that help make any space a little more special. Whether you want to add vitality to a space, encourage tranquility, or transform your patio into an oasis, you can feel the difference a container garden makes.

Our designers create beauty from their own unique mix of experience, natural talents, and developed skills. In a previous post, our readers got to Meet Swansons Container Design Team. We promised to continue highlighting each amazing designer and their work individually and we’re back to fulfill that promise. Keep reading to learn more about Steve and get to know the man behind the design.

I have more of an organic feeling to my designs, really rooted in nature.

Steve Keene is one of Swanson’ long-time container designers. His design experience is so vast that he is an expert at indoor living arrangements and outdoor containers. When you see a container design by Steve, there’s a certain je ne sais quoi that distinguishes his style. Pizazz, natural elegance, and balance shine through in each composition. The feeling of nature and new emergent growth is prevalent.

Steve has a unique position at Swansons, unlike any other. Since 2002, when he started working here, his job has served as a pedestal for his exceptional design skills. With total freedom to design, his creations really shine because his personal style can genuinely emerge.

I’ve never seen another nursery that compares to Swansons; I don’t know if they exist. It’s a real unusual situation to get to come to work and just plant every day. Other places do it to a degree, but not with the commitment we do and I think it really shows. I feel so lucky to come in and do this every day.

There’s a magic in his effort to create the perfect container each and every time. Steve has a hands-on approach throughout his creative design process. It’s a regular sight to see Steve strolling around the nursery, picking up plants to test the compatibility of different combinations. Feeling the plants and seeing them next to one another is an important early step before they make it into their container.

He’s been designing so long, that it’s less of a conscious effort to put complementary plants together and more of a creative process to play with color, texture, and balance. With the effect as a whole in mind, Steve begins with one kernel of inspiration (an interesting container or plant) and allows it to inspire the rest of the container. He continues to design with balance; top to bottom, left to right, and completely around the container.

I like to bring the color and style of the pot into the design.

These container designs are built on a foundation of decades of experience in retail and floral businesses. Wholesale cut flower sales, cut flower arranging, a personal floral arranging business – there’s an array of experience that has shaped his refined design style. Steve was in Ikebana school for years as well, where he learned the Japanese art of flower arrangement. These influences have served to inspire his color selections, plant groupings, and goals for a container designed from all sides.

Nature is paramount to Steve’s inspiration. Art, music, and the effect of light on plants are also sources of inspiration for his style. Art especially shows him different color combinations he wouldn’t have thought of. For example, Gauguin uses a lot of soft oranges, pinks, and peaches. They're not colors he would usually use, but he can appreciate them and bring the influence of what he saw into his designs for Swansons.

I enjoy everything aesthetic. It’s my place of pleasure.

The containers Steve designs are striking alone, but his creations also offer a stunning look when multiple coordinating containers are grouped together. Steve is one of two designers behind the outdoor arrangements displayed here at Swansons, and he also loves the projects he gets to design for specific customers. If you have a project that you’d love to work on with Steve on, let us know!

I really enjoy working with the customers and try to be sensitive to the result that they’re looking for. If I’m pleasing the customer, then I’ve done a good job.