Northwest NEWS

February 22, 1999

Business

Local plant business makes Sunset's 'Best of the West' list

Tina Dixon planter
Tina Dixon, owner of Plants à la Cart.
Photo by Randy Wells.
One of the many pots Dixon has designed and planted.
by Deborah Stone

   Sunset Magazine carries its first annual "Best of the West" article in this month's publication. Editors and contributors spent more than a year canvassing the West for items that the article describes as "truly great, really fun, and sometimes just plain strange."

   Seven main categories were chosen for 1999's Best of the West items: Getting Out, Staying In, Garden, On the Town, Shopping, Attractions, Eats, and Wild West. Readers can find out all the reasons why the West is a great place to live as they read about ideas for travel and traveling; where to live and what to live with; tips for culture (both high and low); artful, offbeat, and unusual shops; weird and exhilarating destinations; interesting edibles; and places to eat.

   Under the heading of "Garden," the magazine came to the Northwest and selected Bothell resident Tina Dixon as the Best New Container Designer for this year. Dixon's business, Plants à la Cart, specializes in container gardening and interiorscaping (designing and installing indoor plants in office buildings) using innovative combinations of plants.

   Dixon's passion for gardens and gardening developed as a child. She says, "My grandparents had this beautiful garden, and when I used to go there to visit, I always felt that it was like an oasis. There was this deep-down connection that I felt with plants. Then as I grew older, I always surrounded myself with plants in whatever environment I was. It made me feel good."

   The decision to devote a career to horticulture did not come until later in her life. "I was working in an insurance office and my ex-husband started a plant business," explains Dixon. "He began to do plants in people's homes and I occasionally would help him do watering and maintenance. I started thinking about how I really enjoyed being around plants and received encouragement from people, which boosted my confidence. I took a class in horticulture at Lake Washington Vocational College and just ate up every bit of knowledge. That propelled me to quit my job and enroll in the college's one-year horticulture program."

   While taking classes, Dixon started her business, and in a short time, through word-of-mouth, she became very busy. The people connections she made in the insurance business were very helpful, plus Molbak's decided to get out of the interiorscaping business and referred their clients to four businesses, Dixon's being one of them. Plants à la Cart flourished, and more focus was put on exterior container gardening. Her clients have included Red Robin and Egghead, in addition to many other local businesses and private homes.

   Over the years, Dixon's projects have won numerous awards from the Washington Association of Landscaping Professionals. "Those awards mean a lot to me," says Dixon, "because they come from peers in the industry."

   Her work is characterized as highly creative, colorful, and rich in texture. "When I do a container, I consider leaf shape, texture, color, fragrance, and movement," explains Dixon. "I like to combine permanent plants with annuals and use something edible such as zucchini, strawberries, or tomatoes. I also like to use ornamental grasses."

   Dixon attributes her success to a combination of factors: a motivation to make people happy, lots of hard work, much help from a network of people in the industry, an understanding that it's important to dare to make choices that are unconventional, and a true love for her job.

   "Finding something that you have a passion for and then being able to do it as a profession is so special," says Dixon.