We get a lot of inquiries for the landscaping side of our business and now with three designers on staff, we thought it would be fun for our customers and potential clients to get to know the different perspectives of those designers. Join us for the next few monthly newsletters in learning more about the design team!
This month I spoke with Designer Zoli. It was a learning experience for me getting a taste of the designing process from the initial consultation to completion of the job. Definitely the most enjoyable part as an observer is seeing the before and after, so I can just imagine how gratifying it must be for the person who created that end result.
Zoli was born and raised on Kauai. She attended college in Oregon and lived for awhile in the bay area of California. In college she initially studied Art and Ecology, but decided that traditional schooling wasn’t where her life’s passions resided. She began to study Permaculture in Bolinas, CA and spent some time in Costa Rica at a permaculture center. As a result, she received two Permaculture Design Certificates. When she moved back to Kauai in 2011, she enrolled in the Organic Farming & Gardening Training course offered at the local community college. She worked a number of farming-related jobs as well as working on her family farm. She even managed the aquaponics center at the college for a time.
In 2015, she came to work at Kauai Seascapes because she wanted the opportunity to continue to learn about plants and she fell in love with the work environment offered at the nursery. She worked like all of us doing propagation and maintenance and over time she was able to learn what conditions each of the plants liked and how to design with them. She began to train with Serina on consulting and designing. With the creative freedom and encouragement Serina provided, Zoli began working as a designer and crew foreman. Zoli’s dog, Koa, also “works” at the nursery even while Zoli is gone to the job sites.
Zoli described to me the steps she takes to ensure the best design for her clients. “The design process starts with the consultation, I do a site visit and walk the land with the client and get a feel for what both the client and the land need. I take notes on how sun, wind and water move across the landscape, what plants, systems or features are already existing and what the client has in mind for the project. Sometime people have a clear idea of what they want and other times people have no clue, I do my best to get to know my clients and help them distill down the best vision for the land.” After the consult, Zoli likes to meet the clients at the nursery and “shop” the plants she recommends for their needs and to narrow down even more her client’s tastes and preferences. Then comes the drafting!
Zoli did study art and I have seen her free-hand her ideas for an eye-level perspective and they look spectacular. She often provides a couple of different visual perspectives for her clients. The designers all use a drafting (CAD) program that allows them to do an elevation drawing so they can be precise in the square footage of materials they need, size of plants, and placement etc. Once the plan and estimate are clearly communicated and agreed upon with the client, the process of planning and phasing the install begins. Coordinating scheduling, material delivery, machine work, and all aspects of the installation are a part of the process. We often work with other contractors and builders who also might be working on the project or at the project site. Feedback is always accepted and encouraged from the client throughout the whole process!
Zoli’s dream project: she would love to design a larger homestead where the focus is on edible and medicinal plants, harvesting rainwater, and using only local materials. “People spend a lot of money and resources on installing landscapes so why not make them as productive and resourceful as possible?’, she says. YES!! Zoli wants to reverse the trend of so many common practices that degrade the soil and require escalating maintenance costs. For example, check out this xeriscape landscape she created for one of her clients (xeriscape: a style of landscape design requiring little or no irrigation or other maintenance.)
Designers usually have “go-to” plants they like to include or recommend and Zoli always tries to incorporate native plants into all her design jobs. She describes native plants as being uniquely adapted and some of the hardiest plants around. “Native Plants,” Zoli says, “are truly special. Many native Hawaiian plants exist ONLY here in Hawaii so they create landscapes you won’t see anywhere else in the world.” Some of her favorites are Pohinahina, Lowland Koa, Nanu Gardenia, and Kokio ke’oke’o (native white hibiscus).
The easiest part of the design process for Zoli is usually plant selection. Once she understands what the clients like and what will work in the landscape it is easy for her to narrow down. The most challenging part is helping clients understand sometimes that what they like isn’t necessarily what will work in their landscape. She does her best to bridge the gap between vision and reality.
Zoli’s most challenging project to date was a newly built home that had rectangular rock walls around each building, creating a courtyard type enclosed yard and required a lot of creative vision on her part. The limited access created by the rock wall also caused some interesting technical challenges for the crew. With Steve’s skill on the excavator, the install crew was able to navigate those challenges fairly easily. The design Zoli created featured a meandering path through the “courtyard” with curving, organically shaped beds in the corners made by the rock wall. It also features a spectacular lotus pond, designed by Zoli and created in partnership with Garden Ponds. She incorporated a lot of site appropriate native plants and the project also features an orchard, a cut flower garden and a “dry creek” rock feature that channels water from an outdoor shower through an existing natural swale (read Zoli’s blog on “Rain Gardens” if you want more detail on this kind of landscaping). This was a BIG project! But just look at the final result! (I wonder how many hours it took to plant all that mondo?)
When Zoli is not at Seascapes, she is working on her family’s farm, Ka Ohi Nani Gardens, growing fruits and vegetables, raising chickens, and building off-grid systems. She also loves to surf and spin fire when she has time. She has worked for the last 6 years as a professional hula hooper and fire performer with Kalalea Fire! On top of work and outside-of-work work and hobbies- Zoli started school again at the beginning of this year. She is working towards finishing her degree and obtaining her Landscape Architecture License. She hopes to use that license to influence common industry practices towards sustainability and eco-social regeneration.
If Zoli’s creativity and desire for productive, sustainable landscapes is something that would work for your landscape you may contact the nursery to set up a consultation with her. Our sales staff can explain the cost and process for you and you will hear directly back from a designer (you can request Zoli). We are often scheduled several months out for installs so don’t wait to call for your consultation!
Stay tuned for more photos and information on our other two designers, Serina and Joni.