The last of our three part series of “Meet the Design Team” is FINALLY here! We meant to have had this in our newsletter a few months back, but it turns out getting Serina to talk about herself is like pulling teeth. (Note to self: add “teeth extracting” to list of job duties at the nursery.) Serina is as humble as she is talented, which is a very admirable and likeable trait. We hope you will enjoy getting to know the woman who runs the show, both at the nursery and on the job site!
A very surprising fact about Serina is that her formal education and degree are actually in Business Administration and Accounting. That background definitely is needed in running the business. Although her degree is in something other than horticulture or landscape design, she is very well self-taught on those subjects and we might say that her green thumb and eye for design are partially genetic! (You might remember getting to know Serina’s dad in our Father’s Day Tribute in our June Newsletter.) When you see Serina’s finished projects you would never be able to guess this fun fact about her background.
She grew up on the nursery property so her environment growing up always centered around plants and landscaping. Serina left for college in Oregon right out of high school and lived there for a few years after graduating. Serina had a job in college for a few years in the Plant Pathology Clinic as the administrative assistant. She logged samples that were dropped off and mailed off the result packets after the diagnoses were completed. She was fascinated with the diagnosis of plant diseases and often observed the lab staff at their jobs. She liked to read through the results when they were finished. Although she found horticulture and biology much more interesting than accounting, she went with what some would call the “safer” degree at the time. It seems it was meant to be that all of her formal and informal education serves a purpose in her present-day life!
When her father, Steve, passed away Serina felt a calling to come home to Kauai and take on the business of her father’s nursery. Her business degree helped immensely with the bookkeeping side of the business and she spent a lot of time researching plants her first year running the nursery. Part of that research was identifying and labeling numerous plants on property whose names left when Steve left. Steve’s brain was the nursery plant catalog until Serina began the process of creating a price book to include common names, scientific names, plant care information, size at maturity, and planting location requirements such as drought, wind, and salt tolerance. In those first few years, she also spent a considerable amount of time getting to know the plants through organizing, propagating, weeding, and potting. She learned so much by watching plants grow and caring for them- observing how they respond to the different elements (light, water, wind etc.)
Also in that first year, Serina and her husband Steve began a yard maintenance division of the business primarily to have a steady flow of income and keep her employees employed. That side of the business steadily grew until they had a full-time crew working five days a week on maintenance. “I did a lot of hands-on work in the beginning, including pest control, weeding, and pruning. Maintaining existing landscapes gave me tremendous experience in how plants grow, how they handle different conditions, and also a lot of “what not to do” in terms of landscaping design, ” Serina explains. With that came a few small renovation projects for clients and Serina’s opportunity to first dabble in design.
Like Joni and Zoli, Serina prefers her initial consultation with a potential client to occur on their property so that she can assess the area and discuss their vision for the project, their budget, irrigation needs, and maintenance plans for upkeep after the install. She likes to know what the client sees for the future of the property including factors such as pets or future kids or grandkids. She will allow for areas of play if so and also steer clear of potentially harmful plants for children or pets. The second time she meets with the client she likes to visit with them at the nursery to find out what kind of plants they like and how they may be placed in their landscape to check off their “wish-list” as much as possible. She also will discourage the client from including certain plants if they don’t have a good track record of thriving in the type of environment available on the client’s property. Serina describes landscaping as a “fluid process” and during the install, she will often bring the plant material and stage it until herself and her clients are both happy before planting. “I have never had an installed project turn out exactly like my initial paper design,” says Serina. (This is a GOOD thing! A constantly evolving picture that ultimately leads to the client’s happiness.)
Serina’s dream project? It’s awesome. Picture it: Kauai Seascapes carries EIGHTY-EIGHT different types of palm trees. Serina would love to work with a palm enthusiast who wants a botanical display of numerous unique and rare palm species. “Think botanical garden of palms with meandering pathways and low-level tropicals. I have had visions of creating this on our nursery property someday, perhaps turning the back acre into a palm arboretum for the really unique. Maybe one day I can find the space!” Someone, PLEASE hire Serina to do this so we can see this vision come true!!
When it comes to plants that Serina likes to incorporate into her designs, palms are at the top of the list for centerpieces and taller aspects of her designs. She prefers them especially on smaller lots as they are low-maintenance in terms of leaf debris and don’t over-shadow the surrounding landscape as it grows in. They give any landscape an instant tropical feel which is a design preference for Serina. She also likes to include gardenias in her design for fragrance and hibiscus for color (such a variety to choose from here!). The last thing she almost always incorporates to her design is a “grow-your-own” aspect such as a few fruit trees, small garden, or container garden for a lanai or patio area. It’s so easy in Hawaii to have fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruit so why not make some room in your landscape design?!
When questioned about what Serina finds to be the most challenging parts of designing, one thing that stands out to her is budget. Everything costs more in Hawaii, so if the client’s vision doesn’t align with the budget it can be difficult to achieve what they desire. Serina finds ways to address this challenge by doing projects in stages or downsizing plant materials. Another challenge can be if a client has little or no opinion on plant selection. So much freedom to choose from SO many types of plants for a designer! The last challenge Serina encounters is in planning the install with room to get equipment in when and where it is needed. “Design is an intensive process with many, many details to consider. You want to provide a site-appropriate, beautiful design and implement that design in a high-quality, efficient, and knowledgeable manner.” In short, as a designer, she has to see the big picture without forgetting or overlooking the smallest details.
The most challenging projects Serina has worked on are the number of properties in the Kealia Kai and Aliomanu Estates areas she has designed over the past few years. The high wind, high salt, poor soil, and low annual-rainfall create a very challenging environment. The soil has to be amended and proper irrigation systems are crucial to achieving high-end landscape results. Plants have to be wind, salt, AND drought tolerant! To address these challenges, Serina had to find or create micro-climates where plants were more protected or create wind and salt screens with hardier plants.
Serina doesn’t have much time away from the business, but when she does steal a few moments away, her husband, three-year-old son, dogs, cats, chickens, and more houseplants than she would care to admit, keep her very well occupied!
If you are interested in Serina as your designer (especially if you are the palm enthusiast that would allow for her dream project!), you can request her when you contact the nursery to set up your consultation. Thank you for joining us in meeting and getting to know all of our very talented design team. See you at the nursery!
This article was written by Kauai Seascapes Employee, Dana.