We wanted to introduce you to the newest member of our Design Team and the Seascapes Family, Katherine Ralston! Katherine is originally from Virginia and came to Kaua’i in the summer of 2017 for a horticultural internship with the National Tropical Botanical Gardens. Enjoy this fun interview with Katherine and contact the nursery if you are interested in working with her for your landscaping project!
Tell us a bit about your background with plants and design?
My first plant job was identifying and measuring plants in the high desert of Eastern Oregon. Years later, I was an agroforestry volunteer in the Peace Corps in Senegal where I worked with farmers to start tree nurseries (cashew, mango, citrus, Acacia sp., Gliricidia sepium) and hold fruit tree grafting workshops. I knew I liked designing for domestic landscapes as I placed a banana outside the bath area, Jatropha curcas cuttings for a live fence, planted Papaya, and a Flamboyant (Delonix regea) for summer shade.
After Peace Corps, I earned an M.S. degree in Geography and Environmental Systems. I did a thesis project about community stewards restoring urban woodlands in Baltimore, Maryland. I presented the research at two conferences and the article “Baltimore Forest Stewards and the Urban Forest,” was published in ISA’s magazine, Arborist News.
While in grad school I worked at an Audubon Center to design, plant and maintain habitat gardens in the city with schools and neighborhood groups. I fell in love with ecological design–using native grasses, flowering perennials, shrubs, and trees to create little pockets of wildlife in the city.
What have been your favorite projects around the nursery?
My favorite projects around the nursery have been to install more native plants, in what I call the “native mounds.” I have really enjoyed propagating some of the native plants from seed. I brought in some native plants too and they have really taken off in their new home at the nursery.
What have been your favorite design projects or aspects of design overall?
As a designer, I love every part of the design process, from meeting with clients to selecting plants, creating a design on the computer or sketching it, and finally getting to install it. Staging the plants out during the installation is my favorite part. We have an extremely excellent installation crew, and it’s also a pleasure working with them on the job sites.
What are some of your favorite plants to use?
My favorite plants to use in designs are the native Hawaiian plants. Some classics are Ukiuki, Pohinahina, Kou, Kupukupu, and A’ali’i. I look forward to installing Pa’u o Hi’iaka (Jacquemontia sandwicensis) as a ground cover and plant Hao (Rauvolfia sandwicensis) as a sweet-smelling flowering tree in the same family as Plumeria. I also like using plants that play an ecological role; drought-tolerant, erosion control, attract pollinators or beneficial insects, nitrogen-fixers, medicinal value or food, etc. That list covers most of the plants in the nursery, so there’s always a role for ecological design in the landscape.
Mahalo Katherine! We’re stoked to have you on our team!