Flower of August: The Attraction of Firebush



This native plant blooms for months, attracting both birds and butterflies, and is practically bullet-proof once established. - University of Florida

The most common discussion in North Florida in August is typically regarding how HOT it is.  Our temperatures climb to the maximum and the sun demonstrates its power at midday.  Fragile flowers such as gardenia will not tolerate the extreme heat and vegetable gardens are taking a break until fall.  The agave (century plants) are blooming with their towering stalks of flowers, but one of our favorite summer plants is busy attracting birds and butterflies: the fiery firebush (also known as scarlet bush or hummingbird bush).

Firebush, Hamelia patens, is our ideal choice for August's Flower of the Month with its drought and heat tolerance, Florida friendly character, and ability to integrate beautifully into almost any landscape design for North Florida.  The flower shown in the photo is the dwarf variety of firebush, which is not native and is slightly lighter in color than the regular variety.  Native firebush grows very large in full sun and has shown tolerance to salt spray in beach landscaping designs.

The time to plant firebush is NOW so contact your North Florida landscaper to incorporate it into your landscape design.  It thrives in almost any type of soil and is mostly disease and pest resistant.  It will begin its red orange blooms in spring then continue all the way until the first cold freeze.  Firebush is considered a perennial or semi-woody shrub and the best thing about it is the wildlife it attracts: hummingbirds and butterflies such as the gulf fritillary and the magical zebra longwing. Its berries will attract other birds as well.

Contact Serene Settings of North Florida to create lush landscaping that flowers all year long, enhancing your property value and personal enjoyment.  We design, install, and maintain commercial and residential landscape designs in St. Augustine, Palm Coast, Ormond Beach, and Daytona.


Irrigation is the science of landscape design


Water is life: regular watering from rainfall or irrigation systems is necessary for most of the beautiful plants in your landscape design.  Unfortunately, many Florida homeowners have unknowingly spent as much as half of their utility bill on watering lawns and landscaping, when watering wisely can be so much easier than you may realize. We are professional irrigation specialists - licensed by the State of Florida #FC9527: we can set up, repair, and calibrate your watering system.  

All plants need to be watered during the first weeks after planting or transplanting, and during development.  Then they fall into different categories according to water needs, from the very thirsty to the drought tolerant.  In irrigation terms, efficiency refers to how much of the water applied to the plants is finally used by them and uniformity refers to how evenly the water is applied to the plants.  This is the science we employ to keep your landscaping looking its best.

A knowledgeable landscape designer will divide your plantings and irrigation segments into watering zones (hydro-zones): oasis, transitional, and xeric. The oasis zone is for the thirstiest plants and will be placed closest to a water source. The xeric zone is for plants that need no supplemental water after being established. The transitional zone will contain plants that need occasional watering, or regular watering during a drought.

It is concepts such as the three watering zones that explain why an expertly designed, installed, and maintained lawn and landscape design will look better and thrive unequivocally through the dramatic seasons of Florida.  Your comprehensive site plan will include placement of water sources among the plantings, and you will be able to recognize the oasis, transitional, and xeric zones if you look closely.   Perhaps it is your preference to feature one of the three hydro-zones predominantly in your landscaping and we can do just that.  

A licensed landscaper, who is foremost an irrigation professional, knows the science behind a lush and waterwise landscape.  We make it our business to understand unique concepts such as field capacity, which refers to the maximum amount of water a soil may hold before draining to become runoff.  An irrigation controller is an automatic timing device that operates irrigation zones for a predetermined time and frequency.  Scheduling of irrigation is based on factors such as soil type, root zone depth, and weather conditions - it should be regularly calibrated and checked for proper functionality.

North Florida wavers between extreme drought conditions and record rainfalls.  Contact Serene Settings for a free estimate when you need assistance with your irrigation.  We are a full service landscape design, installation, and lawn care company for residential and commercial customers in St. Johns, Volusia, and Flagler Counties.




Arbor Day is the time to celebrate our trees


This year's National Arbor Day falls on Friday, April 29th.  Begun all the way back in 1872 as a designated day for everyone to plant a tree, Arbor Day is commemorated in special ways all over the United States.  The city of Palm Coast - where our full service North Florida landscape design and lawn maintenance company is headquartered - will have a day of celebration and activities at its Town Center on May 7th, including a tree giveaway and 5k race.

The Arbor Day Foundations suggests many different species of trees for our Agricultural Zone 9 climate including certain magnolias, crepe myrtles, dogwoods, cypress, maples, and oaks.  Some palm trees are also a favorite for our area, especially the Florida state tree, the native Sabal Palm. Serene Settings will advise you as to the best trees for your landscape design, and will provide professional and dependable maintenance of your lawn and plantings.

Without a doubt, perfectly beautiful and thriving trees make the supreme focal points for a landscape design.  Find out more about the benefits of trees in your landscaping and other information here:

Landscape Design: Planting Trees has a Host of Benefits

A Few More Important Facts About Trees in Landscape Design

Amazing Facts About the Live Oak Tree

The Official Flora of Florida

Hurricane Preparedness Includes Your Landscaping

Florida Holly is Not So Festive After All

Crape or Crepe? This Myrtle Tree is Florida Friendly

Serene Settings provides an array of services for your Palm Coast, Daytona, Ormond, and St. Augustine landscaping needs.  Find out more and contact us for a free estimate.

Florida Landscape Design in Agricultural Zone Nine


To say that Northeast Florida has a unique climate that creates landscaping challenges would be a bit of an understatement.  Our lovely little bit of USDA Zone 9 is quite possibly one of the most challenging and unusual climates in the world.  Just the fact that this area has wavered for decades back and forth between Zones 9a and 9b shows you that even the agricultural experts have a hard time keeping up with it.  But Serene Settings can design, install, and maintain your dream landscaping using our knowledge and experience.

You may think that dealing with the Florida heat is the challenge for landscaping in our area, but in actuality dealing with the occasional and erratic cold of our brief winter is the factor that can change an easygoing landscaping project into a complex plan of science, nature, and art.  A professional landscaper knows what you are dealing with, and even modifies your landscape design based on how close your property is to the ocean as well.  Learn more about beach landscaping considerations here.

In a nutshell the approach to landscaping in North Florida is a well thought out plantings that are tolerant to both the regular extreme heat of summer, but also the extreme cold as we experience freezes a few nights each year.  Delicate and tropical plants can be placed in protected spots and a comprehensive landscape design plan will be provided by Serene Settings before any work is done.  We live in a part of the country that is unlike any other, and part of it is our plants, trees, and flowers.

We are a company that works with our clients, whether they want a tropical paradise to complement their pool, a Florida-friendly low maintenance masterpiece, or a luxury garden with all the trimmings: outdoor lighting, water features, stone walls and paths, and so much more.  Do not be daunted by the customized needs of this area's climate, soil, and rainfall (which ranges from extreme droughts to overabundant floods) - contact Serene Settings: experts in Zone 9 landscape design, installation, and maintenance of lawns and landscaping.




A Few More Important Facts About Trees in Landscape Design


Trees are earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.
- Rabindranath Tagore

Our previous blog post profiling the benefits of trees in landscape design was so popular, we have added a few more interesting facts about trees in landscaping here:

The monetary value of a tree in a landscape design is based on factors such as hardiness, durability, adaptability, and attractiveness.

Japanese maples and dwarf conifers are considered among the most valuable, but all trees including these will also be appraised based on health and appearance.

Did you know that a mature oak tree is more valuable than a poplar because it is more difficult to replace?  This is true even though poplars grow more quickly.

A tree in your landscape design is an investment in your property's future market value - maintain it just as you will maintain the rest of your property's assets.

The most important trees in your landscaping will include the ones that form a focal point, frame the house, or stand in a hedgerow.  Select these with care, or consult a professional landscaper.

Keep a record of your trees and other valuable plantings for insurance reasons.  Take photos and save receipts and invoices regarding their purchase and care.

Did you just move into a home with established landscaping?  Do your research before you dig up or cut down any trees - they may be valuable to a landscaper or arboretum.

Aside from the energy savings that the addition of trees provides your property, trees also control erosion of the soil with their root systems underground.

One of our most popular blog posts of all time is all about Northeast Florida's stunning live oak trees; the article starring this huge and dramatically beautiful species of tree has over 2,500 views so far!

Contact Serene Settings of North Florida for all your landscaping, irrigation, paver, and lawn care needs in Palm Coast, St. Augustine, Daytona, and Ormond Beach.

Landscape Design: Planting Trees has a Host of Benefits


You could say that trees are by far the most important plants in a landscape design.  Aside from being an aesthetic element, trees add a host of benefits.  Consider that trees are not only beautiful but energy saving, while providing a home for wildlife.  Trees contribute to the health of humans and the earth itself, while increasing the monetary value of a property.  

Increased energy efficiency

The numbers proving energy efficiency improvement come in from all sources, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Center for Urban Forest Research, and the USDA Forest Service.  Consider this:

  • If trees are properly placed around buildings, this can reduce air conditioning needs by as much as 30 percent. 
  • Trees can also reduce the need for heating by as much as 50 percent.
  • The total cooling power of a young, healthy tree is the same as ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.  
  • If you plant a tree today on the west side of your home, in five years your energy bills will likely be 3% less. After 15 years, the savings will increase to about 12%. 

 The health benefits of trees

Planting trees in the landscape design contributes to better water quality and less runoff and erosion. You are basically improving everyone's ground water supply by including lovely trees in your landscaping plan. Areas with many tress prevent the transport of sediment and chemicals into streams.

Research has shown that visual exposure to settings with trees produces significant relief of stress within five minutes.  Simply gazing upon trees will positively decrease blood pressure and muscle tension.

Like all plants, trees absorb carbon dioxide and convert it to oxygen.  With their large size, trees are the best plants for cleaning our air. Two mature trees will create more oxygen on their own than one human being will consume.

Trees increase the value of property

Most realtors will assure you that mature trees have a strong impact on how sell-able a home will be, and this value perception is almost 100 percent for properties on the market for over $250,000. Pay attention the next time you see an especially luxurious home - it will most likely utilize many large trees in its landscape design.

Consequently, you can increase property values as much as 20 percent with trees (but to get this high of an increase, the trees must be healthy and well maintained). As a rule of thumb, a mature tree can often have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000 to add to the overall value of a property.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation: "Trees can be a stimulus to economic development, attracting new business and tourism. Commercial retail areas are more attractive to shoppers, apartments rent more quickly, tenants stay longer, and space in a wooded setting is more valuable to sell or rent."

Professionally landscaped yards with mature trees and bushes that provide privacy tend to fetch higher prices, sell quicker, and impress buyers before they walk into a house.  Investing in landscaping could be a better bet than putting in a new kitchen!

The benefits of hiring a professional landscaping specialist

Serene Settings of North Florida are not just a landscape designers, but experienced consultants and "fixers" as well.  This is because we have seen the undesirable long term effects of having planted the wrong tree in the wrong location.  We have seen overgrown branches covering windows or disturbing utility lines, or trees with roots that damage a driveway.

Keep in mind, studies have reported that homeowners get a 100 percent or more return on the money they put into landscaping if it is done correctly.  If you have a completely bare lot, it will take many years for your plants to mature, so begin your landscaping immediately. Contact Serene Settings for a free estimate.

We begin by viewing your entire site plan comprehensively before planting anything. Then we will provide a landscape design that visualizes the size and shape of all its elements once the trees and shrubs mature.  This ensures that your investment in professional landscaping gives you the full return, as opposed to negating the value of your property.



Welcome to December in Florida


If you think landscaping activities in Florida stop once our winter begins, you may want to reconsider.  Your professional landscapers in St. Augustine, Palm Coast, Daytona, and Ormond Beach will be attending to the seasonal needs of you lawn and landscape design to keep it lovely and thriving all year long.  Serene Settings of North Florida will be pruning, mulching, resetting irrigation, and so much more for its valued residential and commercial clients.

Most of our trees in this area are evergreen, meaning they do not lose their leaves.  This includes our particular species of towering live oak.  If you do have deciduous trees which lose their leaves, we can assist you with maintaining the well kept look of your home's exterior, which is everyone's first impression when visiting over the holiday season.  Outdoor decor can be very natural and beautiful in Florida as well: accessorize your Christmas lights with poinsettias, white mums, Norfolk pines, and other festive plants and blooms.

What's happening now and what do you need to know about our local greenery?  Here are some of the winter plants that we have highlighted in December articles of the past:

In northeast Florida as we celebrate the holidays we may enjoy the presence of "Florida Holly" trees in our yard producing red berries to enhance the season. Think again: these trees are actually a highly invasive species better known as the Brazilian-pepper tree...read more:
http://floridalandscapedesign.blogspot.com/2011/12/florida-holly-is-not-so-festive-after.html

Poinsettia plants are everywhere around the holidays but do you know the story behind this festive bloom that is synonymous with Christmas itself? With its bright red, pink, or white "flowers" (which are actually colored leaves called bracts), the poinsettia is the most popular potted plant in the United States...read more:
http://floridalandscapedesign.blogspot.com/2013/12/flower-of-holy-night-all-about.html

If you live in North Florida, you will notice that the plants called "Christmas Cactus" truly do bloom around Christmastime here, if left to their own devices. It is sign of the season in Palm Coast, Ormond Beach, or St. Augustine to see the plant...read more:
http://floridalandscapedesign.blogspot.com/2014/12/flower-of-december-christmas-cactus.html

Contact us at Serene Settings of North Florida and get a free estimate on our full service lawn and landscaping design, installation, and management plans.