This time around we interview horticulturalist Janna Schreier. Janna left the corporate world to pursue her love of gardening and her life partner.
She is a recipient of Most Promising Garden Design Graduate award in 2011. She passed both RHS Cert 2 and the RHS cert 3 exams with commendation. Soon after, she flew to the UK to further improve on her craft and when she got back in Canberra, Australia to set up her garden design business, the projects started pouring in.
I clearly remember sitting in a meeting the first day back after a wonderful holiday with him and thinking ‘what is all this rubbish all about?’. I wanted to follow my passion, not the commercial aspirations of a bunch of shareholders.
1. Tell me a little about yourself and your gardening experience.
My mum always gardened but I didn’t get the bug until I bought a ‘garden flat’ in my mid twenties. Instantly, I was hooked. I did a basic course with the Royal Horticultural Society, then another and I’m still studying today; currently for a Master of Horticulture. There is a huge range of activities that horticulturists carry out; for me, I particularly love to use plants to create beautiful places.
2. Why did you pick being a horticulturalist/garden designer over the corporate world?
I was managing a team of 150 in the corporate world within a year of leaving university, then that grew to 400; I was ultra ambitious when I was younger. But then I fell in love with my future husband and my whole perspective of the world changed. I clearly remember sitting in a meeting the first day back after a wonderful holiday with him and thinking ‘what is all this rubbish all about?’. I wanted to follow my passion, not the commercial aspirations of a bunch of shareholders.
3. What is gardening to you?
Gardening is so much. It has challenged me intellectually more than any other activity in my life. It relaxes me and brings me joy. It provides a medium for me to give back to the world in my own small way.
4. How important is it to have a garden in your home?
I definitely need gardening space at home, for my well being and to trial new plants ahead of recommendations to clients, but I don’t need a huge space; that would actually stress me out as I’m always filling my life to the brim!
5. How did you first get into garden design and where do you get your design inspiration from?
After I completed my first horticulture course, it became clear that I had a particular interest in beauty and ways of combining of plants. I love to travel and visit at least one outstanding garden per week; writing it up on my blog ensures I capture the learning to the full. This keeps my inspiration very fresh.
6. What is your most memorable achievement as a gardener?
I’d struggle to pick one, but it’s the little things in life that are most memorable to me. My first home-grown strawberry as a child, a bottle of wine from a delighted client, my Daphne that I grew from a cutting. Different things feel like significant achievements at different times in your life, but it’s great to remember that special feeling you experienced at the time.
7. Do you have a signature design? What is the most common design request you receive from clients looking to create a paradise in their backyards?
I don’t have a signature design. I like to really listen to my clients and to the property and I find that a clear way forward always quickly appears. Design requests go in phases. At the moment everyone wants a deciduous Magnolia (because they are currently in flower) and pink and blue combinations seem to be making a comeback. But every project is so very different; it’s what keeps it all so interesting.
8. What type(s) of plants do you grow in your garden? If climate allows, what would you love to grow in your garden? Are you an experimental gardener?
I’ve gardened in five cities across three different continents and each time I move I just want to grow everything that has previously been unobtainable. This is absolutely the experimental phase. After about two years I’m done with that and want to have something beautiful that suits the location. Generally, I think plants that suit the local climate also look most fitting, so once I’ve had my ‘play’, I’m quite happy to stick with things that grow well and thrive.
9. What is your major challenge as a garden designer/ horticulturalist?
No question. Finding reliable, skilled landscapers at a price that clients are happy to pay.
10. If you could give some advice to people who want to start a garden or design their own garden, what would be your top tips? What are the biggest mistakes people should avoid?
Before you start, make sure you are clear about the broad concept or style that you are after. Formal contemporary or wild natives? Next, get your structure fixed. Pathways, trees, screening. Then fill in the rest, keeping your concept at the very front of you mind. And above all else, be BOLD! One of the biggest mistakes is to go too small, on pots, on path widths, on ornaments and on planting clumps. Scaling up turns your garden from amateur to professional. Oh, and don’t forget to have fun whilst you are at it; gardens are not supposed to be taken too seriously!