By Gabrielle Stannus
Keen-eyed readers may recall that I wrote Hort Journal’s Interior Plantscaping article until recently and have a strong interest in design that integrates the indoors with the outdoors. So, when I heard that a former interior architect had just received one of the Australian Institute of Horticulture’s (AIH) top awards for students, I knew I had to find out more about her.
Jasmine Gunnoo is the recipient of the AIH’s Kim Morris Student Award of Merit 2022, an award given to a student that has displayed exceptional merit and determination in their studies in horticulture. Jasmine received this award after achieving excellent results in her studies, having recently completed a Certificate III in Horticulture at TAFE NSW. Jasmine received this award, having impressed her lecturers with her positive attitude, enthusiasm, and support of other students.
“To receive this award is so nice and so exciting,” says Jasmine of the Kim Morris Student Award of Merit, “It just feels really fulfilling to be doing the things that I always wanted to do and to be rewarded for it.”
Whilst still young, Jasmine’s interest in horticulture and design has been a long time in the making. “I remember a friend gifting me with an A3 drawing book in which I drew plans, but I would always draw the gardens as well,” she says. In Year 11, Jasmine considered biology and design as part of her Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) plan, initially settling for the former. However, upon leaving school she went on to study interior architecture at Swinburne University in Melbourne, a course which focuses on structural design, with an emphasis on adaptive reuse and the remodelling of existing buildings, as opposed to interior design in which students learn how to create ‘atmospheres’ using finishes, furniture, and colour palettes.
“I have always been drawn to the outdoors and throughout university, I was trying to find a way to connect the indoors with nature,” says Jasmine. Her chance came during her final year, when students were asked to create a design for 2050 as part of their honours project.
“I was looking into human transport in response to this challenge, and the research that I found suggested that by 2050, we would have driverless, ride-share cars. So, I thought that would probably make a lot of car parks redundant because there would be fewer private cars,” Jasmine explains. In her design response ‘Ompholos’, Jasmine transformed a hypothetical car park into a cultural hub containing various rooms for creative purposes, including workshops and dancing. Her aim was to demonstrate how easy it would be to regreen those parts of a city and so her final design included plants, both indoors and outdoors, and a green roof with an exhibition space.
Whilst still at university, Jasmine started a six-month placement with Hassell Studio, the large international multidisciplinary architecture, design, and urban planning practice design firm, where she was the youngest person in an office of 150 people. After completing her studies, Jasmine continued working as a graduate with Hassell. During that time, Jasmine worked on the interior architecture of the NAB Tower, a 40-storey office tower proposed for Docklands in Melbourne and currently in construction. “That was a pretty cool job. There were so many clever people working there, very creative people, people who were good at team leadership and coordinating different consultants. It was great exposure to have at a young age. However, I like the smaller scale projects, in which I can have a more intimate relationship with clients,” she says.
Jasmine then had what she calls “a big life change”, finding her way up to the Northern Rivers region in New South Wales, where she initially made do by picking up painting and other odd jobs. By chance her neighbour mentioned a job going with Patrick Regnault at Interactive Landscapes, a local landscape design, construction, and maintenance business. Jasmine’s attention quickly turned to the great outdoors, where she has flourished.
“Jasmine is very intelligent both intellectually and emotionally. She is curious, loves plants and the natural world, and is truly gifted in the design and the practical side of landscaping,” says Patrick, “Jasmine has been working with us for the last two years, and in that time I have been greatly impressed by her desire to learn about horticulture and landscaping. She has a real gift in design and bringing the outdoors and the indoors together.”
Having a background in interior architecture has taught Jasmine the basic principles of good design, which she says can be applied to essentially any situation, be it inside or outside. “It is all about starting with a strong site analysis to inform your design and then from there you can reflect and adapt. Design is an iterative process. It teaches you to be flexible, and not just be stubborn and set on one design. You need to return to your design and review it over time,” she explains.
Jasmine’s personal design ethos is more than purely human-centered and sits well with Patrick’s focus on conserving biodiversity in his landscapes. “I want to find a way to make design comfortable, luxurious, and practical for people with minimal impact on the landscape. The challenge is in supporting a lifestyle that is positive and does not just take from our environment, not just like here is a big grand house and then you need aircon and you need heating requiring intensive energy consumption,” she explains, “Sometimes it is as simple as capturing a view and orienting the house in the right way, and keeping or placing trees in a certain position to provide shade or removing some vegetation to let light in.”
Jasmine has relished Patrick’s plant selections, featuring native plants which can stand up to the local climate, and/or attract beneficial insects, whilst looking very good! One species recently caught her eye. “Orthosiphon aristatus (Cat’s Whiskers) has this crazy flower.It is white and dainty and very pretty. Its flower is whimsical and reminds me of fairies,” says Jasmine.
Jasmine is already working on her own projects, and no doubt will soon be in high demand. “I am in the early stages of developing my business, Studio Gunnoo. I am still refining my business plan to determine what exactly I want to do,” she explains, “However, I have met a few people who have heard about what I am doing, and they say, ‘Oh my God, you can do interiors and garden!’”
A supportive boss has been the defining element in Jasmine’s career to date. “Patrick really pushes you to educate yourself and go ahead and engage in education and industry events. He knows that I love design and believes that I have potential in it,” she says.
Jasmine also attributes her success to John Forlonge, her horticulture teacher at TAFE NSW, who has encouraged her to continue learning. Of John, Jasmine says, “I asked him what is his greatest passion in life? And he said, ‘Learning, we are always learning.’ And he loves teaching, as students will turn up with some bizarre question, to which he will say, ‘Oh, I learnt something new today!’.”
Jasmine has taken John’s advice on board and is set to be busy in the coming months, studying for a Diploma of Horticulture and potentially a Certificate III in Landscaping Construction as well, so she can take her business to the next level. She would also like to travel to Singapore sometime, to learn about how designers there integrate greenery into what she describes as “their big, crazy, beautiful buildings”.
Jasmine’s top tip for newcomers looking to enter the industry
The future indeed is bright for the hard-working Jasmine. However, her final words to me were not about herself, but words of encouragement to those newcomers looking to enter the industry.“Find an employer who is engaged with an industry body, like the Australian Institute of Horticulture or one of the landscaping associations. Those employers are reliable and have a bigger perspective on horticulture and its place in the world, rather than just being focused on their work,” she concludes.
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Main photo: Jasmine at work (Image: Patrick Regnault, Interactive Landscapes)