Jinge “Jay” Hu’s passion for gardening goes far beyond his own meticulously maintained beds and exuberant container plantings. He enjoys talking about other gardens, including some from his past and others he recently discovered.
Hu visited many gardens on local walks and tours this summer and posted his praises on Facebook. He also recalls his grandparents’ grapevines, figs, persimmons and roses in their courtyard garden in China and how his grandfather, 95, still gardens. He describes how his father’s fondness for Jasmine sambac, Michelia alba, gardenia and other plants with fragrance nurtured his own interest in them. And he expresses the satisfaction of volunteering on the Village of Williamsville Beautification Committee and the Events Committee for Gardens Buffalo Niagara.
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“Gardening is about sharing and giving. I believe volunteering makes a person complete, and the garden is the best place to bring people together,” said Hu, whose garden was on the Tours of Open Gardens and Garden Walk Williamsville in July.
“His garden is spectacular,” said Deb Habes, chair of the village’s Beautification Committee, which organizes Williamsville’s annual garden walk.
“He is a wealth of information. We are so happy to have him as a volunteer and he has donated so many plants for our public gardens, such as a climbing hydrangea in our pocket park,” she said.
Visitors observe the tidiness of Hu’s garden. “It looks like he vacuums his grass,” said Jim Charlier, board member and marketing chair of Gardens Buffalo Niagara.
Since moving into his home in 2014, Hu has created many beds in front, along the sides and in the back.
Hu, who enjoys gardening in the early morning and refers to himself as the “head gardener,” calls his 7½-year-old daughter, Olivia, his “undergardener.” He said his wife, Nan, is “the weeding specialist” since she finds weeding very therapeutic.
“They are my great supporters,” said Hu, who runs a small business, which enables him to have flexibility in his schedule.
A friend named his garden Le Petit Matin, which translates to “the early morning.” Here are some highlights:
• A flower bed with a mix of annuals, perennials and shrubs that attract pollinators borders the driveway. Some but not all are native. Hyssop, rose of Sharon, coneflowers, rudbeckia, sedums, butterfly bush, weigela, zinnias and more are found here. He plans for a continual sequence of blooms; irises and daffodils bloom early.
• Hu fills his garden with many containers planted with begonias, geraniums, impatiens, creeping Jenny and more. The vibrant pink Petunia "Supertunia Vista Bubblegum" is particularly stunning.
• His mulch of choice is triple ground hardwood. He uses pine bark in traffic areas.
• Boxwoods are found throughout the garden. Hu said he adds to his collection by buying them on sale at the end of the season. He tends to some of them in a section of his backyard he calls the “boxwood hospital.”
Hydrangeas are another favorite, and his hostas came from friends who divided their own. In discussing his garden, he also points out the striking blue color of annual salvia and notes how much the tiny bees are drawn to the petunias. He describes how the self-seeding annual nicotiana (flowering tobacco) has an amazing fragrance after sunset, how Clematis "Sweet Summer Love” smells like vanilla and how Sweetbay magnolia, native to the eastern United States, has a wonderful lemon-like fragrance.
• Seeing how much his daughter – who said her nickname is “Creeping Jenny,” after the trailing plant – loves gardening, Hu said that he hopes his garden encourages other children to become interested in gardens and nature. During this summer’s Garden Walk Williamsville, Hu invited many kids in the community to visit the garden. He also treated them to lunch from the Kcafe food truck, which specializes in Korean-style burgers and fries and was parked at his home the first day of the walk.
Hu recently shared his gardening philosophy: “I always say every garden has to have a logic, especially the good gardens. Even though the gardeners may not realize it, they do have a certain kind of logic,” said Hu, who has a degree in engineering.
As for the logic behind his own garden: “I try to keep everything contained and in order. I want to have repetition of a certain pattern but I always look for an opportunity to break up the pattern naturally,” he said.
So rather than boxwood placed all in a row, for example, he breaks up that line.
“You want repetition but also variation,” he said.