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They also are fiercely proud of their gardens. Bright yellow forsythias and daffodils to kick off the early spring season, purple and red azaleas and blooming pink magnolias mid-spring, followed by bursts of purple lilacs and alliums and filling the summer season with hardy coneflowers, hydrangeas and black-eyed Susans.
Asian-style gardens started gaining in popularity in the Rochester region about 16 years ago, when Ock Hee Hale opened her Ock Hee’s Gallery Bloomfield Gardens, now in Honeoye Falls.
Gardeners, like home decorators, have different tastes, Hale says, noting that “people who like Asian gardens are people who are looking for peace and serenity.”
There are gardeners who blend different styles of gardening, perhaps incorporating a little Asian corner in their overall design, Hale says.
Less is more when it comes to Asian-style gardens, but the basics of gardening still apply. The three key ingredients to a healthy garden are “good soil, mulch and water,” John Curtis says. If you have the three components, gardening is much easier, he says.
The Curtises’ love of gardening grew with their landscape. John Curtis’ father, Jack, gardened as a hobby at their Henrietta home and sold seed stock as a side job. Cathy Curtis had no background in gardening.
Yet once they made the commitment to their Asian garden, building it also resulted in a joy that grew through the years. The couple, primarily John, did all of the work themselves, even excavating the yard to add water features.
“I was young and crazy back then,” jokes John Curtis, 60.
Now, daughter Emily is 25 and son Jack is 23, and the landscape is mature.
Walk into the garden and you’re greeted by Chinese plaques that read “harmony” and “happiness.” The soothing sound of the waterfall relaxes the couple after a long day. A subcontractor during the day, John works on his garden after his day job is done, making sure no detail is overlooked.
Described as a “Renaissance man” by family and friends, he is handy with a shovel and a trowel, able to work on large-scale projects while keeping the small details in mind. He says he enjoys working with his hands — and that the art he is able to create is right in his own backyard.