Huei’s Garden Proves a Perennial Attraction

The canopy to the rear of Huei Young's Streng home undulates, typifying the verve and joy found in her garden. Photo by Linda Ziskind

A modern home in North Davis has gained renown as a peaceful, meditative – yet somehow rollicking – place, thanks to good press, regular TV coverage, and the personality of its owner, who opens its garden to the public to benefit good causes.

Huei’s Garden, on Luz Place, in a North Davis neighborhood that blends modern homes built in the 1970s by the Streng Brothers with more traditional homes, is open for several tours this spring and early summer.

“I did everything here in Davis to make my dream come true,” says Huei Young (her first named is pronounced Way), who owns the home with her husband Frank.

(Tours benefit the cerebral palsy program at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Northern California. In the past, tours of the garden have benefited other charities as well. Participants are asked to pay $25. Many contribute more. For more information, contact Huei Young, Tours include a snack of finger foods and beverages.)

Visitors stop and smell the flowers. Photo by Linda Ziskind

Huei, who does all the gardening herself, has turned her back, side, and front yards into Asian paradises. More than that, she has expanded her garden – with city permission and cooperation – onto a portion of the public greenbelt that passes her house.

“When you come back here you’re in another world,” says Huei’s friend, Linda Ziskin, while standing in the backyard. “It’s amazing. Nobody else has done this around here.”

“My garden isn't too big, but I have made it and the adjoining city greenbelt area an oasis in the middle of a regular neighborhood,” Huei says. “It has taken me 30 years, and each day hundreds of walkers, joggers, and bicyclists pass by and often thank me for the pleasant scenery I have provided. Life is wonderful when you can provide something pretty for people to enjoy, and benefit a very worthy cause as well.”

Huei Young works in her garden every day for hours at a time. Photo by Linda Ziskind

Peaceful and Zen-like the garden may be, but sparse it is not. Every inch is filled with something – flowering shrubs, Japanese maples, tiny pagodas, statues of Buddha, sculptures of frogs and turtles. A careless visitor could slip from a bridge into a pool.

And making the garden seem even bigger are the mirrors artfully arranged throughout. “That mirror,” Ziskind observes, of one full-height mirror placed at the edge of the house, “makes it look like you’re looking into another garden there.”

“Experts in feng shui come to this house. They say, ‘Oh, it’s a good feng shui garden.’ It’s real,” Huei says. “I have fire, water, earth and rock, height, and lows, and depth. Even without plants, the structure of the garden looks really good.”

Huei says her garden has healthful properties. It has helped her husband, Frank Young, who suffered a serious injury in a fall in 1997. Despite the disabling injury, he remained active in community affairs, working with Huei to feed poor people at Davis Community Meals.

A bridge crosses a water feature in the garden which, though small, is bountiful. Photo by Linda Ziskind

Frank Young was honored with a certificate of recognition from the State Assembly in tribute to his “selfless and unwavering dedication to the community of Davis.”

Friends – and Huei has many, whom she calls “my family,” or “angels” – have helped her on her garden. Don Rudisill, a friend for some 40 years, helped Huei put in her waterfall 20 years ago and has constructed the box-like screen that decorates the gable end of her backyard roof.

He gathered at her home recently, along with other friends, for a lunch Huei prepared. Another guest was Cody Stark, the popular television newscaster, whose show, ‘Good Day Sacramento,’ has done much to draw attention to Huei’s garden.

Stark says he and Huei became “instant friends” on their first meeting, when he was interviewing her for the show.

When the garden is fully in bloom the beauty is at its best. Photo by Linda Ziskind

Huei explains the impact her garden has on visitors:

“They feel the peacefulness. They see the structure of the garden, and they feel very peaceful. They see the mirrors in the garden, reflecting the chi. They enjoy the structure, the wood, the metal, the rocks. There are places they can sit down.”

“Some people stay for an hour and they just don’t want to take off. It’s the tranquility.”

“And they learn how people can do a small garden. It’s just unbelievable. How come I can do it and they can’t do it? And I do it without any help, I do it myself. This is just a small tract home. When they go back to their homes, they’re going to work in the yard.”


Statues of the Buddha add a meditative note. Photo by Linda Ziskind

“It’s all about feng shui. I’m adding white and blue flowers in the southwest corner, for feng shui. The garden will have more flow. You need the right color for feng shui reasons. You have to add a color, even if you would never dream of using that color, because of feng shui.”

“I don’t measure,” she says of her design technique. “I use my vision.”

“They love the flow, the feeling, and the spirit,” Huei says of the garden’s visitors. “Some people say they come to see me because I’m a character,” she adds. “I’m joking.”

The lines and structure of the Streng home can be read from the street. But the rest is all Huei. Photo by Dave Weinstein.

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