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MOUNT PLEASANT — Rui “Ray” Weng, 40, grew up in a concrete high-rise in Beijing. Weng remembers taking pots down to the community playground and scooping up dirt to grow whatever he could on his small sun-soaked balcony towering high above.

At first, he grew common weeds. It didn’t matter if it was beautiful or not; he just loved seeing little shoots coming up from the soil, changing every day.

Nobody had yards for gardens, but that didn’t stop them from growing and exchanging with one another. Weng would get starters and seedlings from neighbors and soon one pot became dozens.

Weng moved to the United States in 2012 to obtain his master of business administration, with an emphasis in health management, at the University if Wisconsin-Parkside. This is when he started his own enormous garden at his home in Mount Pleasant.

“Once I got older and got my hands in the yard, then I feel like I got roots. After being a gardener for five years, I feel very connected to nature,” Weng said.

Weng says true gardeners never wear gloves; they endure dirty fingernails, peeling skin, mosquito bites and achy knees without a care: “You just move along.”

Weng’s face lights up as he speaks about his plants to visitors in the courtyard of his garden. Birds chirp through the trees, water trickles loudly from the stone three-tiered fountain and wind instruments hum calming tunes over speakers.

There’s reverence here. It’s evident in the meticulously tended flowers and the carefully placed yard art made of repurposed gems including a chandelier, a cowbell and a bird cage.

Garden tour preparations

His garden was one of seven selected for the Racine Garden Club’s Summer Magic Garden Tour, which is held biannually and benefits horticulture student scholarships at Gateway Technical College. More than 500 people toured Weng’s garden on Sunday.

Each day of the week leading up to the tour, Weng woke up at 5:30 a.m. and labored in his garden until 8:30 p.m. — that’s 15 hours per day of trimming, fertilizing and weeding. Normally, he spends 8 hours a day tending his garden. Now that the tour has passed, he says he will scale down to 2 or 3 hours daily.

“Plants are happy in their spots. You have to know the plants and their traits,” Weng said. “There’s a lot of science behind it.”

In his garden, Weng grows flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables: hundreds of different plants.

Weng also a doctor — he worked in China as a surgeon — he has his Ph.D, an MBA and is a licensed acupuncturist.

Weng runs Oriental Wellness Academy, a business aimed at bringing his homeland health regimens together to help people with issues such as aging, stress and obesity. He also practices acupuncture in Kenosha.

He says continuing to learn and be curious are driving forces in his life.

“Learning experiences for your life. You know this realm, and then the next realm and the next. Now you have appreciation for different aspects of the world,” Weng said.

Reconnecting with his youth in China

Weng says five years of tending to his garden has greatly improved his physical and mental health.

Looking back to his childhood balcony in China, it makes sense to Weng that he enjoys gardening so much. Back then, he never realized it would make him so happy.

Weng encourages everyone to look back at what they enjoyed doing as a child before the burden of money and social status influenced their decisions. That, he says, is where you’ll find what you truly enjoy.

“Plants are happy in their spots. You have to know the plants and their traits. There’s a lot of science behind it.” Rui “Ray” Weng, Mount Pleasant gardener

“Plants are happy in their spots. You have to know the plants and their traits. There’s a lot of science behind it.” Rui “Ray” Weng, Mount Pleasant gardener

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