Missouri Botanical Garden

Horticulture Staff Spotlight



Ben Chu

Ben Chu -   Horticulture Supervisor
28 years at Missouri Botanical Garden

After completing his education in Horticulture at St. Louis Community College at Meramec, Ben Chu gained experience at a tree service company from 1978 to 1982. Duties there included pruning, removing large trees, and installing landscapes. In 1982 he joined the Missouri Botanical Garden staff, where he worked in landscape construction doing site preparation and planting large trees and shrubs for the Ridgway Building plantings, the Rhododendron Garden, and Swift Vista near the Linnean House.

In 1985 he became the supervisor of Seiwa-en, the Japanese Garden and worked with its designer, the late Koichi Kawana. He currently supervises a staff of nine full-time horticulturists, including three staff members in the Japanese Garden, and six additional staff members in other parts of the Garden. Ben encourages his staff to design and implement their own designs and helps to evaluate the results. He wants their jobs to include learning opportunities.

Ben is the official "snow king" here at Missouri Botanical Garden. He watches the forecast and decides whether all or some of the outdoor staff need to report at 5:00 a.m. the next day to remove snow from the parking lot and paths of the Garden. This applies to weekends as well. He has the unenviable task of calling outdoor horticulture staff members the night before to let them know they are on snow duty. He then manages the sometimes day-long task of snow removal in the Garden.

In September of 1998 Ben traveled to Kyoto, Japan to attend an intensive two-week seminar covering the history, development and appreciation of Japanese Gardens. He called it "one of the outstanding experiences of my career."

Ben has taught adult education classes at the Garden on "Pruning Basics" and "Pruning in the Japanese Style." Recently, he added a class in "Japanese Garden Design." He has consulted, designed and built private Japanese gardens in the St. Louis area and consulted in South Dakota, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, and Illinois.

Ben appreciates the opportunity to work with diverse collections of plants and great professional people. He is admired for his tree knowledge and his calm, cool, and collected outlook.