ODESSA, Del. (AP) — In the early 1950s, Jerry Unruh planted his first azalea bush.
The World War II veteran built his Odessa home in 1951 and wanted to add some color to the property. He discovered azaleas while traveling.
“I had a well-drilling business, and I worked around the country,” he said. “I saw these bushes in different places and I liked them.”
By the time he and his wife, Helen, married in 1976, he had 85 azaleas.
“She fell in love with the few I had and wanted more,” he said.
Now their Corbit Street two-acre yard in Odessa has one of the largest collections of azaleas around — more than 1,700 shrubs. Each spring, it draws visitors from all over the country to view the vibrant blooming flowers.
They usually bloom in the last couple weeks of April and stay at their peak through the first couple weeks of May.
Tending to the garden has been a full-time job for the couple, who have been married for nearly 45 years. The upkeep often required daily watering, weeding and mulching. Some years they even had to shake spring snow from the branches of their plants.
The Unruhs bought their azaleas from all over the country, from as close as the now-closed Ronny’s Garden Market in Smyrna and as far away as Georgia. Jerry has even knocked on doors and offered to buy azaleas from private residents, returning with a backhoe.