For the past 4 years, on a Milpitas hillside, nature has been teaching Rich Santoro a familiar lesson: if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
What Santoro didn't realize until recently, though, is that the lesson wasn't ultimately meant for him at all.
"This didn't turn out at all how I expected," Santoro said.
We first introduced you to Santoro 5 years ago sharing the story of how, for the past three decades, he had been planting upwards of 10,000 tulip bulbs in his San Jose backyard then inviting the public in for a free peek at the spectacular results the following spring.
It's how Santoro earned the nickname, "The Bulb Guy."
We then followed Santoro's story as he tried to bring the same gardening magic to a bigger audience: planting thousands of bulbs on the Milpitas hillside which, when in bloom, would spell out a secret message to passers-by. But they never did.
One year it was too hot. Too wet, another.
This year looked promising, though.
The shoots of 6,700 flowers began to appear from the ground in early spring. Which is when the ground squirrels noticed them.
"They ate the bulbs right off the bottom," Santoro lamented. "Breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the Bulb Guy."
From where Santoro stood it was yet another disaster.
But from someone else's vantage point, it was something else altogether.
From a home across the street from the hillside, Tapasi Roychoudhury had been watching Santoro's effort since the beginning.
"He was out there by himself," Roychoudhury said, "watering the flowers, pulling weeds." She would also see how, year after year of failure, Santoro would return.
"I thought he would change his mind and he'll leave this hill and he'll go away, Roychoudhury said, "but he did not."
Roychoudhury says Santoro's determination inspired her to keep going when she suffered some setbacks in her life. She also thought there were others who could learn from his example: her students.
Roychoudhury is a teacher at Stratford School Santa Clara Pomeroy .
She designed a lesson plan based on the Bulb Guy's never-give-up story for her students. So now, in between learning about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, there is a little Rich Santoro thrown in.
"When she told me what she was doing it hit me on the way the home. The emotion welled up and I realized I was having an effect," Santor said.
Santoro says it will be a while before he wraps his mind around this latest twist in his story. What he's learned already, though, is the difference between success and failure is sometimes all about from which angle you look at it.