Rich Santoro, aka "The Bulb Guy", planted close to two thousand bulbs in a Milpitas hillside as part of his plan to turn bulb gardening into a fad. The warm weather may have killed almost every one of the flowers, but not his dream.
Rich Santoro, an avid gardener, had a dream to plant thousands of flower bulbs on a hillside, which would bloom in spring and reveal a secret message for all the world to see in glorious color.
Then the drought got in the way.
But the 62-year-old green thumb from San Jose will not be deterred. There's always hope for a wet winter next year.
"I'm going to do it again," he vowed. "I'm going to make it happen. I'm pretty tenacious, ask my wife."
After spending much of the late fall and early winter planting close to 2,000 bulbs on a hillside in Milpitas, Santoro returned in late December to find that an extraordinary spell of hot weather had cooked most of them where they sat.
"I dug up one, it fell apart in my hands," Santoro recalls. "I knew if one was like that, they were all like that. So I just got in my car and went home."
At this point it should probably be noted that Santoro is no novice when it comes to gardening.
For the past decade Santoro has been planting upwards of 10,000 bulbs in his San Jose back yard. When the blooms hit their peak in spring, Santoro opens up his garden to the general public. The display has earned Santoro a bit of fame and the moniker "The Bulb Guy."
This year, however, Santoro wanted to expand beyond his back yard and share his love of gardening with many, many more people.
He talked the owner of Milpitas horse farm into allowing him to plant thousands of bulbs over a few hundred square feet of hillside overlooking the intersection of Evans Road and Calaveras Boulevard, a spot thousands of driver pass each day.
"This was supposed to take four days to do," Santoro said of building the planter boxes and planting the bulbs. "It took 23 days."
Once the flowers bloomed, their pattern was supposed to spell out a message Santoro said he wanted to share with the world.
But of the thousands Santoro planted, only two green shoots could be seen poking through the soil this spring.
With the bulbs all-but-gone, Santoro and the landowner have been busy planting wildflowers on the site, so passers-by will get to see at least a little something. Still, Santoro says he's not depressed that all his work was in vain. And people will hopefully see his revealed message next year when he tries again.
"I have a mission," Santoro said. "My mission is to make bulb gardening sort of a fad."