GROVE, OKLAHOMA -- The volunteers descended early on a Saturday mulching flower beds, weeding, raking, sprucing up Lendonwood Botanical Gardens as the first Azaleas were already opening up.
"It's looking good right now says Leonard Miller."
Of all the people donating time to this 8 acre plot, has put in the most hours by far.
He remembers the brush and thorns that choked these paths in the early '70's.
It took him five years to clear it.
"I've always been a guy who liked to grow plants," remarks Miller, "and I've always liked a challenge."
Of course this wasn't Lendonwood Gardens back then.
It was just Miller's back yard.
But he was a dentist with a keen interest in horticulture so he kept sinking his teeth into more garden space.
The largest collection of rhododendrons in the Southwest is here, 250 varieties.
There are 75 varieties of Japanese Maples amidst 7 distinct gardens.
Then 20 years ago Dr. Miller did something remarkable.
After all that work he gave his gardens, the house, and his 8 beautiful acres to a non-profit group who opened it all to the public.
"We get visitors from the 4-state region especially," says Jim Corbridge who is a member of the Gardens board of directors. "but also all over the country and all over the world for that matter."
The board took over the property, even his old conservatory, to keep everything green and blooming.
Of his old gardens, Miller says, "It is a reminder of our past, and of the accomplishments that we've had."
The Azaleas came on early this Spring.
So did their cousins the rhododendrons.
The first Dogwood blossoms are out too.
Miller predicts his old garden will be at its peak before mid-April.
He doesn't sleep here anymore but the gardens he planted are still doing really well in their own beds, and thanks to him, you can see for yourself.
The Lendonwood Botanical Gardens are open every day during daylight hours.
For directions and tour information go to www.Lendonwood.com