Pinecrest Azalea Gardens in bloom

With Earth Day on Wednesday and spring now in full swing in Southeast Missouri, one local spot to take in the beauty of nature is Pinecrest Azalea Gardens in Cape Girardeau County. Lisa Schamburg, who operates the gardens with her husband, Jim, said the gardens were started in 1963 by Carl and Mettie Penzel. Later, Gene and Linda Penzel ran the gardens, and the Schamburgs took over upon Gene’s death in 2018. The gardens are open March 15 to May 15. Lisa said the peak time for the azaleas to be in bloom is around April 15. The gardens are open from sunrise to sunset and those visiting are asked to drive slowly. A donation box is at the site, but Lisa said the gardens — located at 799 Torre Lane in Oak Ridge — are free and open to the public.