Pinecrest Azalea Gardens
Cape Girardeau County, Mo.
Bees aren’t the only travelers attracted to Pinecrest Azalea Gardens each spring. Thousands of visitors journey to the 52-acre tract — located just northwest of Jackson in Cape Girardeau County — to view Gene and Linda Penzel’s assortment of blooming daffodils, jonquils, azaleas and rhododendrons.
Gene’s parents, Carl and Mettie Penzel, began the garden in 1963, planting 6,000 pine trees to increase the soil’s acidity for azaleas and rhododendrons, which Carl enjoyed tending. Over the years, the garden has grown, and today it features driving and walking paths, two ponds and a picnic area.
The gardens are a local favorite as a backdrop for engagement, wedding and high school prom pictures.
Typically, daffodils and jonquils bloom in late March and early April, followed by azaleas in mid to late April and rhododendrons in early May. Though weather can play a factor, the last weekend in April, which this year is April 24-26, is typically the prime viewing weekend.
In 2007, the Penzels, members of Black River Electric Cooperative, received the Missouri Division of Tourism’s Spotlight Award, recognizing the couple’s contributions to “spotlighting” Missouri as a tourism destination.
Admission to the garden is free. It is open during daylight hours from March through May. Be sure to bring your camera. No plants are for sale, and the Penzels ask visitors to refrain from picking flowers.
To reach the gardens from Jackson, take Highway 72 west to Route B; turn right. Continue on Route B to County Road 472; turn left. Go one-half mile to Torre Lane; turn left to enter the gardens. For more information, call Gene and Linda at 573-979-1112, or go to www.pinecrestazaleagardens.com for updates on what’s currently blooming.