By Maria Medina

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — The San Jose man affectionately known as “The Bulb Guy” has opened up his yard to the public after the pandemic forced him to close his garden gates last year.

But Richard Santoro is coming back with a “bloom” after he thought he may not ever make it back to his garden.

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In late December, Santoro and two of his wife’s siblings were infected with COVID-19. They didn’t survive, and Santoro spent nine days in the hospital before recovering and being released.

“Oh yeah, I was they call it one oxygen point, I guess, away from getting intubated,” Santoro said. “But I’ve lived a pretty full life so I was, how do I say this, I was ready.”

Santoro’s late sister-in-law, Carmen Felisilda, was the one who introduced him to planting bulbs nearly four decades ago.

Richard Santoro aka "The Bulb Guy" at his garden in San Jose. (CBS)

Richard Santoro aka “The Bulb Guy” at his garden in San Jose. (CBS)

He dedicated a part of his garden this year to Felisilda.

“My thanks to her is keep doing this because there’s a huge piece of Carmen back here, I mean really big, I can’t say it enough,” said Santoro.

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The labor of love began 35 years ago when Santoro started with 50 bulbs. He opened up his backyard to the public 13 years ago. This year, Santoro said he hand planted 28,300 bulbs.

But the flowers are more than just his passion.

Santoro and his wife run the garden to honor to their son, Richard “Boom” Jr., who passed away from cancer in 1982.

Several years ago, they began collecting donations from the nine-day event. The couple then hands over all proceeds to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Boom’s memory.

“Our son passed away from Neuroblastoma,” he said. “Having been parents who’ve gone through this, the last thing you want to worry about is money. I mean that’s the last thing you want to worry about.”

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“The Bulb Guy” will open his garden every day until Saturday, April 3, from noon to 5 p.m. at 850 Gateview Court in San Jose.