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Abundant azaleas jazz up North Augusta home

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NORTH AUGUSTA — Pink has a prominent place in hundreds of yards around Aiken County this time of year, but one particular home in North Augusta tends to take the color to new heights. 

A few blocks from downtown, at Lake and West Woodlawn avenues, Shawn and Cecilia Risseeuw have azaleas in abundance from late March through early April, with thousands of pink blossoms gathered a few yards from a pink house.

"She's the green thumb," Shawn said, pointing to Cecilia, and she, in turn, credited previous owners with having planted the azaleas, possibly as far back as the early 1990s. "It was here when we moved in the house," she added. 

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North Augusta residents Shawn and Cecilia Risseeuw are awash in azalea blossoms this time of year, with bushes that date back about 30 years and were introduced once it became clear that the shade from oak trees would not allow for much success with a lawn. (Bill Bengtson/Staff)

The previous owners in question are David and Ashlyn Hardy, who moved from another home in North Augusta about three weeks ago and now live in Greenville. They lived in "the pink house" from the late 1980s until late 1997 or early 1998, Ashlyn recalled. 

She and her husband soon discovered that growing grass in their front yard, with heavy shade from massive oak trees, was a huge if not impossible chore. They put up a fence – dark green at the time and now white – and planted 150 azaleas.

"They just thrived there," Ashlyn said. "I guess it was a lot of mulch from those oak trees, and we put in a sprinkler system. They did well, and we were happy because we couldn't get an ounce of grass to grow in that yard." 

The house itself, she said, may date back to the early 1930s. "It's a beautiful little home. It's got a lot of character." 

Shawn noted, "When people want us to describe where we live, we say, 'Well, we live in the pink house in North Augusta,' and they're like, 'Oh, OK.' We love it here, and ... where we spend most of our time is here on the front porch, viewing the azaleas and talking with neighbors."

Pruning azaleas, Cecilia said, is an annual necessity about two weeks after the blooms fall. "I just found that out through my brother, because he owned a nursery ... The buds start forming, although you don't see them for another year, I think. Evidently, I did it right."

This is the Risseeuws' third spring in their North Augusta residence, and a Masters flag is now a part of the front porch's layout. Shawn is a mechanical engineer and program manager, formerly with John Deere and now seeking employment, and Cecilia is a mail carrier with a route in Evans, Georgia.

Shawn, a South Dakota native who also lived for years in Iowa and spent time as an apartment dweller in Augusta, said the current yard involved quite a welcome adjustment. He said the house was built in 1917.

"We found the house together," said Cecilia, who previously lived in an apartment in Sweetwater.

Pine trees and dogwoods are part of the package, and the azalea blossoms range from white to red, in a variety of sizes.

Cecilia, referring to the blossoms' timing, said, "We ... missed Easter last time, so we're like, 'Please, let them be here through Easter,' so we got it this year. The last time, they were gone before Easter." 

"They'll make it this year," Shawn said, adding that the Risseeuws are accustomed to having visitors stop by the yard, especially this time of year, to snap a few pictures of the azaleas in top form. 

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