But what, thought Dittmore, about autumn? Why not display blooming colors all year round?
“That’s when I thought of chrysanthemums,” said Dittmore. “What other flower says ‘fall’ better than mums?”
This weekend, locals can answer that question themselves when Dittmore opens the gates of his family’s Payne Avenue home to the public for a first peek at their chrysanthemum gardens.
Sixty varieties of mums, with names like Indian Summer, Yellow Sarah and Spicy Cheryl, line the planter boxes on an expanse of the Dittmore’s 10-acre property; each a different size, shape and brilliant color.
“They are beautiful, and they’re hard to kill,” said Dittmore. “You can’t over-water them; They’re very resilient.”
And they’re also hand-grown. Unlike some producers who plant their seedlings in greenhouses until they’re mature enough to be sold, Dittmore’s mums are nurtured in the open; surrounded by the same soils and elements their owners will most likely grow them in themselves.
“That’s really important,” said Dittmore. “Because if you take a greenhouse plant and stick it in the ground, it’s going to go into shock and it’s not going to do well. These (Dittmore’s mums) are grown in the same climate as we have out here in East County.”
When looking for a hearty, resilient fall plant that grows well in Brentwood soil, Dittmore knew that the chrysanthemum was the perfect perennial. And despite his personal passion for the pincushions, in-curves and gnomes of the mum family, he admits that a funny thing happened on the way to the garden show.
“It became a business,” he said. “This all goes back to my dad’s original plan to have a place for people to come and look at beautiful flowers, and now, it’s become a business, which is great.”
Dittmore hopes that the public will think it’s great as well, and will be selling potted plants and starts (seedlings to be planted for next season), but no cut flowers this season.
The Chrysanthemum gardens will premiere Oct. 31 and will be open six days a week until the blooms are gone.
“Just in case they (the blooms) last a long time, we are closed on Thanksgiving,” laughed Dittmore.
The chrysanthemum gardens are located at 195 Payne Ave. and are open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 925-595-3838, or visit www.brentwoodirisgarden.com.