“We were about two weeks behind this season because of the weather, and so we’ve got only about half the field in bloom right now,” said Dittmore, owner of the Payne Avenue property. “Last year this time I was pulling out the sprinklers, but not this season.”
Now through May, the Brentwood Iris Garden will be open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Groups as well as individuals are welcome to visit the garden for free, and this year – just in time for Mother’s Day – Dittmore is offering cut irises for $1 a stalk. Guests to the iris garden can buy a bouquet, shop for bulbs or simply come out and enjoy the continuous carpet of color.
“Our blooms are amazing this year because the plants are so much bigger than last year,” said Dittmore. “We have been enjoying a great turnout from the public, which has been really fun. It’s nice to have return visitors, but it’s always nice to see new faces too.”
And while Dittmore’s garden is filled with more than 20,000 bulbs and 650 varieties, less ambitious gardeners can still create their own slice of horticultural heaven on a slightly smaller scale.
“Irises are relatively low maintenance and do well in a sunny spot in your yard,” said Dittmore. “They don’t require a lot of water and they get bigger and bigger every year. They’re very easy to grow.”
But the old adage about never putting a $10 plant in a $2 hole is true, said Dittmore, who added that the right combination of fertilizer is as important as anything when it comes to growing bright, beautiful blooms. When shopping for fertilizer, be sure to check the numbers on the outside of the box or bag. There are typically three numbers that represent three individual purposes – color, roots and overall condition.
“The three numbers mean up (growing the color), down (establishing the roots) and all-around (the general health of the plant), and typically the higher the number the better,” said Dittmore, who uses a triple-15 special blend on his irises.
Whether potted or in the ground, iris bulbs should be planted in August to yield top results by April. Dittmore suggests fertilizing the bulbs one week after planting, and watering fairly heavily once a week for the first month. After that, watering every two weeks should suffice. First-time as well as veteran gardeners can hop online to research the varieties of iris, get an idea of what they’re looking for and purchase bulbs as well.
“We have a large selection online, but I always encourage people to come down and see the flower in person,” said Dittmore. “You can’t get the experience of what it’s really like without seeing its true size and shape and sticking your nose in a bloom and breathing in its scent. Some smell sweet and some not so sweet; the only way to know is to experience it first hand. Plus, coming out to the garden is a great way to meet your neighbors and enjoy some time outside. It’s hard to beat that.”
The Brentwood Iris Garden, located at 195 Payne Ave., is open now until the blooms are gone. For additional information, upcoming events or to order online, visit www.brentwoodirisgarden.com or call 925-595-3838.