Days of Roses & Roses

Bountiful Bouquet Awaits at Fillmore Nursery Event

By Karen Lindell 
Friday, April 25, 2007

Those delicate satin petals hide their stalwart nature.

Roses are tough.

While orange trees trembled during the January freeze, roses didn't succumb to the shivers.

"Roses don't mind the cold," said Scott Klittich, owner of Otto & Sons Nursery in Fillmore (and one of Otto's four sons). "The temperature has to get into the low teens for anything to happen," he said.

Fresh orange juice might be scarce this year, but fresh bouquets of roses will be in abundance.

The rose pickings are especially bountiful at Otto & Sons, which specializes in roses and will hold its annual Rose Days event Saturday and Sunday.

Seventeen of the nursery's 22 acres are devoted to roses about 110,000 rosebushes in all, representing more than 900 varieties. The nursery, which sells most of its stock wholesale to retail garden centers, is open to the public Thursdays through Saturdays.

During Rose Days, the roses are 15 percent to 20 percent off the regular price. Klittich also sets up a tent with free workshops and Q-and-A sessions about all the new roses for 2007, and all the old tricks for keeping your beauties fed and free from mildew and other ailments.

Although spring-blooming rosebushes are more expensive than bare-root roses available in winter, buying now has its advantages. "You get a larger plant with a larger root system, and you can see what you're buying," said Klittich, who has a degree in horticulture from California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo.

The statement might sound obvious, but beholding a rose in real life is different from ogling it in a glossy magazine or book.

Kathy Mottram of Leona Valley, for example, visiting Otto & Sons on a recent Saturday, was eager to find a Westerland rose.

Once she saw the blooms, however, Mottram decided she didn't like their salmon-y color. She and her husband, Scott, are planning a wedding for their daughter in their yard, and ended up buying yellow rosebushes: Julia Child and Teasing Georgia.

Rose lover Mottram was having a field day on her first trip to Otto & Sons. When asked how many roses she had in her yard, Mottram said "too many." Her husband chimed in, "I'll have to do an audit of my wallet."

The No. 1 seller at Otto & Sons, Klittich said, is the Iceberg rose, a low-maintenance variety that continuously churns out white blooms. The Iceberg color spectrum is expanding: Pink Iceberg roses, introduced three years ago, are also available, and new this year are purple Burgundy Iceberg roses.

Every year about 35 to 40 new roses are released, Klittich said.

He pointed out several of the newbies: the Impostor, a pink rose that looks like a clematis; Night Owl, a purple climber ("You don't find many purple climbers," Klittich said); and Topsy Turvy, with clusters of red, garish flowers he described as "like a circus" and "not for the pastel crowd."

The award-winning All-America Rose Selections for 2007 will be available: Moondance, a creamy white floribunda; Rainbow Knock Out, a coral pink shrub rose; and Strike it Rick, a floribunda with a spicy fragrance and gold, orange and red flowers.

Also new to Otto & Sons are some rare finds from the renowned Arena Roses, which went out of business last May. Otto & Sons bought up the nursery's stock, Klittich said, including a few unusual varieties like Nicole, Butterscotch and Buff Beauty.

The roses at Otto & Sons are loosely organized by type: antique, floribunda, grandiflora, hybrid tea, climbing, English garden, miniature and more. The individual varieties aren't in any particular order, however, so if you're looking for a specific rose, ask one of the friendly employees where to find it.

There are worse fates than wandering along rows and rows of roses looking for a particular plant, but a staff person who knows where to go will keep you from loading up your cart with an extraneous Betty White rose when you really wanted a Barbara Bush.

For the alphabetically inclined, there's a retail area up front that's a little easier to navigate, although you won't have as many of each variety to choose from.

The alphabetizing leads to some serendipitous and/or odd pairings of roses next to each other, like Rosie O'Donnell and Ronald Reagan, and Our Lady of Guadalupe and Outrageous.

And how's this for a side-by-side trio? Passionate Kisses, Peace and Perfect Moment.

If you go

  • What: Rose Days at Otto & Sons Nursery.
  • When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
  • Where: 1835 E. Guiberson Road, Fillmore. From Highway 101 or 126, take Highway 23 to Guiberson (a rural road) and go 4 miles to the nursery (look for the Otto & Sons sign on the left).
  • Workshops: On Saturday. Otto & Sons owner Scott Klittich presents "Growing the Very Best Roses That You Can," 11 a.m.; Jackson & Perkins introduces its new roses, noon; and Rincon Vitova Insectaries discusses "Good Bugs and Bad Bugs," 3 p.m. On Sunday: Weeks Roses introduces its new roses, noon; GroPower Fertilizer Company discusses feeding, 2 p.m.; and Klittich will answer questions, 3 p.m.
  • Regular hours: Nursery is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.
  • Information: 524-2123.

'Pick Me' 'Pick me!'

Scott Klittich of Otto & Sons Nursery offers the following picking tips for rose-buying novices:

  1. Find the hue for you: Pastel pink? Scarlet red? When deciding which rose you want, go for color first, followed by fragrance and climate. "It's such an individual decision," Klittich said. Otto & Sons offers rose varieties that grow well in Southern California's various climates coastal, mountain, desert, inland.
  2. Use a cheat sheet: Otto & Sons, during Rose Days and on its Web site,, offers extensive lists of roses with information about color, fragrance, disease tolerance, lighting requirements and more.
  3. Balance is best: Look for a plant with three or more canes and balanced growth and foliage.
  4. Don't nip the buds: Purchasing a bush that's in showy full flower might be tempting. But for longevity, Klittich suggested selecting a plant with one or a few flowers in bloom, and the rest as buds. Buy the full bloomers if you need instant springtime for a wedding, party or other event.
  5. Container yourself: For yardless gardeners, pots are an option. "Almost all roses do well in pots; they just require more maintenance and watering," Klittich said.

© 2007 Ventura County Star