Rose Days at Otto & Sons Nursery is Highly Successful

Otto & Sons Nursery observed its 5th annual Rose Days on April 19-20, lending credence to the idea that people are looking for fun things to do. Nearly 1,000 persons participated in this unique program this year, which involves wandering through the nursery to view roses in bloom.

The roses being located throughout the nursery makes looking for them a small challenge. Rose enthusiasts, however, are undaunted! It's easy to spend a few hours looking around. Each variety is identified by name, color, and classification.

The nursery mails advance notice to the area rose societies, whose members are quick to participate so they can view new rose varieties in bloom. Scott Klittich advertises the event to two weekly newspapers in Fillmore and Santa Paula, but considers the act more public relations than anything else.

The Ventura Country Rose Society sets up a table at the nursery and distributes literature on rose culture and membership information.

Lemonade and iced tea are served free as refreshments. Copies of the nursery's rose list are available to visitors.

For the first time, Rose Day featured two speakers; Sylvester Arena of Arena Roses in Wasco, and John Waldon of Bear Creek Gardens in Somis. The pair talked on rose culture and answered questions from Rose Day attendees.

The Fillmore location is excellent for roses, Scott says. On hot summer afternoons, usually around 3 o'clock, a coastal breeze comes in and cools things off. Fillmore is situated about 20 miles from the ocean in the Santa Clara River Valley. The nursery is located on the southernmost edge of land that parallels Highway 126 on Guiberson Road, which was named one of the most scenic back roads of California last year by Sunset Magazine.

Three greenhouses are used each year for holding frost-tender plants. They are equipped with heaters which, fortunately, haven't needed to be fired up for a couple of winters.

When it comes to canning-up roses, Mr. Klittich said the nursery uses redwood shavings, sand, and native soil in the planting mix that he, personally, prepares with a tractor. A slow-release fertilizer (20-9-9) is used in the potting mix. The fertilizer lasts about 3 months and then the plants are hand fed. The plants are hand-watered almost every day from spring through summer. There is occasional overhead watering of the roses by sprinklers, Mr. Klittich stated.

While Otto and Sons is primarily a wholesale grower operation, it is open to the public Thursday through Saturday. Retail sales represent little of the company's income, but Klittich feels it is important to be open to the public, if even on a restricted basis.

The nursery's small office is part sales room and the items necessary for good rose culture are on display. Otto & Sons also stocks Banding Planter Mix and other soil amendments for purchase by retail customers.

In the office hang several blue and red ribbons, won at the Santa Barbara County and Ventura County Fairs. Scott is a past president of the Channel Islands Chapter of the California Association of Nurserymen, whose territories encompasses both counties. Each year, 8 to 14 member firms install landscape displays at each of the fairs. Premiums awarded to the Channel Islands Chapter, according to Mr Klittich who is now chapter treasurer, will be spent on scholarships, research, and operational expenses. In 1996, some $11,000 was realized from the members efforts.

Scott's father, Otto Klittich, grew up in Germany, where he was a third generation nurseryman. He relocated to Illinois at age 18 and worked in a family greenhouse business. While working there he met Jeanne Fabian, who he would later marry. First, however, as a member of the U.S. Army, he would see active duty in the Korean War. After returning to Illinois he married Jeanne, and in 1954, started Landscape by Otto. In 1956, the couple moved to Southern California where Otto studied horticulture at Pierce College in the San Fernando Valley. Within a year, he resumed his landscape business, and for 22 years, was involved in landscaping throughout the Southland. In 1975, Otto & Sons Wholesale Nursery was established on 2 ½ acres in Chatsworth. It became evident that more room was needed and a 3-acre site in Sylmar was leased as a growing grounds. The Klittich family sold the Chatsworth land and started looking for other property.

A forty-acre site over the mountains in Fillmore was located, and that's where the nursery is now located. 25 acres of an orange orchard was left untouched, but 12 acres of land was converted into the nursery.

Otto Klittich has four sons, all of whom grew up in the green industry. Oldest brother, Bob, is employed by Green Thumb Nursery in Canoga Park, where he is the head grower. The other brothers have left the green industry to pursue other careers. Scott was the only son that was interested in continuing the nursery business in Fillmore. His parents live on the property, but Otto no longer has much involvement in the business.

Scott and Cindy Klittich have been married for 15 years and have three sons: Danny 9, Andy 6, and a 6-month old Timmy. Cindy works at the nursery occasionally. They live in Fillmore, 5 miles away.

When Scott is away, foreman Isauro Saines, who lives on the property, is in charge. Paula McMahan, a part-time bookkeeper, has worked for the company for over 8 years.

Scott is involved in the community, which was devastated by the 1994 Northridge earthquake. In a matter of a few years, downtown Fillmore has been restored to the look of the 1940s, with a new city hall. They want to retain that "Smalltown, U.S.A." atmosphere that captures the spirit of Fillmore. The city's population is 13,000 and the post-earthquake efforts have revitalized the populace.

Adjacent to the new city hall is a redevelopment area that features a railroad station, complete with diesel and steam-powered trains which run a few miles to the east and have the capability of hooking up with another line which owns the tracks to Ventura, some 20 miles to the west. When completed, the railroad ("Fillmore and Western") is expected to become a Southern California landmark. Currently, Mr Klittich reports, movies are being shot on the train location and TV commercials are being lined up to take advantage of the new opportunity.

Mr. Klittich serves on the Fillmore Parks & Recreation Commission. "It used to be more recreation than parks," Scott noted, while saying the other members of the commission are pleased to have a nurseryman on it. His community service, involvement in the Camarillo Peace Lutheran Church, along with all his contributions to CAN, at the state and chapter levels, won for Scott Klittich the honor of young Nurseryman of the Year in 1994.

He is very enthusiastic about being able to supply roses to retail nurseries. His experiences tell him that many nurseries struggle to produce average roses, causing the retail owners and managers to become discouraged when the plants sell slowly, or not at all. Mr. Klittich prides himself on delivering quality roses to his accounts. The plants have dark green foliage, and are in bud and bloom, which causes them to sell quickly. Scott says his goal is to "grow the best varieties of roses and the highest quality available," and to make sure his customers are successful.