Del Rey Oaks Gardens | ‘Theme’ park

Mitsugu Mori’s newest garden center plans an expansive park to showcase model gardens.

Mori plans to develop 6 acres of land on his property into a variety of display gardens.

Business was booming at Seaside Garden Center, which ranked 83rd on our 2015 list of Top 100 IGCs. The only problem was that with just one acre of space, the garden center was quickly running out of room.

“This place was booming and was not big enough to accommodate what our customers want, such as pots and bulk materials,” says owner Mitsugu Mori, who opened Seaside Garden Center in 2008. “So I was looking for expansion.”

Mori, who moved to the U.S. from Japan in 1978, got involved in the green industry in 1981 and became a landscape contractor in 1985. Since then, he has built a network of what he calls “vertically integrated businesses, because they all help each other out.” He also owns Green Valley Landscape in Seaside, as well as Lakeside Nursery in Salinas and San Martin, which produce plants to supply his other businesses.

Left photo: Mitsugu Mori, third from the left, says his hobbies include triathlons and martial arts.

His newest venture, Del Ray Oaks Gardens, opened in July 2015 on the site of a former driving range a few miles from Seaside. The selection at this location features a wider variety of bulk materials and more specialized retail-oriented plants like topiaries and specimen trees.

The garden center sits on 2.5 acres of retail space, with an additional 6 acres behind it that Mori plans to develop into park-like model gardens.

“This is a very ambitious project, which will probably take several years to finish – and probably never end, with improvements,” he says. “It will be something exciting that you won’t find anywhere in this country.”

Ultimately, Mori’s plan is to design a park with different gardening themes and styles in each section — encompassing an English garden, a California native garden, a tropical garden and, of course, his specialty, a Japanese garden.

The garden park may not be a profit center — other than encouraging people to buy from Mori’s businesses — but that’s not its sole purpose. Besides, Mori says, Seaside Garden Center (which grossed $1.75 million in 2015) can help support Del Ray Oaks until it gets established — freeing him to focus on his grand garden vision.

“I want everyone in the city able to enjoy the use of the land,” Mori says. “I want to give back to the society of what we received from the people here in town. Putting aside profit, we will give our town a place people can enjoy and appreciate. You have never seen anything like it in America.”

May 2016
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