Come spring, 50 acres of small hills near North San Diego is a riot of color! Ranunculus bloom in shades of pink, yellow, ruby red and more at the Carlsbad Flower Fields in California.
How could I resist a visit to see these colorful blooms? I LOVE finding flower fields whether it is lavender field closer to home near Dallas or sunflowers all the way in Provence! So after lunch at La Jolla and briefly stopping to look at the tandem gliders at Gliderport at the Torrey Pines during our weekend in San Diego, we stopped at The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch. The Tecolote ranunculus put on quite a show at this patch of hilly land along with roses gardens, orchids and other spring flowers. There are even a sweet pea maze and an American Flag thanks to strategically placed patches of pansies.
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Ranunculus at the Carlsbad Flower Fields
The Carlsbad flower fields are a direct result of over 85 years of floral cultivation that began when Luther Gage, an early settler, and grower, moved to the area in the early 1920’s. Mr. Gage introduced Ranunculus seeds and began growing them in his fields next to Frank Frazee’s small vegetable farm in South Oceanside in California. He passed on his love for these pretty but not yet popular flowers to his son Edwin. At the age of 16, Edwin Frazee quit high school to work full time on his father’s flower operation.
The ranunculus is native to Asia and a member of the buttercup family. It is also known as Persian Buttercup. Originally the flowers were single petal and in shades of red and yellow. The beautiful colors and fullness of the flowers you see at the Carlsbad Flower Fields now are due to the careful selection done by Edwin Frazee over the years. If Mother Nature provided a full flower or an unusual color, Mr. Frazee would save the seed and plant them the next year – the result is now thirteen beautiful colors including picotee, which are a mixture of variegated colors.
After losing everything to the Stock Market crash of 1929, the Frazee family and many other farmers of the time started buying land in the area to raise crops. They called it gentleman farming because they could plant right up to the sidewalks and not even get their feet dirty. They installed sidewalks, road signs, even piped in the water and planted the flowers in the Flowers Fields of Carlsbad.
Planting of ranunculus at the Carlsbad Flower Fields begins in the fall. The seeds are so lightweight silica sand is mixed with then when they are sown. Then a tractor covers them with mulch and compost. The seeds take about four to five weeks to germinate and about six months to bloom. After the flowers fade and plants die back, the bulbs are harvested by machine, air dried, sorted by size, and packaged for sale. If you have a green thumb, these Tecolote Giant ranunculus bulbs will make a great addition to your garden.
The flowers die back and produce seed for re-planting in these same fields for the next season. Allowing the plant to complete its life cycle helps Carlsbad Flower Fields produce a more superior bulb crop every year.
Machines harvest the bulbs, which are actually tuberous roots, corms or rhizomes. They sell these bulbs at the Armstrong Garden Center and are also available at other garden centers after the fields have closed for the season. The pretty ranunculus bulbs of the Carlsbad Flower Fields can be also be bought online at EasytoGrowBulbs.com.
There is more than ranunculus at the Carlsbad Flower Fields in California. There is an area just inside the entrance dedicated to cultivating orchids, delphiniums, geraniums, poppies, petunias, and more. The ranch uses approximately five acres for other specialty flowers. You can also find a sweet pea maze, a rose garden, and a small garden section where Master Gardeners of San Diego create displays using different flowers. The year we went there was a US Flag display using pansies.
We loved the dazzling display of colorful ranunculus and the rusty old tractor set into the fields that made for fun photos.
Best Time to visit the Carlsbad Flower Fields
The best time to view the flowers is usually mid-March through Mid-April. However, these dates may change if the bloom is either early or late due to weather conditions, check their website before visiting.
The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch is open daily 9 am to 6 pm from early March to early May. There are walking paths around the fields. Wagon rides are available at a small extra charge. You can take the wagon one way and walk back to take all the photos and walk back.
Fresh cut flowers are available for purchase along with potted plants, bulbs and a variety of other items in the Armstrong Garden Center Gift Shop. Tickets are $18 for adults and $9 for kids under 10.
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