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The Carlsbad Flower Fields

The colorful Carlsbad Flower Fields are an annual rite of spring

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The Carlsbad Flower Fields

Ranunculus at Carlsbad Flower Fields

Carlsbad Flower Fields
WHAT: The Carlsbad Flower Fields
WHERE: 5704 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad CA
WHEN: March 1 through May 13, 2012. Open to the public seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The fields remain open one hour after admission gates close.
COST: $10 for adults; $9 for seniors 60 and older; $5 for children 3-10, and free for children 2 and younger.

Back when I was a kid, our family would take the occasional road trip to visit relatives in Long Beach and points north. And one thing I always remembered was around 40 minutes into our trip, right around Carlsbad, the hillsides would be awash in brilliant colors. The flower fields...for several miles. Yep, believe it or not, the coastal towns of Leucadia, Encinitas and Carlsbad had more flowers than people.

Driving up the coast today, it's hard to believe that where overpriced homes, strip malls, commercial buildings and auto dealerships now reside, this was primary an agricultural center. And this stretch of coastal property was ideal for growing flowers. Most of these fields are long gone, succumbing to the inevitable encroachment of cookie-cutter homes and SUVs. A few still remain -- if you don't blink while driving at 75 miles an hour, you can glimpse a handful of greenhouses still scattered on the hillsides. But for the most part, the color you'll mainly see nowadays is Southern California beige.

Which brings us to the Carlsbad Flower Fields. A survivor in the face of progress, the 50-acre Flower Fields are a bit of a throwback to a different era of the San Diego region. While most of the surrounding agricultural fields have long sold out to development, the Flower Fields continue to operate as a working flower farm. Owned by the Carltas Co. (a land-holding company owned by the Ecke Family of poinsettia fame), the fields will remain a flower or agriculture production in perpetuity per an agreement with the city of Carlsbad.

Ranunculus are the flowers that are produced at the Flower Fields, which were started by Edwin Frazee and his family. And March and April are the months when these Tecolote ranunculus, with its rose-like petals come into full bloom. Grown from a bulb, which were introduced to the area by English horticulturist John Gage nearly 70 years ago, the ranunculus splash the hillsides in a rainbow of colors ranging from reds, oranges, whites, pinks and yellows.

These two and a half months in spring are when the fields are open to the public, although the farm is a 12-month operation. Although one would think upon seeing the colorful blooms that the fields are for cut flowers, in truth only around 2 percent of the flowers are sold for this purpose.

What the fields produce are ranunculus bulbs, to be sold worldwide. The bulbs (in actuality a rhizome) are planted in September through January. After the spring blooming season ends and the farm is closed to the public, the flowers are allowed to dry and die, with the bulbs storing up energy. Then in mid-summer, workers dig up the bulbs to be distributed for sale in nurseries and garden centers. Soon after, the planting begins for the next cycle of life.

So, what does one do when visiting the Flower Fields? Well, simply take in the beauty of the flowers. A walk through the dirt fields (wear comfortable shoes) on the hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the distance is just a pleasant experience. Be sure to bring a camera and take photos of the colorful blooms.

This year’s calendar of events includes the following:
March 31- Once Upon a Garden
April 01- Kid’s Day
April 7- Strawberry and Flower Fields Forever
April 8 - Easter Sunrise Service
April 14 - Bluegrass Day
April 15 - Canon Photography Workshop
April 21 - Red Hatter’s Rendezvous
April 23 - Blues Day
May 12 - Bonsai Show and Sale
May 13 - Mother’s Day Celebration

Directions: Take Interstate 5 to the Palomar Airport Road exit and go east to 5704 Paseo Del Norte. Nearby is Legoland and the Carlsbad Company Stores outlet mall is next door to the fields. The Carlsbad Flower Fields are about 30 miles north of downtown San Diego, and 50-60 miles from points in Orange County.

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