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San Clemente Journal

Carlsbad Ranch Flower Fields A Vibrant Carpet of Beauty

May 09, 2023 11:11AM ● By Mary Colarik
by Mary Colarik

Dreaming of bright colors, sunshine and a pleasant, warm ocean breeze during Southern California’s rainy season? Although our winters along the SoCal coast are most often sunny, with trees retaining their green leaves and some varieties of flowers blooming year-round, imagine the first day of March hopping in your car for a quick 30-minute jaunt down the I-5 to the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch. 

The author.

 

Nestled in the rolling hills of North County San Diego 50 acres of ranunculus create a vibrant carpet of flowers, strategically arranged in an array of color coordinated rows along dirt pathways with an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean on the horizon. These colorful fields boast beautiful flowers in 13 colors; the result of 85 years of carefully tended cultivation that started with Luther Gage, an early settler and horticulturist. 

Gage brought the Ranunculus seeds with him to the coastal area and began growing them next to a small vegetable farm owned by Frank Frazee. In 1933, Frank and his son, Edwin also began growing the ranunculus flowers, learning the process of cultivating and irrigating their land to grow these members of the buttercup family, native to Asia Minor. The original flowers were tiny petals and only in the shades of red and yellow, and Edwin Frazee learned to save the seeds from flowers that produced an unusual color and/or a fuller flower, carefully cultivating these seeds year after year eventually producing the wide range of multicolored, full flowers seen the fields today. 

The fields were originally in South Oceanside, but in 1965 Edwin Frazee moved his ranunculus and gladiolus endeavor to the current site. This land was the working farm of the Ecke family of Encinitas and is still own by the same family today. The Ecke family had a thriving poinsettia business on the property, but in the ‘60s had moved their business into greenhouses. Paul Jr. Ecke and Edwin developed a strong bond with their deep interest in growing and cultivating flowers. Paul Jr. looked to tourism to help keep the gorgeous fields financially stable, opening them up to the public in the early 1960s. In 1999, The Flower Fields made a retail agreement with Armstrong Garden Centers to manage the retail store thus allowing the flower farmers to focus on growing gorgeous flowers while maintaining their solid working ranch combining it with an amazing regional tourist attraction.

This year the Flower Fields will open March 1 and will remain open through Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 14, 2023. They are open daily from 9am-6pm Admission is $22, with tickets preordered online. Season passes are also available. There is ample free parking shared with Armstrong Garden Center. There is much more to see and do than simply wandering along the pathways viewing the seemingly endless rows of bright flowers. If you bring young children, check out the Sweet Pea Maze and the whimsical Santa’s Playground. Older kids will be intrigued by the Carlsbad Mining Company set-up as they sift through sand for polished gemstones. Other displays and attractions include, the Illusion Garden, Artist Garden, Butterfly Garden, and a 1500 square foot greenhouse housing the Ecke family’s famous poinsettias, (20 rare and unusual varieties), plus a display of orchids in another greenhouse. Not to be missed is the large American Flag of Flowers. Other newer attractions include the Sea of Sunflowers and U-pick blueberries.

Old fashioned style wagon rides are offered around the fields and up the slope to the top of the property-$8 for adults, $4 for children, (3-10), under three ride free. This is a great, fun option for families with young children or older adults with compromised mobility. 
The 10-week calendar on the website lists a gamut of other interesting activities, events and workshops, such as, flower crown making, flower flow yoga classes, toddler and me yoga classes, sunset wine tasting, a variety of band concerts, meditation and sound healing, tea in the garden, picnic and flowers, charcuterie board, painting, botanical framing and photography workshops and Cry Holi, a festival of colors with dancing and other activities, including food, jewelry and clothing vendors. 

If you become hungry during your visit, there are several spots for refreshments, including, the Pizza Trolley, artisanal pizza and salads, Mexico City Cuisine, the Strawberry Shack, offering fresh strawberry shakes and sundaes, plus, strawberry shortcake, other sweet spots include, hand-spun cotton candy and kettle corn, with a lemonade stand and a coffee stand providing drink options. 

The Flower Fields of Carlsbad Ranch have three separate venues available to rent year-round for corporate events, school dances, weddings and galas. The rental fee includes, tables, chairs, benches and belly bars, plus two staff members to take care of logistics. You may bring in your own vendors and professional bartenders.

If you decide to make a trip to the Flower Fields this spring, wear comfortable walking shoes, pack sunscreen, a light jacket or sweater, (in case of a cool ocean breeze), a straw hat, protection from the sun and a great looking photo prop, as your most important accessory to have on hand is your camera or phone ready to take delightful photos of the Flower Fields, perfect for posting on Instagram. For more information on tickets and events go to www.theflowerfields.com.

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