In San Diego, California the cheery blooms of the Carlsbad Flower Fields are synonymous with springtime. Bright striations of color explode along the hillside, creating a captive rainbow of ranunculus that’s hard to ignore in a day and age when concrete smothers the land. These beautiful fields are a much beloved tradition of San Diego life, an annual event that’s not to be missed.
A Little History
The land was originally used to raise Lima beans, oats and hay. These crops were efficient, as there was no available water on the land, a common conundrum for California growers. It would remain this way until 1951. It was then that Paul Ecke Sr. acquired the land that now hosts this display of color, and drilled a well, allowing for water to be piped in. This new source of irrigation enabled the Ecke family to raise poinsettias on the property. If you ever take a trip to Carlsbad, you’ll notice that streets and buildings still reflect this bygone era from scenic Poinsettia Lane to the Paul Ecke YMCA.
In 1965, Edwin Frazee. Frazee relocated his ranunculus crops from Carlsbad Pronto site, and raised both these and gladiolas. The glorious fruits of his labors won the hearts of San Diego, and became a much cherished landmark. Upon his retirement in 1993, San Diego brewed with commotion, afraid that the illustrious flower fields would be lost forever, paved over to become another outlet mall or parking structure. So beloved were the fields that they still stand today, thanks to the vigilant cooperative efforts of the Ecke and Mellano families, Edwin Frazee himself, The Carlsbad Agricultural Improvement Fund, and the California Coastal Conservancy.
Today, the Carlsbad Flower Fields are irrigated by reclaimed water. This is water that was once sewage, the stuff polite people flush down their toilets. The sewage is treated, removing solids and specific impurities, and made ready for use in agriculture. While this water is not treated to the same standards held for the water we drink and bathe in (or potable water) recycling water is an excellent way to conserve our water and assure that we can enjoy the beauty nature has to offer us for years to come.
Exploring The Flower Fields
One of the truly innovative things about the Carlsbad Flower Fields is that visitors are allowed to walk right along side these beautiful blooms. All around me were impassioned people snapping pictures and even stooping to smell the flowering tapestry sprawled out before them. It gives people a chance to appreciate flora in a way we seldom have time to do. While these buds are cultivated, experiencing plant life in a ranch environment like this might serve as a reminder that the natural world is not something to be pushed to the wayside, and needs our care and devotion.
The ranunculus are separated into bands of color, creating a veritable rainbow at your feet. If you get tired of walking, tours are available. You can enjoy an old fashioned hay ride, minus the hay, as you are pulled through the gardens in a wooden cart driven by candy colored tractors. These tours have a narrated voice over that plays as you chug along, which bring the fields alive. It’s almost as if each flower has a tale to tell, revealing it’s memories from first germination to the final exquisite unfolding of petals.
Are ranunculus not your thing? Well this active ranch also has a vibrant rose garden, featuring a plethora of species both familiar and exotic.
The Crimson Bouquet is a handsome rose…
from every angle.
Feeling flamboyant? How about a flamingo pink Artistry rose?
And who could resist a peek at The First Edition, rose that is?
Even the sidelines are teaming with color! From daisies
and all the wonderful things between.
You can also get a look at the green houses,
where plants are lovingly cared for and cultivated by the dedicated agriculturalists who keep these fields awash in color. If in the event that you become inspired, and want to pick up a few new editions to your own garden, Armstrong’s Nursery is right on the premises, with staff happy to educate you on the proper care and stewardship of each and every bit of greenery available.
If you are in the Carlsbad era, or plan to be so soon, treat yourself to a day at The Flower Fields. The fields will be open until May 1st, 2013. If you can’t make it, click the link for a virtual tour and enjoy!