Featured image: Ranunculus in full bloom at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, California
Photos by Cheryl Landes
Some blossoms look dainty—tissue-paper-thin petals bundled into thick pods.
Others appear to be made from crinkly crepe paper.
And others have curled petals, which, from certain angles, resemble dancers’ skirts twirling in the wind.
These are the Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers that love southern California’s warm winters, dry summers, and well-drained sandy soil. And you can see 50 acres of them in full bloom from early March through mid-May at The Flower Fields at the Carlsbad Ranch, a 35-minute drive north of San Diego.
Wander through the fields on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean and enjoy the brilliance of 13 colors of ranunculus, including a variegated variety called picotee. Or hop aboard a tractor-pulled wagon for a tour.
Ranunculus are members of the buttercup family and native to Asia Minor. The original flowers were single petals and shades of red and yellow. The varieties you see at The Flower Fields were developed by the Frazee family. In 1933, Frank Frazee started growing the flowers on his small vegetable farm in South Oceanside and taught his son, Edwin, how to seed, cultivate, and irrigate them.
When Edwin was 16, he left school to pursue ranunculus farming full-time, which was a success, and The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch was born. It’s the largest ranunculus cut-flower and bulb production business in southern California and the only ranunculus operation in the world open to the public.
The name, Tecolote, originated from the owls that nested on Frank’s farm.
When the flowers are planted, workers apply compost over the seeded rows in strips, which maintains moisture and provides nutrients to the germinating seeds. The flowers are watered by a drip irrigation system, which minimizes water waste and erosion by delivering water directly to the plants—not on the bare ground.
Also at the ranch, browse an extensive collection of poinsettias in a tent next to the garden…
Martha Washington geraniums and other flowers in the outdoor garden…
and Cymbidium orchids in the greenhouse.
The Armstrong Garden Centers at the ranch sells flowers, bulbs, and plants, or you can order online at Easy to Grow Flower Bulbs.
The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch is located at 5704 Paseo Del Norte in Carlsbad, off Exit 47 from Interstate 5 North or South, and parking is free. The ranch is next to a large shopping center, so traffic can be congested, especially during rush hours and weekends.
Hours are daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., March 1 through mid-May. Admission is $14 adults, $13 seniors 60 and older, $7 children ages 3-10, and free for children 2 and younger. Wagon rides are $5 extra for adults and $3 children ages 3-10. Buy tickets online or at the ranch’s entrance gate.
For more information, visit The Flower Fields’ website or call (760) 431-0352.