Armchair photo tours: A stroll through The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, California

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Ranunculus in full bloom at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, California

Photos by Cheryl Landes

I discovered The Flower Fields at the Carlsbad Ranch while searching for places to see flowers during the superbloom in Southern California in 2017. Fifty acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers in 13 colors, including a variegated variety called picotee, bloom there from early March through mid-May. They love Southern California’s warm winters, dry summers, and well-drained sandy soil.

The ranch is located on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, 35 minutes north of San Diego. It’s a beautiful place to stroll through the fields or hop aboard a tractor-pulled wagon for a tour.

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The ranunculus are in various shapes and textures. Some of the blossoms look dainty, like tissue-paper-thin petals bundled into thick pods.

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Others appear to be made from crinkly crepe paper.

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And others have curled petals, which, from certain angles, resemble dancers’ skirts twirling in the wind.

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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.

The ranch also has an extensive collection of poinsettias in a tent next to the garden.

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A greenhouse is filled with Cymbidium orchids.

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Purple Martha Washington geraniums grow outside the greenhouse.

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More geraniums and other flowers grow in the Artist Gardens.

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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. Parking is free. The ranch is next to a large shopping center, so traffic can be congested, especially during rush hours and weekends.

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