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8.15.2006 - 36 comments 

You may remember my post of the Lompac, California "seed factory" a couple of months back, but let me tell you, if the flower fields of Lompoc had enjoyed the amount of traffic that Carlsbad gets with its location near the San Diego I-5 Freeway (over 150,000 visitors per year), the farmers there would have kept the crops as a revenue-generator.

The flower fields of Lompoc are not as abundant as they used to be but there's still a commercial place people can go and pay a fee for the privilege of wandering through glorious flowers...thousands upon thousands of them! Each spring in the months of March and April, 50+ acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers are in bloom in the colorful fields of Carlsbad, California, delighting tourists and locals alike.

The town of Carlsbad itself, (or "Village by the Sea,") is 48 square miles of rolling hills with seven miles of scenic coastline enjoyed by residents and guests who come to play. Located 35 miles north of San Diego and 86 miles south of Los Angeles, it is easily accessible from either city and well worth a drive up or down the coast to see. Old world charm co-exists with modern day pleasure in a city where the oldest building in town dates back to 1887 and the newest Legoland amusement park has been around just a few short years.

Carlsbad is named for the popular 19th century Karlsbad Spa in Europe. When sea captain, John Frazier, drilled a well and struck water in the 1880s, it appeared to have the same mineral properties as water in Karlsbad, Bohemia. Continuing a proud tradition for which the city was named, Carlsbad is home to two world class spa resorts: La Costa Resort & Spa and Four Seasons Resort, Aviara.

This charming city by the sea attracts guests from around the world and is also flower friendly as a premier growing region for poinsettias and ranunculus. Beginning in March and running for several months, flower lovers are abuzz at the arrival of spring which brings an endless sea of colors to local fields. People come from near and far and pay a small fee to get a glimpse of nature's perfect beauty. The bird of paradise got its start here and is the city's official flower.

Legoland theme park, Carlsbad flower fields, a downtown shopping village with a European flavor, a shopping mall and family oriented vacation beaches are a few of the things you can do and see when you visit. There is also jetskiing, parasailing and sky diving for additional thrills.
The Carlsbad Flower Fields located near the Carlsbad shopping outlet and Legoland kids' amusement park is comprised of 50 acres of flowers that grace the hillsides overlooking the Pacific Ocean each spring.

For a nominal fee visitors can enjoy wandering through the fields and getting a close-up view of the growth. Included on the premises are a special nursery, garden, and gift shop by Armstrong Garden Centers, and festivals throughout the season.

Among the specialty flower attractions, there are often miniature roses and poinsettias. A 1,500 square foot greenhouse is filled with the world famous Ecke poinsettias. You can also learn about the Ecke family, the world's largest producer of the country's best selling potted plant - The Poinsettia.

Brilliantly colored flowers are ranunculus' chief attraction, and they are indeed special. They most often come in multiple layers of delicate, crepe paper--thin petals, looking like an origami masterwork. Ranunculus (R. asiaticus) excel in southern and western gardens, and make terrific container plants everywhere. They also make long-lasting cut flowers. Bulbs are widely available this month in retail nurseries and mail-order catalogs.

Ranunculus leaves, grass green and vaguely celery-like, grow in a mound 6 to 12 inches across. Flowers on 12- to 18-inch stems emerge in March from fall-planted bulbs, June and July from spring-planted bulbs; they last up to six weeks. On the most common type, the Tecolote strain, flowers are mostly fully double, 3 to 6 inches wide, and available in bicolored picotee, gold, pastel mix, pink, red, rose, salmon, sunset orange, white, and yellow. The less common Bloomingdale strain is shorter, to 10 inches, with pale orange, pink, red, yellow, and white double flowers.
Ranunculus are cool-season perennials that grow in relatively mild weather with springs that are cool.

Ranunculus are most popular in regions of the South and West and grow exceptionally well in states such as California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana. The bulbs or tubers, come in four grades or sizes. The largest, called jumbos, are best for home gardens. Bulb size predicts the number of flowers. Each jumbo bulb will produce some 35 cuttable flowers, compared to a fifth as many from a number three bulb.

To plant the bulbs, choose a location in full sun and be sure the soil is well drained. The one environment that ranunculus do not tolerate is warm and wet. The cool soil of fall and early spring offers some protection from rotting, but soil that is never soggy gives extra insurance. As long as soil retains some moisture, don't water again until you see sprouts, usually within 15 to 20 days.

Companion plants. Because ranunculus are cool-season bloomers, their natural companions include other cool-season flowers such as snapdragon (Antirrhinum), calendula, larkspur, Chinese forget-me-not, African daisy, sweet pea and pansy.

Commercial growers can be found in Israel, South Africa and California, but California's production far exceeds other countries. All California-grown ranunculus are seed-grown plants of the Tecolote strain, and most are grown in and around Carlsbad. The tubers they produce will be harvested, dried, and packaged to sell to gardeners the subsequent fall.

In March and April, the California Tecolote ranunculus fields, 60 miles south of Anaheim and 30 miles north of San Diego, are so visible from the nearby highway that traffic slows even more than usual. So many people have turned off the highway and wandered through the fields that commercial grower began charging a fee. While visiting, you can buy cut flowers or tubers. Of course, as you can tell, we were some of those people too, but it was well worth it.

I took this picture hoping to catch one odd ball colored ranunculus in these several rows of the same color. After I took the shot and had it printed, I could acually see several more as well. But when you stand back and admire these hundreds of rows of different colored ranunculus, it really doesn't matter anyway, they are just beautiful.

"Our Nature lies in movement; complete calm is death." -Pascal, Pensées Posted by Picasa