Written by Suzanne Smith
Growing up in the Southern California sunshine, I sometimes take for granted the beauty that surrounds me.
While many are still thawing out or experiencing snow flurries, I am sitting sipping an ice tea and breathing in the sweet smell of Jasmine and Wisteria. Okay, don’t smack me!
In the spirit of the Spring season, I am going to take you on a virtual journey about an hour south of me to the beautiful ocean side community of Carlsbad. Located just South of the Camp Pendelton Marine Base it emerges from a brown brush and military tank scattered patch of land to the site of glorious ribbons of color covering the hills to the left of the Highway peeking from behind a commercial strip mall. Unless you get off the highway and explore, you might never know that there is a little bit of Heaven growing here each spring from March through mid May. The 50 acre rainbow of color is comprised of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers. Native to Asia Minor, the ranunculus is a member of the Buttercup family of flowers. This unique flower is also known as the Persian Buttercup or Ranunculus Asiatic. These colorful flowers can be found growing in France, Israel, So. Africa, Australia and the Mediterranean.
As we arrive at the flower fields we see flower lovers of every age lining up for the tours. We see Plien air artists with packs and brushes and Photographers with cameras and field tripods. Everyone has a Big Smile on their face.
We pay our entry and walk into the Gazebo area, and there are buckets of fresh cut Ranunculus of every color to touch and enjoy. We walk next to the Tractor pulled wagons that will gather the happy flower folks to take us up into the fields. As we travel a taped description of the planting process, and history is played. Not sure if many absorb the details as we are all awestruck by the acres and acres of beautiful color around us. We are told that the beautiful colors and fullness of the flowers we see today are due to careful selection and cultivation done by Mr. Edwin Frazee over many years. The Frazee family ran the historic fields from the 1930’s to 1993 when they sold to the Ecke family of Poinsettia fame, insuring the fields would continue and thrive.
These flowers are unique in many ways. They have two ways of reproducing; They are either planted as a tuber or by their seeds which is more difficult. The flower has NO fragrance and counts on the wind for pollination. Because they lack nectar they do not attract Pollinating insects. It is amazing to think that these fields are planted each fall with seeds! The process requires the mixing of the tiny seeds with sand and water to make slurry that is applied by machine along with fertilizer to the rows. Depending upon the weather, watering is 2-3 times per week. During the blooming season, workers will weed out the colors in the wrong sections. They will cut only 1 to 2% of the flowers for florists and ship to the US & Canada. The bulk of the flowers grown are for the bulbs they provide.
As we reach the top of the hill, the wagon creaks to a stop, allowing those who wish to get up close to the flowers to disembark. It is a gorgeous day for a walk among the flowers and I can see that the next field over is being harvested.
As we approach the field of Golden, Magenta, white and orange the harvesters are hand cutting and placing the delicate bunches into the recognizable mylar sleeves we florist know so well. They lay the flowers along the rows and when the best of each row is bundled by hand they turn and gather the bunches on their shoulders to be carried to field trucks and buckets of cool water.
It is thought provoking to see the flowers we buy and arrange in the chain of production. The field workers stop and smile and seem to be very proud of their product. It is nice to tell them Thank you. As we walk on I see a painter with brush to canvas capturing the day. Many Galleries in the town offer these works for sale. And ahead I see a little girl with Blond hair popping in and out of the blossoms like Alice in Wonderland. As we get closer I see a Mom & a photographer chasing the girl with fancy camera and equipment, and I laugh. When they stopped for a break I found out that the Photographer was a Local San Diego artist named Stephanie Sundell. Her Photo studio does portraits each spring in the Flower Fields. The Mom & Daughter, Jennifer & Addison Harang were continuing a local tradition with a wonderful Mom & daughter portrait among the Ranunculus. What beautiful memories!
As we continued up the hill, we now stand at the peak among the deep red and gold blossoms ready to board the chugging wagon once more, we can see a vista of amazing flowers in strips and patches stretched below. “Mother Nature’s patch quilt”.
The tours are run by an all volunteer staff, and I ask the tractor driver and his assistant if they “Ever get tired of this view?” They both chime in “NEVER!”
As we roll along back to the gazebo area, we make one last turn and the smell of fresh Freesia fills the air. A few acres of colorful Freesias lies below, and to the left will soon be a tribute to the men and woman who are serving our country a one acre American flag of red, white & blue field flowers. A self guided foot tour continues with options to visit the Rose garden, Ecke Pointsettia display green house, a sweet pea maze and live entertainment on weekends.
It was a wonderful visit, and I am happy I could share this, even if just in its Virtual version.
I invite you to read more about the history and upcoming seasonal events at http://www.theflowerfields.com/