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Each year, the vivid bloom that is the Flower Fields serves as a harbinger of spring for Carlsbad residents and visitors. In the 1920s, horticulturist Luther Gage settled in south Oceanside, bringing with him Ranunculus seeds, which he planted in his fields. Gage soon began selling the bulbs via his business, Luther Gage Giant Tecolote Ranunculus Bulbs. Gage’s neighbor, Frank Frazee, had a vegetable farm next to Gage’s fields. Frazee began to grow Gage’s flowers in 1933, and his son, Edwin Frazee, became so fascinated by the work that he quit high school at age 16 to grow the flowers full-time. Frazee eventually moved to the Flower Fields’ current location in nearby Carlsbad in 1965, passing his business on to Paul Ecke Jr., who owned the land, and who had previously used it to grow poinsettias. The Flower Fields became a public treasure when Ecke brought in Mallano and Company to oversee the fields and opened them up for tourism. Both Frazee and Ecke have passed away, but the fields remain ever vibrant. Here are eight reasons why you should visit this brightly colored destination.
There are plenty of activities here for children. The Carlsbad Mining Company offers a sluice mining demonstration where children can pan for polished gems and take them home. Kids can also visit Santa’s Playground, which features giant, colorful mushrooms that once belonged to Santa’s Village, a Christmas-themed amusement park located in Lake Arrowhead. Adults and children can also enjoy the Sweet Pea Maze. A far more colorful version of the Midwest’s corn maze, this attraction requires guests navigate their way out of a labyrinth of delicate sweet pea flowers. It’s not particularly difficult, but there are a few twists and turns. It’s so pretty that most guests don’t seem to mind getting turned around.
For only an additional $5 for adults and $3 for children, vintage trailers pull tourists on short wagon tours that are both scenic and informative. Each wagon features comfortable, padded seats and provides an effortless way to get a lay of the land. An accompanying audio track gives information about the Flower Fields.
The Flower Fields’ pièce de résistance is a 50-acre spread of Giant Tecolote Ranunculuses, planted in orderly sections of bright color. These flowers are part of the buttercup family and are native to Asia Minor. Gage named his particular strain of the flower after the Tecolote owl, as he often spotted such birds on his property. They remain in bloom for six to eight weeks each year.
A variety of musicians will perform at the fragrant fields throughout the season. Swingergy performed jazz and swing on March 25, 2017, country-rock act Nitro Express will take the stage on April 1, 2017, and it’s blues with the Pro All Star Jam on April 23, 2017. Find a full list of musicians here.
What would a trip to the Flower Fields be if you had to leave all this beauty behind? The Armstrong Garden Center sells a portion of the year’s crop in the form of fresh-cut flowers, potted plants, and bulbs.
On April 20–21, 2017, the Flower Fields will host one leg of American Grown Flowers’ Field To Vase dinner tour. As many as 125 guests will sit in the midst of the Ranunculus fields, where they’ll enjoy a locally sourced dinner, beer, and wine. Chef Carly Cylinder, author of The Flower Chef, will design the table settings, as well as teach a floral design workshop to VIP ticket holders. Tickets are $150–250 and include flowers to take home too.
There are demonstrations on garden design, an exhibit of the history of the poinsettia in a greenhouse featuring uncommon varieties of the popular flower, and an exhibit on Water Wise Farming from the University of California Cooperative Extension, San Diego. Here, you will learn how farmers work to conserve water, and how the at-home gardener can do the same. Additionally, Canon will host photographer workshops on April 23, 2017, where guests will learn how to best take their own stunning photos.
The local love of flowers doesn’t stop with the Flower Fields. Carlsbad embraces their natural resource with Petal to Plate, a 10-day citywide event occurring April 20–30, 2017, in which area restaurants, hotels, and spas will incorporate flowers into food, cocktails, treatments, and more.
The Flowers Fields are open March 1 through May 14, 2017, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Prices are $14 for adults, $13 for seniors, $7 for children 3–10, and free for children two years and under. Season passes are available.