Along Interstate 5 north of Palomar Airport Road and east of Interstate 5 are bands of color that have burst forth every March for more than 60 years.
The anticipated arrival of spring - March 20 - means flowers will soon be blooming, and The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch will come alive with giant Tecolote ranunculuses that will dance in the Pacific breeze like animated lollipops.
“They’re just starting to bloom in the northern field,” said Fred Clarke, general manager of The Flower Fields. “The nice, even, steady rains have given them steady growth. It should be a great crop of flowers.”
Clarke has been working at The Flower Fields for 11 years and says it’s not a job to him - it’s a labor love.
“When you stand in the fields it puts a smile on your face," Clarke said. “I don’t believe there’s anywhere else in the world where flowers bloom like this. You immerse yourself in bright profound colors. There’s something about that. It’s mesmerizing, uplifting, overwhelming. It’s something special."
Special indeed: The flowers you see today trace their roots to cultivation efforts that began more than 85 years ago when a grower by the name of Luther Gage settled in the area back in the early 1920s. He planted ranunculus seeds in a patch of land in South Oceanside, and those seeds brought forth a business he called “Luther Gage Giant Tecolote Ranunculus bulbs."
To help you plan your visit, here’s what you need to know:
1. When to go
The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch officially open Saturday, and the season continues through May 11. The flowers are at their peak from mid-March to mid-April, though weather conditions can cause early or late blooms.
2. What’s new
The Flower Fields is debuting a historical display on the evolution of the poinsettia, showing the earliest poinsettia to the poinsettia of today. A greenhouse on the property, by the south entrance, has been redone and retooled to accommodate these winter blooms.
3. What to wear
Since this is a true working ranch, it is suggested that you wear comfortable walking shoes and casual clothing. Since the weather varies day-to-day, bring a sun hat and a sweater or light jacket. And don’t forget your camera.
The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch
When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from Wednesday, March 1 through May 14
Where: 5704 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad
Cost: $14 for adults; $13 for seniors over age 60; $7 for children 3-10; free for children 2 and under. Parking is free.
Phone: (760) 431-0352
4. What to see
There are different ways to check out the ranunculuses. You can walk along the designated pathways, which do have a slight ascent, so take your time and enjoy the view. Or, for $5 ($3 for children ages 3-10), climb on board an open-air wagon that’s pulled by an antique tractor. These rides are recommended for those who have difficulty walking.
5. What to do
Photo opportunities are endless out in the field, and even after you’ve snapped all of your memorable moments, there’s still plenty to do throughout the 55-acre property. There’s a sweet-pea maze, a cymbidium orchid greenhouse, rose and themed gardens, a mining area, a water-wise garden area and Santa’s playground. Some activities require an additional fee, so be sure to bring extra cash.
6. Where to eat
Vending machines are available during the weekdays and food vendors are on site on the weekends. Picnicking is also encouraged. There are benches, tables and chairs where you can enjoy your food amid the floral backdrop.
7. Special events
The Carlsbad Flower Fields hosts a variety of special events throughout the season, which attracts more than 160,000 people annually. Some of the highlights include Kid’s Day on April 2; Easter Sunday Service on April 16; Blues Day on April 23; Bluegrass Day on April 24; and a Mother’s Day celebration on May 14. For a complete list, visit theflowerfields.com.