Carlsbad’s famed Flower Fields open for business

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Carlsbad’s famed Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch are once again in bloom, and thanks to a wet winter the more than 50 acres of rolling hillside overlooking the ocean are awash with color more vibrantly than they have been in years.

Most of the space is devoted to giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers; about five acres are reserved for other specialty plants.

The Flower Fields – located at 5704 Paseo Del Norte, between Palomar Airport Road and Cannon Road – are open to the public from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from March 1 to May 14, 2017. The Flower Fields provide two free parking areas, restroom facilities and accessibility for people with disabilities. Admission is $14 for adults, $13 for seniors 60 and up, $7 for children between the ages of 3 and 10 and free for children under the age of 2. Season passes and group tours are also available.

This spring, the Flower Fields are debuting a new greenhouse blooming with a historical display on the evolution of the poinsettia. The Ecke family, who owns The Flower Fields, originally cultivated the bright scarlet poinsettia flowers. Because the poinsettia blooms during the winter cycle months, Albert Ecke decided that they would make an ideal official holiday flower. Beginning in 1911, the Ecke family started marketing poinsettias as a Christmas flower.

Today’s Flower Fields are a direct result of nearly 100 years of floral cultivation that began with Luther Gage, an early settler and horticulturist who settled in the area in the early 1920s, according to the Flower Fields website.Gage brought Ranunculus seeds to the area and began growing them in his fields next to Frank Frazee’s small vegetable farm in South Oceanside. In 1933 Frazee also started growing ranunculus and introduced his son, Edwin, to the art of seeding, cultivating and irrigating the pretty but not yet popular flower. At the age of 16, Edwin Frazee quit high school to work full-time on his father’s burgeoning flower operation.

The ranunculus are native to Asia Minor and a member of the buttercup family. Originally the flowers were single petal and ranged in shades of red and yellow. The beautiful colors and fullness of the flowers you see now are due to the careful selection done by Edwin Frazee over many years. If nature provided a full flower or an unusual color, Frazee would save the seed and plant them the next year. This resulted in full flowers in 13 colors including picotee, (a mixture of variegated colors) that we have today.

Edwin Frazee made several moves over the years but in 1965 he relocated his ranunculus, along with his gladiolus-growing operation to the current site, land owned by the Ecke family of Encinitas. They had previously used the land to grow their poinsettias but in the 1960s they moved all propagation into greenhouses. Paul Ecke Jr. and Edwin were both flower farmers, which helped form a strong bond between the two men. When Edwin decided to retire in 1993 Paul convinced him to stay on as a consultant to a new grower to carry on his work. Paul brought in Mellano and Company, another longtime flower-growing family, to take over the growing of the ranunculus. Paul Jr. also looked at tourism as an important way to keep the fields financially viable as field grown agriculture had become increasingly more difficult over the years.

Paul Ecke Jr. died in 2002 and two years later Edwin Frazee passed away. But by then, Paul’s goal to bring people closer to agriculture and Edwin’s wish to have ranunculus live on beyond his death had been achieved. In 1999, the Flower Fields entered into a retail agreement with Armstrong Garden Centers to manage the retail store. This agreement allows the Flower Fields personnel to concentrate on what they do best – growing beautiful flowers for the world to enjoy.

Today, the Flower Fields represents the perfect synthesis of a robust working ranch and regional tourist attraction. Ample parking, an Armstrong Garden Center, special event opportunities, historical information, and floral products are provided to thousands of visitors each year. Additionally, the Paul Ecke Jr. Barn can accommodate up to 200 guests for events, galas and weddings.

Due to the continued benevolence and foresight of the Ecke family, the Flower Fields will continue to be a national jewel, an attraction enjoyed for future generations.

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