CARLSBAD — It is expected to be one of the best seasons ever at the iconic Flower Fields.
Rain has drenched the fields giving millions of ranunculus flowers all the power they need for a spectacular season, said General Manager Fred Clarke. And, some are already coming into form just in time for opening day on March 1.
However, the festive atmosphere was quickly washed away when Clarke said he realized the forecast called for more rain on March 2. Regardless, the season is upon the Flower Fields and he said expectations are for the Flower Fields to, perhaps, double its annual visitor count of 75,000 people.
And thanks to social media, more people from throughout the country have been enlightened to natural beauty of the Flower Fields, Clarke said.
“We’ve had a marvelous uptick with social media,” he explained. “This place is a real experience to come here. It’s a symbol of the city.”
Planting is done in stages, every three to four weeks, so each section has different timing, or else the season would be shortened drastically. The northern field was planted in July, an odd time Clarke said, but the staff was able to provide shade covering to manipulate the flowers and provide a sort fall feeling. As for the rest, the second most northern field was planted in September and are starting to bloom.
As for the commercial operation, Clarke said only about 1 percent of the flowers are cut and shipped. The rest are for the fields, where workers identify the best flowers and dig up the bulbs.
Those bulbs are replanted the following season and the seeds are harvested to ensure the best quality of flower for the following season. The fields cover 55 acres plus an additional 40 acres, which is designated for the North 40 project.
“It’s almost beyond comprehension to see this,” Clarke said. If someone asked what the best time is to see it all … is the middle of April. Pay your taxes and go to the Flower Fields. The color will go all the way down.”
And while the flowers are the main draw, Clarke said he has focused on evolving the offerings, such as adding food trucks and a dessert bar featuring treats from the Carlsbad Strawberry Company. He also built three Adirondack chairs twice the size of a normal one, giving the new ones a “Alice in Wonderland” vibe.
They will be placed throughout the fields for so visitors can take pictures and have a bit of fun. Another feature, which was introduced several years ago, is the Sweet Pea Maze, which at one point became more labyrinth than maze, Clarke said.
He said they scaled down the difficulty, but it still remains a fun challenge to navigate.
The Flower Fields also donate money to low-income schools to allow for field trips for about 7,000 students per year, Clarke added. It’s one of the highlights of the year.
The North 40 project, meanwhile, is a commercial proposal for restaurants and commercial spaces featuring farm-to-table offerings form the crops at the fields. Those crops include blueberries, coffee and olives.
“We’ve been working on that and the land use is for agriculture, so whatever we do has to satisfy that,” Clarke said.
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.