BUDS IN THE TIME OF BRRR: We don't do as much thinking about flowers in the colder months, at least compared to summertime, when petal-laden lovely things spring up in yards and gardens across Southern California. But there is Christmas, with its poinsettias and amaryllises, and there is Valentine's Day, when roses rule. And do we start to shop seed catalogs, and look for intriguing bulbs, when a February storm blows through? Just for daydreaming? We do. There's another flower to add to winter's cap, though it comes at the end of the season, when the days are already getting finer and the desire to be outdoors takes root. It's the ranunculus, that eye-poppingly bright flower with the densely packed petals and knobby-like head ("knobby" being a compliment, of course). While you don't find the ranunculus in every yard, you do find it, in profusion, in Carlsbad starting in March, fingers crossed, but definitely on into April and early May.
FOR MARCH 1... is the traditional and official opening of The Flower Fields, a ranunculus-rich expanse that isn't all that far from the Pacific Ocean. And The Flower Fields are famously famous -- things can be famously famous, don't give us the cocked eyebrow -- for its sweeps of pink, yellow, and red flowers (and colors we are surely missing). Those flowers come a little later, beyond opening day, but there is plenty to do at the agricultural outpost while fans wait for the first showy buds to show. Antique tractor wagon rides, an American Flag of Flowers, the Sweet Pea Maze, demo gardens, and other interesting things to do with soil and leaves fill the 50-acre site, which also includes a most excellent and large garden shop. The price to take in all of this garden-y goodness? It's twelve bucks. Want to keep watch for when the ranunculus really start to Show, with a capital S? Facebook is a fine place for updates from the fields. Do rows and rows of ranunculus remind you of something out of a fairytale, a "Wizard of Oz"-esque scene? It's hard not to think such thoughts (nor wonder if each bud is lit by its own tiny, petal-brightening lightbulb). Really, ranunculus, you do give about 150% in the bright-beauty department. We do doff our sunhat (which is really helpful when visiting).