The fields today are a direct result of over 85 years of floral cultivation that began when Luther Gage, an early settler and grower settled in the area in the early 1920’s. Mr. 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. This started a business called “Luther Gage Giant Tecolote Ranunculus bulbs”. The name “Tecolote” came from the owls that nested on his property.
When fire destroyed the modest Frazee ranch on the inland shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon, the family was forced to move to Oceanside where Frank Frazee began growing freesia bulbs to make ends meet. At that time, freesias were in high demand, and Frank took advantage of cheap land leased by the city to expand his crop. In 1933, the elder Frazee added ranunculus to his crop and introduced son Edwin to the art of seeding, cultivating and irrigating the pretty but less popular flower. At the age of 16, Edwin Frazee quit high school to work full time on his father’s burgeoning flower operation.
Over the next several years, Edwin Frazee settled into the farming life, and the family expanded its fields once again to the sprawling Santa Margarita Ranch, on what even eventually would become the Camp Pendleton Marine base. With his daily experience in the fields making up for a lack of formal schooling, Edwin became adept at continually improving his ranunculus crop.
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, Mr. Frazee would save the seed and plant them the next year. This resulted in full flowers in thirteen beautiful colors including picotee, a mixture of variegated colors, that we have today.
By the 1950’s, his success at breeding a superior ranunculus bulb and a more colorful flower, with an unprecedented infusion of petals known as a “double”, eluded his competitors and left him as the only commercial ranunculus grower in the United States. Frazee also became a leading grower of gladiolus, and the brightly colored fields at the Santa Margarita Ranch became an attraction to visitors passing by Oceanside on old Highway 101.
Concluding that ranunculus thrived best in a mild climate and sandy, well drained soil, Frazee expanded his ranunculus crop south to the Ponto region of Carlsbad overlooking the ocean and Highway 101, bringing the field of vibrant color even closer to the growing number of motorists traveling between Los Angeles and San Diego. Paired with equally stunning spears of brightly colored gladiolus, the site quickly grew as a popular, if unofficial, tourist attraction, even gaining the attention of photographers for National Geographic magazine. Frazee and his workers soon found much of their time taken up by politely, but firmly, rebuffing visitors who began helping themselves to free bouquets of gladiolus and ranunculus.
Unimpressed with the publicity surrounding the blossoms he worked so long and hard to create, Frazee once said, “If I had one penny for every picture that’s been taken of those fields, I’d be a rich man.” In 1965 Frazee again moved the ranunculus growing operation to the current site and continued raising ranunculus and gladiolus.
In 1993 with Edwin Frazee’s desire to retire Paul Ecke jr. formed a joint venture with grower Mellano and Company to concentrate on growing beautiful flowers for the whole world to enjoy. Paul Ecke Jr. looked at tourism as an important way to keep the ranunculus fields financially viable. The stage was set for the enduring preservation and promotion of this enchanting cultural emblem of Carlsbad. Hence, The Flower Fields® at Carlsbad Ranch was born!
Today, The Flower Fields® represents the perfect synthesis of a robust working ranch and regional tourist attraction. Ample parking, a gift center, special events, and tours provide easy access, historical information, and floral products to over 125,000 visitors each year.
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. For those not fotunate enough to be able to visit The Flower Fields, bulbs from this amazing horticultural site can found at EasytoGrowBulbs.com.
In 2004, our beloved Edwin Frazee passed away, but his goal of the ranunculus living on beyond his death was achieved. His presence is felt when spring arrives and the ranunculus bloom into blazing fields of color. From its humble beginnings in Luther Gage’s flower beds to one of San Diego County’s most enduring and recognizable landmarks, The Flower Fields® continue to showcase nature’s artistry and to symbolize the diligence of the region’s most important and colorful pioneers.
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 many future generations.