Van Engelen sent me a free bag of ranunculus bulbs with my
very first bulb order ever, about
10 years ago. I looked at the bag,
read the instructions, and promptly gave them to my neighbor. They required
prior soaking and couldn't be planted outside in our zone except as annuals in
the spring. I don't know if she did anything with them, and, at that time, I
didn't even know what ranunculus flowers looked like, so I wasn't too psyched
about messing around with them. I
was much more interested in my Darwin hybrids.
The way to truly appreciate ranunculus is to see them
en masse. You may have bought them at flower shops a few times, and received
them in gift bouquets, but you can't say you've really seen ranunculus until
you have visited the Carlsbad Flower Fields. An outpost of the huge Ecke flower
empire, the fields exist cheek by jowl with business parks, shopping centers,
and Legoland just north of San Diego, where we are vacationing. (The flower fields used to take up much
more space, but the development gods called.)
One striking thing you notice about these vast fields is
that all the flowers are being picked by hand, and the workers seem to be
picking them right into big bouquets, as you see above. The blooms are big and
gorgeous (lack of scent forgiven here), but although many of these plants have
always been sold as bulbs, there
is now much less call for them in bulb form. Accordingly the ranch is making
its money through agri-tourism (we paid $10 a head to walk around), and other
flowers they can sell as cut flowers. I bought a gorgeous bunch of yellow
freesias, and wandered through a sweet pea maze.
It is slightly disturbing to see such a wonderful local
industry on the decline, but heartening that residents have voted to ensure
that this part of CA remains in cultivation as long as economically
feasible. They don't want to actually need to ask—where have all the flowers gone.
Posted by Elizabeth Licata on March 9, 2010 at 5:00 am, in the category Real Gardens, Taking Your Gardening Dollar.