Beyond the super bloom: Other places in the West to get your fill of flowers
You have seen the super bloom; you have found the wildflowers in Southern California. They are everywhere this season, thanks to an abundance of rain. But in our glorying, let us not forget the botanical bounty that’s the result of careful planning — ranunculus, tulips, cherry blossoms and more.
Here is a selection of such places, some close and some farther afield.
The Flower Fields, Carlsbad, Calif.
You’ll find more than 50 acres of giant tecolote ranunculus flower fields, plus a greenhouse of cymbidium orchids and a 50,000-square-foot American flag made of red, white and blue petunias in the Flower Fields in north San Diego County.
The ranunculus bloom happens for a few weeks every spring. Peak blooms cover about 25 acres. Visitors can see full flowers in 13 colors, including a mixture of variegated colors called picotee.
Other attractions at the Flower Fields include open-air guided tractor tours with audio history, artist gardens, tours of the fragrant sweet pea blossoms maze and a film about the history of the Flower Fields at the Paul Ecke Jr. Barn.
When: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily through May 12
Cost: $18 for adults, $16 for seniors 60 and older and $9 for children 3-10.
Info: The Flower Fields, 5704 Paseo cel Norte, Carlsbad, Calif.; (760) 431-0352
Descanso Gardens, La Cañada Flintridge
A stroll through the wisteria-covered visitor center, which is blooming now and should remain until early April, is a hint of garden glory to come at Descanso Gardens urban botanical retreat. Like flowers anywhere, these spring blooms are weather dependent — hard to predict this year, given the weather tantrums in Southern California — but horticulturalists can’t wait to show off California poppies, wisteria, cherry blossoms and roses.
Framing the tea house and Japanese-style garden, Descanso Gardens’ hallmark cherry blossoms are like fireworks on stems. They are blooming now and should continue into early April.
The cherry blossoms envelop architect Whitney Smith’s tea house, which dates to 1966. Imported Japanese blue tiles on the tea house in stark contrast to the pink cherry blossoms provide ample material for novice and professional photographers.
California poppies have begun to bloom and should continue through May. The five-acre rose garden probably won’t flower until later in the spring, but it shares space with other plants that bloom year round so there is always something to see.
Visitors also can see magnolias near Center Circle and in the Japanese Garden; Western redbuds have begun to blossom in the California natives garden.
When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Plan to go in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid peak visitation.
Cost: General admission is $9, seniors 65 and older and students with ID, $6.
Info: Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge; (818) 949-4200
Daffodil Hill, Volcano, Calif.
Daffodils are in the running for Mother Nature’s happiest flower. Flower enthusiasts are impatient to see them at Daffodil Hill, but rain and its muddy offspring have delayed the blooms in Volcano, about 70 miles east of Sacramento. Daffodil Hill is only 4 acres, but once the blooms get going, you’ll find more than 300 varieties.
During the Gold Rush, this was a popular place for Sierra timer haulers to rest. Part of the charm remains in old tools and historic buildings. The nearby town of Sutter Creek is home base for daf enthusiasts and is generally where tourists from around the world stay during the season.
When: Open during the spring, weather permitting so check Daffodil Hill’s recorded phone message at (209) 296-7048 with updates on daffodil viewing. Visitors should call beforehand to ensure it is open and check the weather.
Cost: Free admission and parking, although donations accepted. Local youth groups sometimes raise concession funds nearby.
Info: Daffodil Hill, 18310 Rams Horn Grade, Volcano, Calif.; (209) 296-7048
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, Portland, Ore.
Rhododendrons are the superstars at Portland’s Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden with several hundred trusses of rhododendrons in bloom, plus an impressive display of azaleas and other ericaceous (from the heather family) plants. Catch everything at peak bloom throughout April.
Expect to see nearly 100 types of birds, including bald eagles and members of the heron, warbler, kinglet, chickadee, bufflehead and duck species. There are three waterfalls and two scenic bridges. The best time to go is toward the end of the day when you can stay to see the sun setting over Portland’s West Hills.
When: 6 a.m.-6 p.m. through March 31, 6-10 p.m. April 1 through Sept. 30
Cost: Admission is $5 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. from March 1-Sept. 30; free admission on Mondays. Free for children younger than 13.
Info: Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, 5801 S.E. 28th Ave.; (503) 267-7509
Skagit Valley, Washington, tulip fields
Move over, Netherlands. Washington’s Skagit Valley, about 70 miles northwest of Seattle, is loaded with tulips, traditionally a symbol of spring and welcome after a long winter that also brought snow. The tulips are running late to the party this year with full blooms expected by mid-April.
The weekends tend to be crowded, so arrive early to avoid the crowds. Better yet, if you can go during the week, you’ll get a better view of the sea of red, yellow, orange and purple flowers in full bloom.
The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival celebrates tulips as a crop. Although we see them as a floral phenom, they also account for most of America’s commercial tulip crop.
The month-long festival focuses, naturally, on tulip-centric activities and events draw thousands of tourists to places such as RoozenGaarde, part of Washington Bulb Co. Inc., and Tulip Town, which charge admission for the tulip gardens.
You also can see the flowers by car, for which there is no charge except the gas to do so; you’ll find hundreds of acres sprinkled throughout the valley. Routes include Washington Highway 11 to Interstate 5 and on to Beaver Marsh Road to Roozengaarde, then onward to Bradshaw Road in Mount Vernon to Tulip Town.
When: Tulip festival events run April 1-30. Roozengaarde is open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily through the festival. Tulip Town opens March 30. Check out Skagit Valley’s bloom map.
Cost: RoozenGaarde and Tulip Town cost $7 for adults during the week and $10 for adults on weekends. Children younger than 5 are admitted free.
Info: 311 W. Kincaid St., Mount Vernon, Wash.; (360) 428-5959.
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