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The show begins this month in the West's flower fields; Skagit Valley to Phoenix ... go for tours, festivals, a drive, a bike ride.

Skagit Valley to Phoenix ... go for tours, festivals, a drive, a bike ride

The very predictability of the West's commercial flower fields is part of their attraction: while wildflowers can be a fleeting show, vulnerable to nature's whims, you can usually count on the planted fields to put on spectacular displays at set periods, albeit allowing a little leeway for weather variations. The show begins this month in Washington, Southern California and Arizona.

Growers use these fields for cultivating cut flowers or seeds. Some farms are crossed by roads perfect for leisurely drives or bicycle rides. Others let you see blooming plants before ordering them at on-site stands. Many growers sell cut flowers, and some areas have tours or festivals linked to peak bloom time. Before you plan a vacation for the coming months, cheek the chart on page 31; it lists approximate bloom times of given plants. A short detour might take you through stunning splashes of rural color. Locations are given north to south. For flower reports and directions, call ahead. When you visit, pull off the road well out of traffic, and heed no-trespassing signs.

WASHINGTON

Skagit Valley. America's biggest bulb-growing region, this area, an hour north of Seattle on 1-5, has a patchwork of fields from Mount Vernon to La Conner. Many sell bulbs, have demonstration gardens. In recent years, roads have been paved and widened to accommodate bloom-watchers in cars and on bicycles; even so, expect heavy traffic on peak weekends. The valley hosts a tulip festival April 6 through 22. For self-guided driving tours, pick up a free map at gas stations or stores. Or call Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce, (206) 428-8547, between 9 and 5 weekdays. For a cycling map, send $3 to Tulip Pedal, Box 561, Mount Vernon 98273. The Skagit Hospice sponsors 15- and 25-mile rides on April 22; for details, call 428-5741. Puyallup. Though much of the Puyallup Valley, running east of Tacoma off 1-5, is daffodil country, most flowers are harvested before bloom for cut flowers.

To see fields that do bloom, visit or call the chamber of commerce, open 9 to 5 weekdays, at 322 Second Street S.W.; 845-6755. The annual daffodil parade is April 7. Some 200,000 bulbs bloom at Van Lierop's gardens. Order for fall delivery, or buy cut flowers; hours are 9 to 5 daily February 1 to June 1. Call 848-7272. Outlook. Southeast of Yakima 30 miles, mixed fields make a worthy detour August through September. The Friends' Farm (509/837-3468) has about 20 acres of gladiolus, 5 of asters, snapdragons, zinnias. Just off 1-82, take Yakima Valley Highway west 1/2 mile, then go north 1/2 mile on Price Road. Cut blooms are sold.

OREGON

Canby. Twenty miles south of Portland, 50 acres of dahlias bloom July through frost (usually mid-October) at Swan island Dahlias, the biggest such farm in the Northwest. Order tubers for spring delivery. From 1-5, take exit 282A east 6 miles to Canby. Drive 1 1/4 miles north on Holly Street, then left on N.W. 22nd Avenue. Fields are 3/4 mile ahead; watch for signs. Telephone number is (503) 266-7711; hours are dawn to dusk.

Willamette Valley. America's two biggest producers of bearded iris have some 500 acres just north of Salem; flowers' peak bloom is the end of May. At both Cooley's and Schreiner's (both off 1-5), stroll through the gardens, buy cut flowers or rhizomes (shipped in summer), or picnic on the lawns.

To get to Cooley's from Silverton, take State 213 west 2 miles. Hours are 8 to 7 daily; call 873-5463. To reach Schreiner's from 1-5, take exit 263 west 1 mile to River Road. Turn left, continue 1 mile to Quinaby Road; turn left to the farm. Hours are 8 to dusk daily; 393-3232.

CALIFORNIA

Smith River. All US. Easter lilies and many Oriental hybrids originate here. For free maps, visit the chamber of commerce (9 to 5 weekdays), 1001 Front Street, Crescent City; (707) 464-3174. Or write to Box 246, 95531. Smith River is on U.S. 101, 13 miles north of Crescent City. The Easter-in-July celebration is July 14 and 15. Half Moon Bay. Flowers grow here all year, though they get better as weather warms up. Come via State 92 and you'll see most of the fields, but take excursions north to Miramar and south to Pescadero to see more; each valley has its own fields. Come on the third Saturday of the month, May through October, to buy from the flower market at Main Street and Kelly Avenue. It's open 9 to 3:30, offers only locally grown fresh and dried flowers. Expect surprises: one grower sells proteas. For details, call Buffalo Shirt Company at (800) 752-4402 or, in California only, (800) 762-4400.

Gilroy. About 90 miles south of San Francisco on U.S. 101, farms for dozens of types of seed and cut flowers dot the region; we list two of the most accessible growers. Goldsmith Seed Company, about 4 miles west of U.S. 101 on State 152, creates a glorious display mid-June through August. There are picnic tables beside a pond at the office, open 8 to 5 weekdays (free catalogs). Call (408) 847-7333.

Bay West has 40 acres of mixed cut flowers. From U.S. 101, take State 25 southeast 1/2 mile, turn left on Bloomfield Avenue and go 1/2 mile, and turn right on Davidson Road 1/2 mile. Peak bloom is midJune through August. Telephone 848-8400. Wasco. Some 60 million roses grow here, just north of Bakersfield. Best shows are east along State 46, north and south along State 43. Blooms come in flushes throughout summer; call the chamber of commerce, (805) 758-2746, for details; hours are 10 to noon and I to 4 weekdays. During the annual Festival of Roses, September 7 and 8, fields are open for 5K and 10K runs and hour-long bus tours; for details, call the chamber of commerce. Guadalupe. North of Lompoc 30 miles on State 1, Waller Flowerseed Company grows sweet peas to lobelias in the Santa Maria Valley. Call (805) 343-2723.

Lompoc. Hundreds of acres of flowers from sweet peas to marigolds grow 50 miles north of Santa Barbara near State 1. A fairly flat self-guided car or bike loop takes in three growers in 19 miles. Call or write the chamber of commerce, 111 South 1 St., Lompoc 93436; (805) 7364567. Open 9 to 5 weekdays all year, 10 to 2 Saturdays June through August. Annual flower festival runs June 20 through 24. Cartsbad. Growers here, 30 miles north of San Diego on 1-5, supply the US. market of ranunculus and ship 4 million bulbs to Holland annually.

This year, only 10 acres are visible from the road (another 75 acres grow on the back sides of the hills). For cut flowers or picture-taking (please stay out of fields), take Palomar Airport Road; fields grow just east of 1-5. For more information, call Frazee Flowers at (619) 438-4466.

ARIZONA

Phoenix. Family farms sell flowers, fruits, and vegetables here, most between the 3200 and 4000 blocks of Baseline Road. See asters, calendulas, carnations, marigolds, mums, stock, sweet peas, and more. Hours are 8 to 6 daily for most growers. For details, call Baseline Flower Growers, (602) 437-1284; Nakamura Farms, 4371244; Ken Sakato's, 437-3879; or South Mountain Flower Garden, 437-1225.
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Publication:Sunset
Date:Mar 1, 1990
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