Lompoc: Flower Fields Abloom

It's nearly time for some petal-filled visions around the grow-strong region.

WHILE MAY IS THE SWEETEST OF MONTHS, what with all the graduations and the mom-honoring brunches and the weather warming and such, it can be a bit blue-making for those Californians who dig flowers. Specifically wildflowers, we'll add, from the wee yellow buds that make a showing in Death Valley in February to the Sierra stunners that rev up around late April. When May comes, wildflower season bids adieu, and while petals are still in profusion in certain spots right into fall, that feeling of newness, and discovery, and first-bloomage, has ended for another year.

THERE IS A PLACE, however, to get your petal-y fill, and while the specimens aren't wild, they're wonderful, and ready for their photo close-ups. We speak of the Lompoc Valley, one of the flower-growing hearts of the Golden State. And not just any flowers but some of the wowsiest: sweet peas and delphinium and stock rule the school, as do larkspur and other assorted buds. Any of these showy buds add grace to a tabletop bouquet, but when seen in multiples -- as in rows and rows -- well, the cameras shall be clicking. If you've never Lompoc'd, at least where the local flower fields are concerned, best get to the Santa Barbara-close area from...

MAY TO AUGUST: That's when the flower fields truly hit their top bloom, and the timing of the Lompoc Valley Flower Festival, which arrives juuuust at the start of summer, supports this notion. To find these feasts-for-the-eyes, head west of Old Town Lompoc, and use the handy map provided. The peak is described as "late June," so if you're going at any other time, you might check in with Explore Lompoc. Even if you don't time your trip to the biggest of shows, note that the town is also known for murals and wine, which are two rather nice things to be known for, as town-famous things go.

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