The birthday flower for January is the carnation, which is one of my favorite flowers. It has everything you could want in a flower– a beautiful shape, a wide variety of colors and a delightful fragrance.
But some people look down on the magnificent carnation.
“The carnation got a bad reputation,” said Maggie Wittmer, floral designer at Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses in Williamsville. “There’s no reason to hate the carnation. That’s a bum rap.”
Because it has so many desirable qualities, the carnation had been overused in floral arrangements, Wittmer said. Now many people think of the carnation as a flower that lacks class.
Here are a few reasons why you should reconsider your opinion of carnations.
They come in a large variety of colors: Carnations in the garden are usually red, pink and white, which are lovely. The varieties you can buy in the floral shop come in even more hues: purple, true orange, hot pink and even light green (light green is the natural color—not dyed).
The full, fluffy shape of the flower is attractive, and the petals have a spritely deckled edge.
Then there’s the spicy aroma.
“I love the fragrance,” Wittmer said. “It’s a great fragrance!”
Carnations are long lasting. They will last up to two weeks in an arrangement, which is twice as long as roses, tulips or hydrangeas last.
Another wonderful thing about the carnation is that it’s inexpensive.
While carnations can be used in arrangements with other flowers, they are beautiful standing on their own. The elegant winter creation at left uses a simple glass cube, white carnations and few evergreen accents.
You can grow carnations in your own garden, too, said Mark Yadon, vice president at Mischler’s. Carnations like a sunny location.
Carnations are a kind of dianthus, but not all dianthus are carnations, Yadon said. For example, sweet William, which is a familiar garden flower that spreads readily, is a dianthus with a flat-shaped flower. Carnations generally have larger, rounded flowers. He suggests that you carefully read the plant tag to make sure you know what you’re buying.
Some varieties of carnations are perennials in our area while others have to be grown as annuals. For both the perennial and annual types, you can start them from seed or buy the plants.
Carnations are great cutting flowers. (They look so pretty in the garden I have to admit that I can’t bear to take them inside.)
In Victorian times, people enjoyed using the language of flowers. Different kinds and colors of flowers symbolized different emotions. This is a confusing language, though.
I am able to find many lists of the meanings of different colors of carnations, but no two lists seem to be the same. I hope the Victorians had clearer definitions than we do now or a small gift of flowers would have turned into major-league drama.
The lists seem to agree that overall, carnations symbolize fascination, which I think is charming.
Don’t let the carnations’ bad reputation put you off. Carnations are fragrant, attractively shaped and colorful. Try them in your garden this year or use them in a flower arrangement.
Photos from Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses.