Carnation is the birthday flower for January, but it gets no respect

pink carnations from Mischlers in Amherst NY

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.”

In addition to being beautiful, the carnation is long-lasting and doesn’t cost much. And that’s the problem.mixed carnations from Mischlers in Amherst NY

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.

When making arrangements, “It’s a good base flower,” she said. “You can fill up a large area of the design without a big monetary investment.”carnations in cube from Mischlers in Amherst NY

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.

5 Comments on “Carnation is the birthday flower for January, but it gets no respect

  1. I love the fragrance of carnations. And to mean fascination – that’s great! The only thing I don’t like is the ones that have no scent.

  2. Where can I buy roots or whatever the large carnations grow from??? I have been looking for years for LARGE florist carnations, not the little dianthus every place sells. Any ideas?? Thanik you

  3. Unfortunately Denise there is no easy way to grow large carnations. The long stemmed carnations that you see at your florist have been grown in production greenhouses specifically for that purpose. They are all started with your “regular” dianthus plants and then it is a process of using strings and a trellis to aid in gaining height and controlling lights (for the same purpose). There is a perennial carnation to this zone named “grenadin” that you may have luck with in trying to produce longer stems. Simply stated it involves removing all but one bud and then using the trellis/staking technique to aid in height. We will be selling these beautiful and fragrant plants in our annual .49 cent sale. The good news is that carnations are one of the most inexpensive cut flowers you can buy and by changing the water daily they can last up to 2 weeks!

  4. Thanks for that information. I didn’t realize what went into growing the cut carnations that we buy. When Mischler’s schedules its sale for this spring, I’ll add it to the Events page.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *