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Carnations A Classic Flower

Carnations Strength and Beauty in One Lovely Bloom

Single stem of White Carnation the official Mothers Day flowerWhat do Spain and Ohio have in common? Carnations. The national flower of Spain and the state flower of Ohio are one in the same – the carnation. Among the most popular cut flowers in the US, the fluffy, fragrant carnation flower is frequently used in corsages, boutonnières and bouquets. With its multitude of colors and long shelf life (keeps fresh long after it is cut), carnations have a wide appeal. The strength yet daintiness of the carnation flower is the foundation for its appeal. After all the large full blossoms look very graceful perched atop their long straight and sturdy stems.

The History of Carnations – the Mothers Day Flower

Because of their long history, flower meaning and vast accessibility, carnations are often worn on Mother’s Day, at weddings or to prom. In fact, the carnation is the official Mother’s Day flower. Ann Jarvis, the founder of the holiday, chose the carnation as the official Mother’s Day flower in 1907 sending 500 white carnations to a West Virginia church for mothers to wear. Carnation flowers were her mother’s favorite and she thought the white carnation signified the virtues of motherhood. After that first service, Ms. Jarvis continued to send white carnations to the same church each Mother’s Day. Today carnations are still widely given on Mother’s Day.

But the history of the carnation flower goes back much further than 1907. Carnations have been cultivated for nearly 2,000 years. It is thought that carnations were used in Greek ceremonial crowns and were Jove’s favorite flower. According to Christian legend, carnations first sprang up where Jesus carried the cross. Carnations, also, appeared where the Virgin Mary’s tears fell as she was crying for Jesus. At that time carnations were a pink or peach color and were often thought of as being flesh-toned. However since that time many colors of carnations have been cultivated.

Carnations Flower Meanings and Colors

Versatility in both color and design is another wonderful attribute of carnation flowers. Strong enough to fill a focal point and delicate enough to play the part of an accent flower, carnations are a florist’s greatest ally. Florists can tint a white carnation to almost any color imaginable making it an ideal flower for matching wedding or party colors.

  • Pink and red carnations tend to be the most popular but other common colors include green, scarlet, yellow and white.
  • Green carnations are often associated with St Patrick’s Day.
  • Yellow, purple and scarlet carnations are used most often as accents in mixed flower arrangements.

Purple carnations compliment gerberas, roses & other flowers in vase.Generally carnation flowers symbolize fascination, a woman’s love and pride; but the specific color of a carnation flower can hold a message for the recipient. Carnations can express different sentiments based on the color and symbolize different meanings in different cultures.

In Korea carnations are given on Parent’s Day, which is like a combination of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

In America, carnations are worn and given for many occasions, often using the color to reflect the meaning.

  • A pink carnation means gratitude or “I’ll never forget you.”
  • A red carnation expresses admiration or could signify my “heart-aches for you”
  • A purple carnation shows capriciousness.
  • Solid colors say, “yes”, while striped carnations say “no” and express a refusal.
  • Sometimes the meanings are conflicting, since striped carnations can, also, mean “sorry I cannot be with you”, “I wish I could”.
  • A white carnation, especially on Mother’s Day, represents purity, “sweet and lovely”, and a woman’s good luck gift.
  • A yellow carnation means rejection or “you have disappointed me”.
  • Mini carnations mean pure love or “my heart yearns for you”.

Whatever message you send with a carnation, a splendid aroma will accompany it.

Carnation Plant Care

The florist carnations are hybrids of Dianthus caryophyllus; although they can be grown in your garden, the florist-quality ones are grown in greenhouses or specialized farms.

There are several species of “carnations” that are grown in the gardens: Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William) and Dianthus chinesis to name a few. Dianthus chinensis is the most widely grown, although it does not have the same look as a florist carnation. Most Dianthus species will have the same pleasing aroma (clove-like) as the florist quality carnations. Depending on the species, carnations can be biennial or annual which provide lush blooms through out the spring and summer.

Orange carnations in a bouquet vase with berries and leather leafCarnation plant care is not too complicated. A little work can harvest beautiful full blooms, which can be enjoyed in the garden or cut and arranged in a carnation bouquet. A simple table can be turned into an exquisite sight with a beautiful and fragrant carnation bouquet. Grown from seed, carnations can be directly sown in the garden or started inside and later transplanted. The aromatic and beautiful carnation plants are perfect for flowerbeds, containers and garden borders.

Although carnations prefer full sun, they do not take well to high heat and humid areas and will need protection from these conditions. Carnations, also, need well-drained soil preferring a sandy or gravel based soil. Over watering can make their leaves turn yellow and muddy damp soil can cause fungal diseases (crown rot and rusts). Proper drainage and plant maintenance are vital for healthy carnation plants.

Blooms that are past their prime should be pinched off – encouraging new blooms and alleviating fungal conditions. During the growing season watch for slugs, sow bugs, grasshoppers, aphids and spider mites. There are pesticides and organic methods to control these pests. Protect from wildlife such as deer, squirrels and chipmunks may be needed.

The Classic Carnation

Next time you need a gift for any event or a beautiful table decoration, don’t forget the classic carnation. Remember a lovely carnation boutonniere will make the moms in your life feel very special. Jazzing up your table for a special dinner party is a snap with a beautiful carnation bouquet. Whatever the occasion, you can find a florist ready to create the perfect carnation flower arrangement for you.

Contributor: Quinn Propst

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