Monday, April 8, 2013

The Humble, Lovable, Carnation

In the "Everything Old is New Again" category, I bring you - the carnation!

Spoiler alert - this is a flower nerd post.

Top to bottom:
Florigene "Moonlite" and "Moonshade" carnations.  These have been genetically altered to have more blue pigment in them.  Yes, I know, they are not blue, but purple.  But if you put them next to a standard purple carnation you would see how much bluer they are in comparison.

What I'm going to call a retro-modern spray carnation.  These are a newer Dutch hybrid that harks back to an antique style of bloom.

Sweet William, AKA dianthus barbatus.  There's no agreement on why they are called Sweet William, but the name goes back centuries.

"Green Trick" carnation.  I'm guessing the "trick" is whoops, it has no flowers!

The amazing Hitomi Gilliam using carnations in a bridal bouquet demonstration.

I like carnations.

I said it.

Not all carnations and not under every circumstance, but truly there is a lot to like about them.  They last, they're affordable, they come in a wide range of colors - really every color but true blue.  They're great for laying out a large block of color.

The white ones smell amazing and not in a sicky sweet perfumey way, but in a rich exotic spice kind of way.  Cloves.

Standard purple carnation on the left.

When I was in college one of my professors waxed poetic about the New England carnation growing industry.  He told us about carnation breeder extraordinaire William Sim and his Sim carnations.  You could tell a Sim carnation by looking - the red ones had a white streak on a petal and the white had a red streak.  Nowadays there are many more varieties grown than Sim and New England is no longer a carnation producing area, but back before foreign imports they rocked the flower world.  You can read some of the history here and here.

The older forms of carnations are known as clove pinks.  Dianthus caryophyllus - the name is from the Greek words dios ("god") and anthos ("flower") and from căryon (a nut), from Ancient Greek κάρυον (karuon, a nut) + phyllus (a leaf).  The "nut" referred to in the name is the clove.  They still make a lovely ground cover and many varieties have that yummy clove fragrance.

The carnation varieties in the top two pictures are Dianthus caryophyllus.  The bottom two are Dianthus barbatus.  Barbatus means bearded.  Makes sense when you see them, right?  And I'm betting the word barber shares the same roots haha!

You might be interested to know that etymology-wise using the word pink to describe the color actually came after using pink to describe the plant.  The word pink was first used to describe something that had been pierced or perforated in an ornamental pattern or that had a saw tooth edge.  The flower petals had that saw tooth edge and become known as pinks.  (Think about pinking shears - bet you wondered why they were called that, didn't you?)

Then the word pink then became associated with the light red color of the flower.  Before that it was just red.

Told you this was a flower nerd post.

Carnations:  Yay!  Or no way!


Laurie (Fleurie) said...

My name is Laurie and I admit, I love carnations! Like you said, not all and not under every circumstance, but there is so much more to them than their bad reputation. Carnation snobs give them a chance!

Brenda McGinnis said...

I vote yay!! I love their wide range of colors. Like you said there is nothing better for a large color block. They can be used for texture and you cannot beat their affordability and endurance. Great post. Thank you.

White Lilly said...

As a proud flower nerd and carnation lover...I vote YAY!


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