Long the most popular cut flower after the rose, the carnation’s star has been on the wane over the past twenty years or so. In 2004 carnations were the 10th most popular flower sold at Aalsmeer, but they remain a very popular traditional flower in England, where they have been sold since at least the 16th century. They seem to be making a comeback, however, which is not surprising as this flower has a huge range of strong colours, is long-lasting and is scented.
Carnations come in two forms. Single flowers per stem are called ‘Sims’, several flowers per stem are ‘sprays’. They come in every colour, except black, and there are even genetically-engineered ‘blue’ forms, bred in Australia, that range from pale blue to mauve. Large breeders include Barberet & Blanc (France), Hilverda (Holland), P. Kooij & Son (Holland) and Selecta Klemm (Germany). Check these breeders’ websites for more information.
Carnations tend to be grown in glasshouses or polyhouses, and like roses, the main areas of production have become more southern – Spain and Africa for Europe and South America, Colombia in particular, has taken over from California as the main supplier of carnations into the USA for example. In Australia, carnations are grown in glasshouses, mostly close to the southern capital cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide.
These flowers are very sensitive to ethylene gas, which makes their petals curl inwards and shrivel. Growers should treat bunches with an anti-ethylene agent before they are sold.
Types: Sims, Sprays, Chinnies, Sweet William
Language: (General) – Fascination, Woman love, (Pink) – I’ll never forget you, (Red) – My heart aches for you, Admiration, (Purple) – Capriciousness, (Solid Color) – Yes, (Striped) – No, refusal, Wish I could be with you, (White) – Sweet and lovely, innocence, pure love, woman’s good luck gift, (Yellow) – You have disappointed me, Rejection
Birth Flower: January
What to look for
- Sims and sprays are usually sold in split bud or half open – they will open in the vase;
- Sweet William and D. chinensis should be a 1/4 to 1/2 open;
- Petals should be free of brown blemishes and not curling inwards;
- Avoid bunches with brown tips on leaves.
- Keep carnations cool (@ 4 Degrees Celsius) whenever possible.
- Strip leaves from the bottom half of each stem.
- Recut at least 2 cm off each stem above the stem node and place in water immediately.
- Wash stem ends in bunches that have been field-grown.
- Always use a preservative as this will help buds open and keep open flowers looking fresh.
- Replace vase water with fresh preservative every 2 to 3 days.
- Carnations are very sensitive to ethylene. Keep them away from fruit, car exhausts and cigarette smoke.
Interesting Facts about this Flower
The name Dianthus is derived from the Greek ‘Dios’, meaning divine and ‘anthos’ meaning flower. For centuries they were called ‘Gilliflower’ or ‘Pinks’, not because they were that colour, but probably a reference to the frilled edges of the petals, which look like they have been cut by pinking shears. Pink carnations were not bred until the 19th century. They have also been used for centuries in cooking. This culinary use, is thought to have developed during Roman times and persisted down through the centuries. This led the English to call carnations “Sops-in-Wine” during the time of Chaucer. This referred to the belief that these flowers could prevent drunkeness, and could have evolved into the custom of a groom wearing a white carnation in his buttonhole.
In Canada you wear a red flower on Mothers Day if your mother is alive or a white flower if your mother has died.
In the Language of Flowers a red carnation means “divine love”, a solid colour means ‘yes’, while a striped form means ‘refusal’, yellow means ‘disdain’, and pink stands for ‘woman’s love’.
Botanical Name: Dianthus caryophyllus (Sims & Sprays)D. chinensis (Chinesini)D. barbatus (Sweet William)
Common Names: Carnation, Chinesini, Chinnies, Sweet William
Stem Length: from 20 cm (Sweet William) to 80 cm (Sims)
Country of Origin: Southern Europe
Available Colours: Blue, Cream, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, White, Yellow