Thursday, 21 January 2016


“To the Elysian shades dismiss my soul, where no carnation fades.” - Alexander Pope

Dianthus caryophyllus, carnation or clove pink, is a common garden flower and popular florist’s flower in the family Caryophyllaceae. It is probably native to the Mediterranean region but its exact range is unknown due to extensive cultivation for the last 2,000 years. It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to 80 cm tall. The leaves are glaucous greyish green to blue-green, slender, up to 15 cm long. The flowers are produced singly or up to five together in a cyme; they are 3–5 cm diameter, and sweetly scented; the original natural flower colour is bright pinkish-purple, but cultivars of other colours, including red, white, yellow and green, have been developed. Some fragrance-less carnation cultivars are often used as boutonnières for men.

Carnations were mentioned in Greek literature 2,000 years ago. “Dianthus” was coined by Greek botanist Theophrastus, and is derived from the Greek words for Zeus (genitive “Dios”) and flower (“anthos”). Some scholars believe that the name “carnation” comes from "coronation" or "corone" (flower garlands), as it was one of the flowers used in Greek ceremonial crowns. Others think the name stems from the Latin “caro” (genitive “carnis” = flesh), which refers to the original colour of the flower, or perhaps from “incarnatio” (incarnation), which refers to the incarnation of God made flesh.

According to a Christian legend, carnations first appeared on earth as Jesus carried the Cross. Carnations sprang up from where the Virgin Mary’s tears fell as she cried over her son’s plight. Miss. Anna Jarvis (founder of Mother’s Day) used carnations at the first Mother’s Day celebration because carnations were her mother’s favourite flower. In the USA and Canada, carnations are still popular Mother’s Day flowers representing a mother’s love. A red carnation may be worn if one’s mother is alive, and a white one if she has died.

In the language of flowers, a bouquet of multi-coloured carnations signifies “fascination” and a woman’s love (except in France, where they stand for misfortune and bad luck). Red carnations mean “deep love”, while light red carnations carry the meaning “admiration”. Pink carnations are symbolic of maternal love, while white carnations mean pure love and good luck. On the other hand, striped carnations have a negative meaning of refusal and regret, while yellow carnations mean disappointment and dejection. Purple carnations mean capriciousness and green carnations are associated with the festivities of St Patrick’s Day. Violet and lilac-coloured carnations signify novelty and enchantment.

At the University of Oxford, carnations are traditionally worn to all examinations; white for the first exam, pink for exams in between, and red for the last exam. One story explaining this tradition relates that initially a white carnation was kept in a red inkpot between exams, so by the last exam it was fully red. Red carnations worn or carried on May Day symbolise revolutionary feelings and sympathies with the labour movement. Green carnations are also a symbol of homosexuality and they were worn famously by Oscar Wilde and Noël Coward.

Carnations grow readily from cuttings made from the suckers that form around the base of the stem, the side shoots of the flowering stem, or the main shoots before they show flower-buds. The cuttings from the base make the best plants in most cases. These cuttings may be taken from a plant at any time through Autumn or Winter, rooted in sand and potted up. They may be put in pots until the planting out time in Spring, which is usually in April or in any time when the ground is ready to be handled. The soil should be deep, friable and sandy loam.

Carnations need some hours of full sun each day and should be kept moist. Avoid over-watering as this may tend to turn the foliage yellow. Spent flowers should be removed promptly to promote continued blooming. The quality of the bloom depends on the soil and irrigation aspects for growing carnations. Those who grow carnations should know the importance of pinching, stopping and disbudding. At the time of plucking carnations, leave three to four nodes at the base and remove the stem. The plant foliage should not be exposed to the direct heat of a stove or the sun.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.


  1. Love the bouquet of carnations.

  2. A wonderful arrangement, an artistic piece.
    Attractive in pink tones, I like very much.
    This is my contribution
    Greetings from Germany

  3. I had not heard that according to a Christian legend, carnations first appeared on earth as Jesus carried the Cross. Or that carnations sprang up from where the Virgin Mary’s tears fell as she cried over her son’s plight. But why not? Flowers, to be widely attractive, need to be largely symmetrical, petals tightly bound to the bud, great colours and reasonably long lasting. Carnations do all of that.

    Seventeenth century Dutch families who could afford large paintings but couldn't afford fresh flowers would ask an artist to paint flowers in a vase and place it above a table facing the front door. Tulips were more famous but Ruysch, van der Ast and many others loved including carnations.

  4. Now I know why my mother wouldn't have carnations in the house. She didn't say why.I grew up unconsciously disliking them but now I do.Besides they are so cheap here you can buy bunches of them.

    Shamelessly love this pink pic...chocolate box gorgeousness:)
    Also love the legend of the via dolorosa.Worthy of a poem.