the Carnation

April 19, 2011

When I decide on a topic to blog about I typically google it to see what information pops up and to check out other blogs and who has blogged about the same topic, and to harvest the most relevent information possible for my own rantings on said topic. Sometimes, what I want to write about has already been blogged (often actually, but not always well).

This morning I was sitting in my sunroom and glanced across the room at an arrangement of carnations, I was amazed that the little flowers looked so good for being 2 weeks (maybe 3… I lost count) old!  I ended up with an arrangement of carnations because I was staying with very good friends a few weeks ago and they had an arrangement of white carnations in their living room. I was surprised by their choice, carnations, really?!? …but the low tight arrangement sans greens or other flowers was really very chic I must say.  Readily available at the grocery store I was reminded that it’s really the execution that makes or breaks a carnation or any flower really,  I was also reminded of how much I like the smell of a carnation.

Fast forward to today… I Google “bringing back the carnation” and find a bunch of articles, funny how each individual feels personally responsible for “bringing back the carnation”… if you ask me my friends in Palm Springs did, they are the reason I have a large tight ball of red carnations in my sunroom… and now I’m helping spread the word, Bring back the carnation! What follows is the best write-up I found on the carnation when I did my search,  it’s written by Carmen Cosentino of Auburn NY. Enjoy.

“The white carnation is preferred because it may be thought to typify some of the virtues of motherhood – whiteness stands for purity; its lasting quality, faithfulness; its fragrance, love: its wide field of growth, charity; and its form, beauty.”

These words were penned by Miss Anna Jarvis, widely acknowledged to be the founder of the Mother’s Day Celebration in 1908. Over the years things have changed, and we now wear a red one on that beautiful day if our mom is alive and a white, in memorandum . Through the ages, carnations have been a mainstay of our floral selection.

Yes, let us consider the carnation. It certainly is a beautiful flower. And it is coming back into favor. For the past decade or so it seems that when local florists got orders for flowers from their colleagues across the country for delivery here in Auburn, especially those from affluent and upscale communities, there was a note to not use carnations. That is changing. New colors and interesting petal formation and the fact that the old fragrance is coming back are leading the way to a new popularity.

Dianthus caryophyllus. That’s the botanical name. Dianthus comes from the ancient Greek and derives from two words, dios (divine) and anthos (flower). Hence one of its popular names over the centuries, the “flower of the gods.” Carnation also derives from the Greek, corone, the word for crowns; it was most often used in Greek ceremonial crowns.

The carnation is one of the world’s longest in cultivation flowers. Although we have little proof of its origin, because it has been so widely cultivated, we think that the carnation actually originated in the northern Mediterranean areas. The carnation’s history goes back centuries. We know that it was used in both Greek and Roman ceremonies and in home decorating.

The flower we know today is a far cry from that of two centuries ago. Our colors can be strong and vibrant, they can be in the most delicate pastels. Breeders during the 20th century have done a magnificent job. Today we have carnations that are nearly 4 inches across, some with deeply serrated petals that give them a feather duster appearance. And yes, the aromas are coming back.

During the first half of the 20th century, most carnations were grown in greenhouse operations near where they were to be sold. Results were OK and the carnations were fresh. There were at least three flower shop/greenhouses that grew them. In the late ’40s, it was found that the areas around Boston had the ideal temperatures and a fantastic light situation, and a large carnation industry grew up there. It lasted into the early ’60s, when our American population began populating our western states; too far in those days to ship the flower. So Denver became the carnation capital of the world. The Mile High City had fantastic light and very even temperatures and plenty of fuel to heat them in the wintertime. Then entrepreneurs in southern California looked at this very profitable crop and began growing it and were very successful until the 1980s. One factor that determined where to grow flowers is land value. As California and Denver became urbanized, land costs skyrocketed.

Enter the Colombians. Today, several thousand acres of greenhouse acres on the plains of Bogota produce most of the world’s carnations. Land is relatively inexpensive and labor very available. As a matter of fact, it is said that the flower industry employs some 25,000 women, many of whom never had hope of a good life. Who asked “are flowers relevant?”

Carmen Cosentino operates Cosentino’s Florist.  He was elected to the National Floriculture Hall of Fame in 1998, and in 2008, received the Tommy Bright award for lifetime achievements in floral education. He can be reached at


One Response to “the Carnation”

  1. Jeff Says:

    love you

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