Scientifically known as Dianthus caryophyllus, the carnation has a very deep and rich history. The scientific name dianthus translated means “flower of love” or “flower of the gods”, depending on the source. The carnation has been revered for centuries, and holds several symbolic meanings, as well as various definitions in the language of flowers, depending on the color. In general, a carnation means fascination and admiration, but a pink carnation means ‘I will always remember you’. What a lovely sentiment appropriate for the upcoming Valentine holiday!
Carnations have fallen out of popularity in the past 20 years, but they are slowing making a come-back. Back in the early 90’s, the Andean Fair Trade Act opened the floodgates and our flower market became saturated with carnations and baby’s breath. All through the 80’s and 90’s it was unheard of to see a flower arrangement that didn’t include these two overworked flowers. It was the florists’ standard arrangement. And if you’re like me, we grew weary and tired of the same ‘ol in the standard flower arrangements.
But today, we’ve begun to see many new ruffly and pleasantly hued carnations on the market. I like that. I think the carnation deserves a comeback, and here’s why.
The carnation became known as the ‘cheap’ flower, but they’re beginning to shed that reputation and being used in some beautiful wedding work among floral designers. I have grown one variety (reminds me, I need to get more seed!) and used it in some of my wedding work called Chabaud La France, available here from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. This was a long time ago, and now I see this variety is quickly becoming very popular for bridal bouquets. They do not cost as much roses or orchids, so that makes them a beautiful option for bouquets. They’re so beautiful with the new frilly edges and gorgeous colors!
They’re available in many beautiful hues
Oh boy! Here’s where you’ll get hooked. Just look at a few of the available colors! No more just the standard white, pink, red, and sometimes yellow.
They’re sturdy cut flower
I’m sure it’s why they were all the rage given they’re affordable AND they last for a very long while in the vase.
They have rich history
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 “carnis” (flesh), which refers to the original color of the flower, or incarnacyon (incarnation), which refers to the incarnation of God made flesh. Either way, they are on the records in early history as a very popular flower. Along with many symbolic uses, the carnation holds several significant meanings in the language of flowers too. A red carnation signifies deep love and devotion, while a light red would mean you just really like someone. If you were ever given a yellow carnation, look out, you’re not even being considered, and a striped carnation meant there was hesitation and indecision in the relationship. But white carnations signify purity and luck.
For me personally, a white carnation will sometimes remind me of death or funerals. The scent especially, evokes an early memory for me at my grandfather’s funeral. His casket was draped with many carnations, and the entire viewing room smelled so sweet and a little spicy (just like him!). But today I hold that memory dear to my heart. I love that flowers can do that for us–evoke memories and remind us of places and people, or even a particular moment in time.