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Gardening & More: The carnation is an impressive flower, despite its reputation

BLOOM ON — While carnations can be used in arrangements with other flowers, they are beautiful, standing on their own and come in many different colors. The elegant winter creation (top) uses a simple glass cube, white carnations and few evergreen accents. Look past its reputation and recognize all the wonderful traits of this remarkable flower. Photos courtesy of Mischler’s Florists and Greenhouses.
SPRINGVILLE — If your birthday is in January, your flower is the carnation.

The carnation has everything you could want in a flower, yet people do not hold this plant in very high esteem.

“The carnation got a bad reputation,” said Maggie Wittmer, a floral designer at Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses in Williamsville. “There’s no reason to hate the carnation. That’s a bum rap.”

The carnation is beautiful, colorful, fragrant and long-lasting. And it does not cost much.

But that’s the problem.

Because it has so many desirable qualities, the carnation has been overused in floral arrangements. Many people now think of the carnation as a flower that lacks class.

Here are a few reasons why you should reconsider your opinion of carnations.

They come in a large variety of colors. Garden-variety carnations are usually red, pink and white. Varieties available for purchase at floral shops come in even more hues: purple, true orange, hot pink and light green. The green is one of the carnation’s natural colors.

The full, fluffy shape of the flower is attractive and the petals have a spritely-deckled edge.

Also, take into account this flower’s spicy aroma. “I love the fragrance,” Wittmer said.

Carnations are also long-lasting. They will keep up to two weeks in an arrangement, which is twice as long as roses, tulips or hydrangeas last.

Another wonderful thing about the carnation is that it is inexpensive.

When making arrangements, this is a good base flower. You can fill up a large area of the design, without a big monetary investment.

You can grow carnations in your own garden, too, according to Mark Yadon, vice president at Mischler’s. Remember that carnations like a sunny location.

This flower is a type of dianthus, but not all dianthus are carnations. For example, sweet William, which is a garden flower that spreads readily, is a dianthus with a flat-shaped flower. Carnations generally have larger, rounded flowers. Yadon suggested carefully reading the plant tag, to ensure you know what you are purchasing.

Some carnation varieties are perennials in our area, while others have to be grown as annuals. Start both the perennial and annual types from seed or buy the plants.

Carnations are great cutting flowers. They look so pretty in the garden that I cannot bear to take them inside.

Victorian people enjoyed using the language of flowers. Different kinds and colors of flowers symbolized different emotions.

I found many lists of the meanings of different colors of carnations, but no two lists were the same. I hope the Victorians had clearer definitions than we do now, or a gift of flowers could have turned into drama.

Overall, the lists seem to agree that carnations symbolize fascination, which I think is charming.

Don’t let carnations’ bad reputations put you off. Carnations are fragrant, attractively-shaped and colorful. Try them in your garden this year, or use them in a flower arrangement.

Connie Oswald Stofko is the publisher of, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email

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