Carnations – January’s Flower

Red Purple Collage

Carnations have always been one of my favorite go-to flowers. I discovered long ago how wonderfully long lasting they are as cut flowers and since I love having fresh flowers in my home, and I like variety, I choose them often. Typically for Valentines Day, I will fill a heavy glass vase with several shades of red, fuchsia and purple for a passionately vibrant statement. The effect is magnificent and I can’t afford to do that with roses! I also like to use as many shades of pink, peach and lavender as I can find for a beautifully sweet and innocent look. Another look I like is to combine pure white with shades of peach and pink for a pure, fresh vibe. When purchasing my carnations for a bouquet I don’t pay much attention to the different sizes they come in – large, single flowered, mini sprays or dwarf – because I like the loose, natural effect the various sizes and colors give when mixed together.



The carnation is native to Eurasia and is one of the world’s oldest cultivated flowers, dating back to ancient Greek and Roman times where it was used in garlands for celebrations and appears regularly in art and decor. Carnations of these early times were primarily pale pink or peach shades, but over time the selection of available colors has grown to include red, yellow, white, purple, and even green. With its scientific name, dianthus, roughly translating to “flower of love” or “flower of the gods”, depending on the source, this flower has been revered for centuries. It’s worn on Mother’s Day, Teacher’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day (in green, naturally) and at weddings. This hardy, sweetly fragrant flower is also the state flower of Ohio, the January birth month flower and the 1st wedding anniversary flower. The National Flower of Spain is the Red Carnation.

Various Collage


Much like roses, the giving of certain colors can convey different meanings. A pink carnation means affection or can be used to show gratitude, while red means, “I love you”. White carnations are meant to convey purity or luck and striped blooms mean regret that a love is not returned. Yellow means rejection or disappointment. Purple carnations imply capriciousness. The pink carnation carries the greatest significance, beginning with the belief that they first appeared on earth from the Virgin Mary’s tears – making them the symbol of a mother’s undying love.


Petals on carnations are generally clawed or serrated, giving these flowers a charming ruffled appearance. The leaves are narrow and and their color varies from green to grey-blue or purple. Blooms are full and grow on strong, straight stems. Flowers are either large and single, mini sprays or dwarf with several flowers along each stem. As a cut flower in arrangements, the pleasantly clove scented carnation is incredibly long lived, outlasting most other blooms by days and sometimes even by weeks. In fact, in many parts of the world, the popularity of carnations surpasses that of any other flower including roses.



Six tips on how to make your cut flowers last longer:

  • Add a teaspoon of sugar or 1/4 cup of clear soda (not diet) for nutrients.
  • Add a copper penny to the bottom of the vase. The copper in pennies is thought to act like an acidifier, which prevents the growth of bacteria.
  • Add a few drops of vodka (or any clear spirit) to the vase water for antibacterial action along with 1 teaspoon sugar. Change the water every other day, refreshing the vodka and sugar each time.
  • Put a crushed aspirin in the water before adding your flowers.
  • Add 3 drops bleach and 1 teaspoon sugar in 1 quart (1 liter) water. This will keep the water from getting cloudy and inhibit the growth of bacteria.
  • Dissolve 3 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons white vinegar per quart (liter) of warm water. The sugar nourishes, while the vinegar inhibits bacterial growth.

Change the water every other day (remembering to add any of the solutions above) and you’ll be amazed how long your cut flowers will last.



All photos by Nancy Kirkpatrick Photography

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