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Dianthus

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Name

Dianthus, its botanical name, means divine flower. Carnation was the flesh-pink colour Elizabethan portrait painters used as a background wash.

Description

The carnation is available as a standard carnation - one large flower per stem, or a spray carnation with lots of smaller flowers.

Colour

Available in a huge range of colours, almost all except blue. A mauve carnation with a blue tinge has been developed by Florigene in Australia. But they look best in hot Latin shades of red, pink and orange.

Availability

All year round.

Varieties

New varieties have been bred which look like old-fashioned garden pinks, but in bright colours. They have daintier relatives, the fantastically fragrant Sweet Williams and Pinks. 

Care tips

Carnations can last up to three weeks but should be kept away from ripening fruit and vegetables because of ethylene gas.

Facts

Carnations are the UK's best-selling cut flower, by miles. They are an excellent cut-flower, great value, very long-lasting, Since the 1950's they have been frowned upon by the style gurus, but are now making a comeback. 

Used on Mothering Sunday in Canada, you wear a red flower if your mother is alive or a white flower if your mother has died.

In the language of flowers, a red carnation is for "alas for my poor heart", striped for refusal, yellow for disdain, pink for women's love.