Gardening for You Charming carnations as Valentines

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Ellen Peffley
| Lubbock Avalanche Journal

Valentine’s Day means flowers. One of the best memories of Valentine’s Day was probably a bouquet of flowers. Popular flowers for Valentine’s Day are roses, calla lilies, stargazer lilies, tulips and carnations. Today’s column is dedicated to the enchanting carnation.

The carnation wins hearts for its long life in the vase and one of the few cut flowers sold by florists that has retained its fragrance. It has a floral, spicy, sweet-smelling fragrance reminiscent of pepper and cloves. Beyond the satisfaction of taking a whiff of a cheeky bouquet of carnations and being rewarded with its spicy scent, but oh so disappointing to sniff a beautiful but aroma-free bouquet of roses.

There are three main types of carnations: Large-flowered standards have one large flower per stem and are the common cut flowers sold by florists. Dwarf types have multiple small flowers on a stem, and spray or mini carnations have many smaller flowers.

The scientific name of the carnation reveals its genetic relatives. The carnation Dianthus caryophyllus is related to the garden flower Dianthus, which is often referred to as pink, and the carnation is also related to the garden flower Sweet William. Flowers of each emit characteristic spicy, sweet, pungent scents. The name Dianthus comes from the Greek “Dios”, which refer to the god Zeus, and “Anthos”, which means flower. Carnations are then known as “The Flowers of God”.

Carnations can be propagated from seeds and cuttings. Starting from seeds is slower, but many more plants can be established. Sow seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring freeze; in Lubbock the third week of February to the first week of March.

The usual propagation strategy for propagating carnations consists of root stem cuttings. Cuttings are taken from mother plants in the vegetative stage of growth, which is evidenced by stems that have closely spaced leaves without flower buds. Strong side shoots or shoots that emanate from the base of the stem make the best cuttings. Avoid long stems as these have begun the transition from the vegetative to the flowering stage and develop terminal flower buds. Place the cuttings in loose media, vermiculite, or perlite. keep moist and warm until rooted. When the danger of frost has passed, plant in the garden, sheltered from the wind in a sunny place and in loose, well-drained soil.

Carnations are the perfect choice for a Valentine’s Day as they come in different colors, each with a different meaning:

• Pink – mother’s love

• Bright red – admiration

• Dark red – deep love and a woman’s affection

• White – pure love and good luck

• Purple – moodiness

• Yellow – disappointment, depression

• Striped – regret, rejection

• Green – St. Patrick’s Day

(The flower giver might think about the meaning of color before choosing a bouquet of carnations, likely avoiding yellow and striped flowers!)

Carnation Trivia: California is the largest domestic carnation producer. In 2015, 896,000 standard carnation stems were sold at 31 cents per stem (Summary nass.floriculture crop 2018).

Note: Some information from pickupflowers.com

Ellen Peffley taught college horticulture for 28 years, 25 of them at Texas Tech. During this time she developed two types of onions. She is now the sole owner of From the Garden, a gardening farmette. You can email her at Gardens@suddenlink.net