It seems that ever since Charlotte from Sex and the City dismissed carnations with a scornful “they’re filler flowers,” women everywhere disregard the little flower with upturned noses. But if you want to talk about sturdy resilience, eclectic versatility, and fantastic color then perhaps it’s time to reconsider the carnation’s role as a “filler flower” and start thinking about booking it as a “main attraction.”
The brilliance of carnations is that they last. You can plant them as seeds and while they usually do best outside, you can plant them in garden boxes or larger pots to enjoy indoors. They like full sun and even when cut their blooms outlast most other flowers. While pink and white are the most common colors, carnations come in a variety of colors, including yellow, purple, and striped varieties. Additionally, white carnations can be tinted to whatever color best suits the look you’re going for.
Flowers can add unique flair to an outfit, and both men and women can benefit from a carnation’s versatility and durability. A carnation tucked into a lapel or buttonhole in the morning can look fresh all day and adds a certain amount of old world class to an otherwise typical outfit. Both William McKinley, former U.S. President, and the author, Oscar Wilde, famously wore carnations on their lapels.
Because white carnations are easy to come by, it’s easy to take a bundle of them and tint them using food coloring. You can match them to a prom dress or to your wedding colors for boutonnieres, mother’s corsages, and bridesmaid bouquets. Liven up St. Patrick’s Day with a green carnation bouquet gracing your dining room table, or get into the Halloween spirit with some spooky black carnations. If you’re planning to tint flowers for a specific occasion make sure to give the process at least a day so that the blossoms have time to absorb a rich shade of your chosen color.
If you’re a teacher, tinting white carnations is a great little science experiment for your elementary school students. All you need is a bundle of carnations, paper cups, water, and as food coloring. My own science teacher in first grade told us that red and blue food coloring works the fastest, but the more colors you have available the more excited your students will be to experiment with mixing. Trim each stem at an angle and place in a cup filled halfway with water. Add a generous amount of food coloring (at least 12-15 drops). This experiment is best done in the morning so that your students can observe the change in color at the end of the school day and then again how it’s changed the next morning.
Oh Charlotte York, how very wrong you were. Carnations are inexpensive and sturdy, but that hardly qualifies them as filler flowers. So go ahead, order a batch and decorate every room in your house, then when you’ve gotten over the bit of flower snobbery Charlotte has instilled in all of us, go out and invest in a few packets of seeds and turn a corner of your garden (indoor or outdoor) into a feast of color.