Friday, 30 January 2015
Carnation: the flower for January
After making my peace with chrysanthemums in November, I thought now would be the time to make my peace with carnations. Petrol station flowers in the same shade of pink that last for three weeks but turn a ghostly white by the end, beloved flower of many mothers (including my own), it is a flower I have been given several times but never been excited about. Time to change that.
I bought three wraps of carnations in different colours: yellow, orange and green. I thought they looked like Opal Fruits (or Starburst for those of you born after the 1990s), and the citrus colours would make a change from the carnations I'm used to seeing in pink, red or white. I didn't want these to be filler flowers, or a bunch that seemed wanting of something. I wanted these juicy fruit flowers to stand out on their own.
As well as using them for posies for January birthdays, I thought I would use some in the Garden Museum as they're so long-lasting and it was the last chance to use them in January.
Why January? Carnations are the birth flower for January. In the Victorian language of flowers, they symbolise pride and beauty. But specific colours mean different things. Pink carnations are a sign of female love. Which kind of explains why they are a beloved flower of mothers and grandmothers. I'll challenge myself to use pink next time, and I'll be good and buy British ones, which will hopefully have that lovely clove scent of the dianthus family (regular, wholesale carnations are sadly bred for longevity, losing their scent).
Red carnations say "Alas for my poor heart!", so they are a huge sign of love! White means sweet and lovely, striped carnations symbolise refusal, while yellow is, as ever, a negative-sounding meaning. In this case, disdain. I think most people agree that yellow flowers are a sign of joy and friendship, so I'm totally ignoring the Victorians in this case, and the only disdain I have here is disdain for this particular symbolism!
Mandy Kirkby describes in The Language of Flowers how Oscar Wilde wore a green carnation to the opening night of Lady Windermere's Fan in 1892. He told those who asked that the green carnation meant "Nothing whatever, but that is just what nobody will guess."