4 Mar 2011

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
Pablo Neruda, Sonnet XVII 

 The carnation’s luxuriant abundance of frills and distinctive ruffled appearance have earned it a place as one of the best-known flowers, and its varieties are such that there is a colour to match every bouquet. 

Carnations are generally symbolic of fascination, love and distinction. Among all the colours, pink carnations have the most symbolic and historical significance. 

According to Christian legend, carnations first appeared when the Virgin Mary shed tears at Jesus’ plight, and carnations sprang up from where her tears fell. Pink carnations then became the symbol of a mother’s undying love, which is why they are the flowers most popularly given on Mother’s Day.

Pink bouquets are usually presented to mothers, though some traditions hold that children can show off their pride in their mums by wearing the flowers themselves: red if she is still living, and white if she has passed away. 

Red carnations beg relief for an aching heart, express admiration and are a sign of flashiness. 

White blooms indicate innocence, sweetness, pure love, remembrance, and tell the recipient that they are utterly adorable. These can also be used as hints to chivvy along a dawdling admirer, by telling them you are still available. White carnations additionally make excellent good luck gift for women

You probably would not want to be on the receiving end of a purple or yellow carnation though: the former criticises capriciousness and apathy, while the latter demonstrates the giver’s disdain, disappointment and rejection. 

However, yellow flowers could also mean ‘cheerfulness’. In response to a question, solid-coloured carnations reply in the affirmative, and striped ones mean ‘no’—and perhaps sorrow that you cannot be together with the receiver. 

Carnations are the birth flower for those born in January.   

-     Admiration (Red)
-     Adorable, Good Luck, Pure or ardent love (White)
-     Apathetic (Purple)
-     Beautiful
-     Capricious (Purple)
-     Cheerful (Yellow)
-     Flashy (Red)
-     Gratitude (Pink)
-     Sweet and lovely (White)
-     Womanly love (Pink)
-     ‘Enjoy the moment.’ (Yellow)
-     ‘I’ll never forget you.’ (Pink)
-     ‘I’m still available.’ (White)
-     ‘My heart aches for you.’ (Red)

Origin: The Middle East.

Season: In the garden, carnations bloom from late spring to early autumn, but they are very easy to cultivate all year round.

Colour: Originally a pink flower, after thousands of years of being cultivated, the carnation now comes in red, yellow, purple and even green (green flowers are worn on St Patrick’s Day).

Author: Alethea Dean 

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