Crown the Month with Colorful Carnation

Right now our local nurseries offer an awesome array of colorful plants and flowers that prefer cooler weather. Most commonly you can select from: calendula, stock, pansy, poppy, ornamental cabbage, ornamental kale, snapdragon, Johnny-jump-up, violet, yarrow, alyssum, feverfew, gypsophilia, and last – but not least – three related species, dianthus, sweet william and carnation.

I call your attention to carnation for a special reason, they are considered the “birth flower” for the month of January. Just like birthstones, birth flowers are there to help us celebrate. This concept has been around since at least the 1500’s in England, and is also found in a number of other cultures.

carnation-striped-winter

Carnations and dianthus are also known as “pinks.” In the wild they are pink, but brought into cultivation plant breeders have selected for colors and color blends ranging from almost purple through magenta to lavender and lilac, on to red and scarlet, orange, yellow, and even pure white. Note that these same flower colors can be found in a local carnation cousin – cacti! Like cacti, carnations are more tolerant of our alkaline soils than many other popular garden flowers.

carnation-dianthus-lovely

Along with their bright attractive colors, the shape of carnation and dianthus are quite charming. The petals have zig-zag outer edges. Altogether, the blooms look somewhat like little crowns, or coronets, which is derived from the Hebrew word “koren” meaning rays, as in rays of sunlight. How appropriate that a winter flower is crowned with color, bringing sunlight and good cheer into our hearts during this month of short days and long nights.

butterfly-carnation-nectar
Pollinators like butterflies may crown your carnations!

Along with their bright attractive colors, the shape of carnation and dianthus are quite charming. The petals have zig-zag outer edges. Altogether, the blooms look somewhat like little crowns, or coronets, which is derived from the Hebrew word “koren” meaning rays, as in rays of sunlight. How appropriate that a winter flower is crowned with color, bringing sunlight and good cheer into our hearts during this month of short days and long nights.

carnation-flower-winter-crowned

So many names for one plant! Carnations, pinks, gillyflower, whatever you call them, they still smell as sweet! My birthday is not in January but I did purchase some of these lovely flowers in memory of my dear mother-in-law, Esther. She loved carnations – her birth-month flower. I do try to have some each winter.

Soule-Jacqueline-writer

If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the very popular – “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).
© All articles are copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos may not be used.

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