I will never forget you: that’s the romantic message a Victorian young lady would read into a bouquet or corsage of pink carnations. Imagine the story that may lie behind such an offering.
Is the young lady’s suitor leaving her for ever, perhaps because her father has refused his permission for them to marry? Maybe he is off to the war in Afghanistan or Crimea, or to make his mark in India before returning to claim her hand.
A mix of carnations would give confusing, mixed messages, especially if red blooms were set alongside yellow for red carnations signified “yes” while yellow blossoms gave an unequivocal “no.”
Some species of carnations, (latin name dianthus,) are best grown in greenhouses. These provide the long-stemmed varieties that florists sell: I carried a bouquet of peach-coloured beauties at my wedding, many years ago.
It’s possible that the common name “pinks” may derive less from the colour of the carnation, more from the frilled effect at the edges of its petals, similar to that achieved by cutting with a pair of pinking shears.
Have carnations fallen out of fashion a little in recent years? I no longer grow them in my garden, but that is more because they soon die. I like to blame the mix of salt in the air and a clay soil for this, but I must be alone in my incompetence, as my Somerset neighbours chose Dianthus gratianopolitanus, the Cheddar Pink, as our county flower.
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