Thursday, August 20, 2009

Carnations A Varied And Colorful History

By Keith Markensen

Possibly the most popular flower among the high school crowd is the carnation. At prom time hundreds of carnation corsages are ordered be-cause they are considered worthy of that very special girl friend. Why then do our tastes change so radically as we grow older? Why do we seldom consider planting carnations in our own home gardens? Is it that we have come to believe they are difficult to raise? That they are just "florists' flowers?" Certainly we are being misled if that is the case. If given a good start, they actually grow like weeds.

Although the usual method of propagation is through cuttings, growing carnations from seeds is much more exciting. While a cutting assures the grower of exactly the same flower as its parent plant, seeds provide the chance of finding a delightful new color combination or a striking new shade of an old favorite.

The carnation has had a varied and colorful history. Although it is native to the southern part of Europe, England seems to be the first country to develop the carnation. It has been known there since the time of Chaucer who called it the "clove gilofrer." As a coronation flower it was very popular during the reigns of Elizabeth, Charles I, and James I. Because of William McKinley's fondness for this particular flower, the state of Ohio chose the red carnation for its state flower in honor of the United States President. Often the carnation is known as the divine flower.

Best Growing Practices

For the best results plants should be started in a frame or seed bed in late summer for bloom the following year. Because of the wind and extreme heat of some southern areas, it might be profitable to plant the seeds in small flats during late January. First year plants are usually rather spindly, but the second and third year growth will be large and sturdy.

Carnations grow well in a mixed border, but they require plenty of air and sunshine. The most beautiful flowers are those that open after the first cool weather in the early fall months. It is possible that farther north the plants might require more protection from the extreme cold weather. Frost damage on tender tropical plant varieties can be very frustrating. That is why in most areas a north exposure is best for sturdy growth in the plants. Protection front the hot afternoon sun may be gained by planting along a west wall or fence.

Carnations are essentially a cool weather plant, but the seedlings should not be exposed to cold winter air currents. Also, heat can be detrimental to seedlings. The temperature should vary little front 50 degrees at night to 60 degrees during the day-time hours. If the house becomes too warm, the growth becomes soft and the flowers fewer and of poorer quality. It is important that the growing room be well-ventilated, but with no cold air currents.

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