Flower Glossary: Carnation (Part 2)

Design*Sponge | Flower Glossary | Carnation
My previous Flower Glossary post on carnations was primarily about me getting over my own dislike of this commonly found, often overlooked flower. Carnations can be tricky to work with because of their long, stick-like stems and relatively tiny heads. These days people tend to prefer more organic arrangements that favor flowers with large heads, an abundance of petals and stems that allow for some sway and give. Try as I might, I still can’t get traditional carnations to work in that style- until I realized I was lumping all carnations (unfairly) into the same category.

Carnations not only come in hundreds of varieties, they also come in three main types: single stem, spray and dwarf. I’d been struggling to work the classic single stem variety (the one large head on top of a stick-straight stem) but didn’t realize that if I’d known more about the types of carnations available (not just the species and variety), I could have been working with them more regularly and easily.

While I still struggle with single stems, carnations also come in spray form (several smaller flowers on single stems- like the Cherry Star variety above) and in dwarf form (clusters of heads on a single stem). Both of these types are much easier to work with and give you the chance to create the illusion of a more lush flower head by grouping clusters of small blooms together. As much as I enjoy a large mass of the single stem carnations, it’s not always an option to by three dozen of them to group together. Instead, these spray and dwarf varieties are great ways to pick up only a small group of flowers but still be able to work with them in a way that feels looser an more organic. My apologies again to the once maligned carnation. I promise never again to write you off as a difficult flower and look forward to bringing some of you home for an arrangement soon. xo, grace

  1. Kimithy says:

    There’s something so sweet and simple about receiving a carnation. In part, this could be because I feel a bit sorry for them, as they seem to be considered old-fashioned and homely and overused to some (I find none of these descriptors distasteful, personally). I’ve always thought they were so lovely – a very unassuming flower :)

  2. jessvii says:

    how are these photos taken?? do you buy a sprig of flowers, get a black backdrop, use a DSLR, and go for it or what?

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      we buy flowers and shoot them in our office :)


  3. Karen says:

    I love carnations for arrangements using a cluster of small glass bottles. Because their stems are so long and straight they work nicely in those tall glass bottles that only hold a stem or two anyway. I also love using them in hanging vases.

  4. Manoj says:

    Somebody say Carnation is January month flower with different color and special significance.


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