Thursday, 23 April 2015

A plant I don't even like ...


As previous posts have detailed, I am buying a plant every month to ensure that I have all year round colour in my garden. This was suggested by the late, great Geoff Hamilton, and it is a great idea. I am trying to go beyond my own personal comfort zone a little, by ensuring that I purchase a plant I have had little previous experience of. It is a great opportunity to buy things which I would not normally buy.


In the early months of the year there was, unsurprisingly, less choice, as there were less plants in flower to choose from. This month it was quite overwhelming, and there was endless choice and variety. I had some plants in my hand which I had to put down again. I REALLY wanted a blood red Erysimum, and coveted it quite badly! They are some of my favourite plants and I have lots in the garden anyway, so it would have felt like cheating! I also picked up a clematis, but the same applies !


I had limited time to look around, which was perhaps a good thing, as it crystallised the mind somewhat. In the end I went for ... a Carnation! A plant I hate, loathe and detest above all others! But this is an exercise to push me out of my comfort zone, so I decided to go for it. Hopefully I will learn to love it, and find things that I like about it.


All the carnations were inside a greenhouse, at the nursery, which led me to wonder about their hardiness but when I researched it, I found out that they are fully hardy, so I don't know why they were under cover.

The first thing I noticed as I moved towards them was the perfume which filled the air. Smells can trigger memories faster and more intensely than anything else, and one whiff of those carnations and I was five years old again, playing in my grandfather's sunny garden, while the adults drank tea inside the house. I could almost feel the warmth of that long ago sun on my back.


There was a choice of  three colours in the nursery - a striped raspberry pink and white; a solid shell pink; and the one I finally chose, a pure white. All had soft grey foliage with narrow spear shaped leaves. The stems were rather stiff and formal, and  jointed, like arthritic old women. They are a plant with little natural grace and fluidity, and remind me to a certain extent of Auriculas, in that they both have the same formality and lack of grace. The habit of the carnation is a stiffly upright plant with comparatively large flowers borne at the top of the stems.

My personal reaction to Carnations is to find them faintly depressing, because I think they conjure up the grimmer aspects of the late 1950's and early 60's. I was very small then (honest!) but I think they evoke long hidden memories of this time in me, when austerity ruled the day.

Carnations were very fashionable then and most gardens had a clump or two. Front gardens tended to be formal, and carnations were often planted with bedding such as Lobelia and Alyssum, which was often planted alternately, giving a very regimented feel to gardens. Carnations were also planted in back gardens too, as part of  more informal cottage gardens.


Apparently, there are several types of Carnation - annual, border and perpetual - flowering. Their Latin name is Dianthus, which was bestowed upon them by the Greek botanist Theopharastus, who took the  Greek words 'Dios'  (God) and 'anthos' (flowers), so that there name literally means 'Flower of the Gods'.

They need several hours of full sun every day, and like to be kept moist, although they do not appreciate over - watering. They prefer deep, friable sandy loam - so they may have a shock moving in with me ! They need to be fed, dead headed and watered regularly if they are to keep producing flowers.

My new best friend should grow to around 30 cm in height, with a similar spread.

I will try to learn to love them, but there are no waves of warmth towards them at the moment ...




52 comments:

  1. Actually I love carnations, except as cut flowers - probably for similar issues of old associations! I've never grown them though; fears about the hardiness kept them out of my earlier garden, and here... well, I don't suppose they're particularly drought-tolerant... :P I hope the two of you will manage to become friends!

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  2. Hi Amy, I do hope so! Are there hardiness issues with Carnations then ? All I can find out is that they are "fully hardy" !

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    1. Apparently they're much hardier than I knew; I just did a quick check by USDA zone, and they're said to survive down to zone 3 or 4 - far, far below freezing... But they do like good drainage so perhaps it's just as well I didn't try them in the clay loam of my old garden! I wonder where the idea of them being tender came from??

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  3. I too have memories of carnations growing in my Grandparents garden, I do quite like them, perhaps they will become fashionable again and you will become a trend setter,
    I think they were underglass because like so many plants in garden centres today they have been forced on to flower earlier than they would in the garden.

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    1. I bet you are right Brian, as everything is encouraged to flower early ! Carnations must be quite evocative , funny that yours are connected to grandparents too!

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  4. I think the white is so pretty on this carnation! And your challenge to purchase new plants each month to ensure you have year round color is fantastic!!! Wishing you luck on this journey! Nicole

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    1. Do join in if you would like to Nicole and post a link to your post ! It is such a good idea because it means guilt free plant buying!

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  5. I have some pink ones in the back garden and tried bringing some back to life last year that my Dad had inherited! The pink ones have been going for a few years now - I don't like carnations much either as the pollen gives me hayfever but I agree about the smell being very old fashioned - it makes me remember my grandparents Kentish garden and reminds me of Dad and my husband (who actually states carnations are his favourite flower bless him; we even had them as part of his button hole when we married! Simple tastes and old fashoned we are here. Like your posts as always and look forward to see your next new plant.

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  6. Hi Ali, carnations and grandparents seem to be wedded together in many people's memories. You have done well to keep your inherited ones going as they are short-lived - only 2 or 3 years apparently (that's what the Horticultural guru that is Google said, anyway!!).

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  7. Carnation oil is supposed to be calming, It;s a pity that lots have now lost the perfume. I have some rooted cuttings waiting to go to the cut flower area on the plot which came from cuttings taken from cut flower bunches,

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    1. That's interesting Sue, how do you do that ? That sounds like a plan ! The ones I bought have certainly not lost their perfume !

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    2. I described doing this on this post, Jane. It just depends on luck as to whether the florist has stripped off cutting material, If the bunch is 'thin' then you are out of luck,

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    3. Hi Sue, thanks for that - I will check out your post.

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  8. I think carnations remind us of cheap bunches of flowers from petrol stations. I have even seen some monstrous dyed ones. You have to try and look at them with fresh eyes. I know someone here in Suffolk who grows the old Victorian Malmaison carnations. They are exquisite and smell divine. Yours is very pretty and I bet it smells lovely.
    By the way, the Auricula 'Red Gauntlet' you sent me is blooming. It is beautiful. Thank you so much. All the other plants you sent me are thriving.

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    1. Hi Chloris, so pleased it is flowering already! I shall have to check out Malmaison carnations as I have not heard of them.

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  9. I love the smaller dianthus pink (D. plumarius) and for the same reason, they were in my grandfather's garden. I am partial to the carnation scent and treat myself to Roger and Gallet carnation soap when I can find it-another item scarce in these parts.

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    1. Hi Susan, the scent is memorable . I shall look out for the soap as I bet smells amazing.

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  10. Jane! How can you not love carnations! They certainly are one of my favorites. In parts perhaps there are few plants that do as well in my sunny, well-drained alkaline soil. The one you selected looks a bit like Mrs Sinkins, a plant I associate with my first gardening friend.
    I am glad you are trying to grow one and sure you will get to like it. The perennial ones have such a strong perfume.They always look neat, even when they are not in bloom. They are so undemanding. As you can see - I like them.

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    1. Hi Alain and thanks for being such an advocate for the Carnation! I hope I feel the love very soon! It is good to hear how undemanding they are, and if they stay neat then that is a real plus point!

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  11. Carnations evoke wonderful childhood memoires for me, too, the floirst sort, those big headed, spicey smelling flowers that always turn up in funeral shrouds. We lived next to a grower who had green houses full of carnations. I loved to visit the warm, moist indoor garden and smell the carnations. Here I plant a clump every year, but they don't always over winter well. As for your description of their joints, wonderful. Thanks for stopping by the Garden Spot. Boone, indeed, is a handful. I sometimes think that he should be with a younger couple for he is certainly high energy. We always had short hairs, but our last one was so speicial. As my husband looked for a new short hair, I always saw Max's sweet face in each dog, so we decided to go with Boone. Not a bad choice, a good one, but he is far more independent. But then he is only a kid.

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    1. Hi Ann, as you say he is only a baby with a lot of maturing to do! Our effort is always repaid !
      I bet the smell in those carnation glasshouses was unbelievable!

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  12. I'm not sure whether I could bring myself to buy a plant that I didn't actually like Jane but there's nothing quite like a challenge. I do not like the large carnations but have always been enchanted by the usually smaller growing highly scented carnations often also called pinks. They can hug the ground quite closely and be floppy in habit. They are also undemanding and pest free. I was also a child in the late '50s and early '60s but perhaps I did not come across them until I was older. I do hope that you come to love your carnation given time :)

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    1. Hi Anna, I am unsure where a carnation ends and a Pink begins, especially when a Pink isn't pink! Thanks for your pointers!

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  13. I inherited a whole load of pinks along with the house.. Pink ones too! I moved them around a couple of times hoping I'd find the right spot but the pink was so electric they never really fitted in. The mice, bless them, have now solved the problem for me.. They've eaten the lot!

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    1. So mice have some point then, Jessica! usually they eat the one plant you are really nurturing! I do want to love them (carnations - not mice!) but it is an uphill struggle!

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  14. They're not a favorite of mine, either. There's a soft spot in my heart for just about any plant--in the right place and the right garden--but I think I experienced too many carnations during the 70s, too. They remind me of funerals, mostly. But they are also good filler flowers--especially the white ones. And, as you say, they do smell nice. :)

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    1. I agree, they are too straight and stiff for me ... but then I love Auriculas, so I am just fickle !

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  16. I thought for sure you were going to say Carnations remind you of funerals! They're used in funeral arrangements a lot here and that's what I think of when I see the big ones.....However, your white Carnation is stunning! How can white be anything but white?? The color is so pure.....lovely.

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    1. I don't associate them with funerals, so maybe they are not used so much here . They are traditionally associated with weddings, particularly as button holes for the men.

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  17. I just love carnations -- they have a venerable cottage garden history as pinks or dianthus. I don't even mind the cut ones, as they remind me of cottage pinks. And the white ones are the most fragrant, I've noticed. And the foliage is evergreen, even here in the Midwest (for the varieties that don't outright die over the winter, that is...). I think you have made a good selection, despite your reservations. No one should eschew a plant because it's common -- there's a reason it became common in the first place, often several very good reasons, like wonderful fragrance, ease of growing, faithful flowering, etc. I hope you grow to enjoy this historic flower! -Beth

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    1. Hi beth, I agree that plants are common for a reason - usually a good one, so being common is usually a sign of a good plant. Carnations really seem to divide opinions ! I will try to learn to love !

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  18. Carnations and pinks used to be so fashionable and a plant that many a gardener grew, not just for the scent of the flowers but for the ease of propagation. Unfortunately they are very much out of fashion now but I did plant up couple of troughs last year in one of the few places in the garden to get some sun and I am quite pleased I did as they certainly evoked some memories of summers gone by.

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    1. That is so true Rick, they are right out of fashion! Will you grow them again this year ?

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    2. The plants (pinks) have survived the winter and are already sprouting flower stems.

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  19. This is a very interesting exercise, Jane. I share your lack of appreciation of carnations. I suppose it reminds me also of my childhood, and how men used to wear them in their buttonholes - whatever buttonholes were! I wonder if you will learn to love them. I should do something like this, I tend to buy what I know and even if I love a plant tend not to buy it unless I have an idea where it will fit in. I guess that is a bit of a rut.

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  20. This is a very interesting exercise, Jane. I share your lack of appreciation of carnations. I suppose it reminds me also of my childhood, and how men used to wear them in their buttonholes - whatever buttonholes were! I wonder if you will learn to love them. I should do something like this, I tend to buy what I know and even if I love a plant tend not to buy it unless I have an idea where it will fit in. I guess that is a bit of a rut.

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    1. Hi Sue, those memories are so strong aren't they, and it is hard to get around them !
      If indeed you are in a rut, it is one funded on good practice! I am trying to move out of my comfort zone with what I buy, but it is purely plant - driven,and not place - driven, which leads to some random purchases I guess. maybe to counterbalance it, I should try buying a plant purely to suit a place !

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  21. I have that carnation in my garden and received it from my neighbor. I do like it as it is fragrant and adds the bluish leaves to the garden. The flowers don't last long enough in spring, but if cut back, some bloom happens in fall.

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    1. Hi, that is interesting, I never realised that carnations have a short flowering season, and have always assumed it would be long.

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  22. I am not a fan of carnations either Jane and have to take my hat off to you for buying a plant you don't like. I wandered aimlessly around and found lots of plants I didn't like therefore did not take the plunge. Well done you.
    I did buy something in bloom but broke the rules/cheated a wee bit. Next month should be different, I spotted lots that I fancied giving a go and were not quite in bloom. Here's my link Jane.

    http://mygardenblogs.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/bloom-and-grow-april-2015.html

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    1. Hi Angie, I shall hop over to read your post and see what happened ... I'm intrigued!!

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  23. Un bellissimo garofano! Complimenti, ha un colore davvero puro! Complimenti anche per il blog! Molto bello con immagini davvero fantastiche :)

    Un saluto!!

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  24. Glad I am not alone in my carnation prejudice! Maybe you will teach me to love them, after all, I used to hate dahlias too...

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    1. Same here Janet, used to hate dahlias and now I couldn't imagine the garden without them ! I need to learn to love chrysanthemums too!!

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  25. We all have to admit that there are plants we just don't like. I despise cannas but love dianthus, especially 'Bath's Pink'. This little guy might grow on you.

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    1. Isn't that odd, Tammy - I am the complete opposite and adore cannas but loathe dianthus !

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  26. In my place there have a lot of single layers carnation sell at the nursery. Its look gorgeous but still I'm dare not buy it..worried if not suits with my surrounding..hot weather.

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  27. Hi Normala, that is an interesting one ... do Carnations lie hot weather ? I have absolutely no idea !! Here in the UK it is not something we have to worry about.

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  28. Dear Jane, I had to a chuckle a couple of times when I read your post! Interesting approach to gardening: Buying plants that you don't like ;-). I actually love carnations especially the pure white ones with the greenish/bluish leaves that you just got. Their fragrance is very pleasing to my nose and I enjoy it quite a bit.
    Last weekend I planted 6 more dianthus ‘Floral Lace White’ into my White Garden Bed. As the name says they have white flowers, but other than yours bright green leaves. I hope they can deal with our summer heat...
    Warm regards,
    Christina

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  29. Hi Christina

    hmm... summer heat is not usually an issue for us here in the UK sadly!! I agree that the fragrance is fantastic. I hope your new ones perform well for you and cope with your climate !

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I really welcome comments and have learned much from them, over the years of leaning over the virtual garden gate ...