'Forecourt flowers' are pick of the bunch again

Once deeply out of fashion, carnations are blooming into style

If you are the sort of person who buys garage flowers as a way of saying sorry for being drunk, late, forgetful or all three, this will cheer you up. Carnations are back in vogue.

The flowers – deeply unfashionable for decades and beloved of the bargain bouquet-buyer – are now making red-carpet appearances on catwalks and corsages, not to mention fluttering their petals in some of the most spectacular and high-profile floral displays.

The trend was first spotted by the Wall Street Journal, whose sharp-eyed fashion scribes noticed that carnation prints featured prominently in American designer Oscar de la Renta's spring-summer 2011 show. Mr De la Renta was born in the Dominican Republic, but studied art in Spain, where the carnation is the national flower.

Sarah Jessica Parker, star of Sex and the City and New York trend-setter, wore a bright magenta carnation as a corsage to the opening of a Broadway show last year.

And Rebel Rebel, the achingly chic London florists whose clients include Dior, Lancome and Agent Provocateur, used carnations in their "eye" display for the Big Brother 2010 television series, as well as for the Bafta awards ceremony.

Dianthus caryophyllus, the ancestor of the florist carnation, originated in the southern Mediterranean and requires well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil and full sun. Originally, the flower was a rich pinky-purple. Today, Colombia is the world's largest producer of carnations, which come in every colour except blue.

Like those other floral favourites lilies and roses, carnations have been a part of Western culture and iconography for centuries. Their botanical name comes from the Greek "dios", meaning god or Zeus, and "anthos", meaning flower. In Christian legend, they are said to have sprung up from the tears of the Virgin Mary as she watched Christ carrying the cross.

You can still buy old-fashioned greenhouse carnations from a specialist breeder such as Allwoods of Hassocks, West Sussex, and these still have the wonderful heady clove scent. However, they need to be kept under glass as they hate prolonged wet, cold conditions and require staking to stop them flopping over. It's easy to see why the commercial growers bred plants that would stand up straight and whose frilly blooms were less likely to be damaged in transit. Unfortunately, in breeding a tougher flower in a bigger range of colours, the scent disappeared.

However, as Mairead Curtin of Rebel, Rebel, points out: "Their cousins, pinks, are totally marvellous and have a heavenly scent when in season in England." Ms Curtin is a carnation convert, albeit a cautious one. "Some carnations are great, and carnations are great for some things, but I wouldn't say all carnations are good for everything. We rarely use them in bunches.

"We used them to great effect in the Big Brother eye – when you have to use a lot of tightly packed flowers with vibrant colours, carnations are just the thing because they have a big head and a thin woody stem, and are good value.

"More beautiful flowers like ranunculus are gorgeous but a total nightmare to get into floral foam. Different shades of the same colour used together look marvellous, and there is a wonderful deep, deep red called Clove which is lovely.

"On the other hand there are some truly horrid colours which we wouldn't touch with a bargepole. No matter what anyone says I refuse to believe that spray carnations will ever be in favour," she said.

Perhaps it's not such good news for the garage flower fans after all.

Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    IT Project Manager

    Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    IT Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album