CARNATIONS AND THEIR COUSINS
The Dianthus Genus
The Carnation family is of great antiquity. It came over with William the Conqueror, and traces its lineage back to the “ Dios Anthos “ or Divine Flower of the Golden Age of Greece. There can be no question that the Carnation is of the real Aristocracy of Flowerdom. There are still some members who can exist only in the warmth of the greenhouse, and we dare not suffer the winds of heaven to visit their heads too roughly I
In Elizabethan England, the Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus) was known as the Coronation Flower and adorned the lover’s chaplet.
The French Carnation, Dianthus romontant, was taken to the New World by the French settlers and there developed into the Tree Carnation of modern days. From South Africa, Australia and even Sweden, with its dark wintry days, accounts come of the success with which this cosmopolitan plant is being cultivated.
In England to-day it is computed that ten million plants of Perpetual-flowering Carnation are raised annually to supply the needs of florists; and private growers are legion.
Carnations, as a general term comprise:
The old BORDER CARNATION (Dianthus caryophyllus), the pride of our grandmothers’ gardens, which flowers in July and August.
The SOUVENIR DE MALMAISON, which flowers in early summer, and is so difficult to rear that it lias been largely superseded by the Perpetual-flowering Malmaison, itself delicate enough to require the heated green-house for its development—but otherwise cultivated on the lines of the Perpetual-flowering Carnation.
The PERPETUAL-FLOWERING CARNATION, a modern hybrid between the American Tree (Dianthus romontant) and the Old Border Carnation. Its flowering season is October to April, under glass, and all summer outdoors.
The MARGUERITE CARNATIONS, a group of fringed and fragrant hybrids obtained from a cross between Dianthus Chinensis (the Indian Pink) and an early-flowering species.
HARDY PERPETUAL BORDER CARNATIONS, a cross that perpetuates the hardiness of the old Border Carnation with the perpetual qualities of the greenhouse strain. Closely allied to these are the perennial Allwoodii (hybrids between the Perpetual Carnation and the hardy Border Pink), the biennial Chinese Pink (Dianthus sinensis), the Sweet Wivelsfield, a cross between Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) and the Allwoodii Pinks.
Included in the genus Dianthus are the whole range of Garden Pinks,
Border Pinks (Dianlhus plumarius), from which are derived the Laced Pinks, Sweet Williams, Rock Pinks, such as Dianthus alpinus, and Wild Pinks.
BORDER CARNATIONS, hardy and easy to cultivate, can be grown from seed, but as there is a strong tendency forto produce only single flowers, it is safer to increase stocks from layered shoots or from
If seed is sown in the hope of obtaining novelties, the box should have a layer of leaves to hold the moisture, and on this aof fairly rich plus sharp sand and a good proportion of old mortar or lime.
The seed is scattered thinly, and covered with fine soil and a sheet of glass. Immediately after germination, the glass is taken off, as this group does better grown hardy. If seed is sown in February or March the plants may flower the same summer, but if later, they will not do so until the following year.
The more usual methods of propagation are by layers or cuttings.
Layering is the simplest of all methods of increasing Carnations of this type. It requires four or five inches of clear space round the plant, a 3-in.-deep layer of prepared soil (leaf-mould and road grit) on this space, and young side shoots four to five inches long, or longer.
Method:—(a) Strip a few pairs of leaves from the bottom of each side shoot so that foliage will not be under the soil whenis finished. (b) Cut a slanting notch, upwards, two-thirds through the stem, and press this into and under the prepared soil in such a position that the notch is open, (c) Peg it firmly down with a carnation peg, forked twig, hairpin or some similar fixture, and press the soil firmly round it. (d) When all side shoots are thus treated, well water the whole set of layers.
In three or four weeks new shoots will form at the notch and the new plant can be severed from the parent, but six weeks at least should elapse before lifting. A July layer can be left till September before moving to its permanent home on the border. Only an exceptionally exposed garden will give cause for the use of a cold frame for protection, as, in spite of their ancient lineage and pride of race, Carnations, like tramps and gipsies, prefer “sleeping out.”
The parent plant, having, like King Lear, given away its all, is as ruthlessly scrapped.
Cuttings. A more convenient method of increase, where the border is crowded and no space is available round the old plant, is by cuttings. In this case shoots are “ pulled out at a joint,” and inserted in sandy, well-limed, soil, either in a cold frame or in the open ground. Alternatively, the stem can be cut just below the joint, the lower leaves stripped off, and the stalk inserted as described.
Cultivation. The first essential is a fair proportion of lime in the soil. It can be obtained as old mortar rubble, slaked lime, or chalk.
Wood-ashes and bone-meal are good additions for making vigorous plants, and as wireworms are the pests most inclined to attack carnations, a garden made on or near old meadow land is likely to need a soil fumigant.
PERPETUAL-FLOWERING CARNATIONS; though they will flourish in a border during a mild summer, are mainly greenhouse plants and are cultivated in large quantities both in England and America for autumn, winter and spring flowering.
In the “ Land of the Dollar” the Carnation cult received tremendous impetus from the spectacular sale for 30,000 dollars of a special variety, “ Mrs. Thos. W. Lawson,” to the Copper King, after whose wife it was named.
But in spite of that, Carnations as decorations will probably never be as popular in America as in England, as they object to the central heating (so frequently central over-heaiing) of the American dwelling-house, and do not last well there.