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Amy Balsters

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How to Open a Carnation

Have you ever been in a consultation with a client, and they say “I like every flower… except carnations?”

It can be hard to undo years of a poor reputation, and carnations have one of the worst. Customers perceive them as cheap, ugly, and unremarkable. Can you blame them? Carnations are the focal flower of every supermarket “I’m sorry” bouquet. And even worse, carnations are usually used in a boring shade, placed smack dab in the middle of a dated palette.

What customers don’t know is that carnations are so undeserving of this negative reputation. In fact, they’re not only incredibly hardy, long-lasting, and cost-effective, but they’re also available in gorgeous shades and open into a bloom that can rival in beauty with any rose or peony.

Bicolor carnations assist the transition between the lighter tones in the bouquet and create repetition in butter shades found in the spray roses, phlox and ranunculus.

In the last decade, the market for carnations has really changed. Growers have been developing novelty, tonal shades to keep up with the trending peach, blush, beige, and mauve palettes. Also on the market are chic, new bicolor varieties draw from popular color combinations, while simultaneously calling back to vintage botanical prints. Other growers are improving upon classics, creating gem-inspired purples and pinks, as well as buttery yellows and sherbet oranges. These colors have been undeniably popular with designers, and growers are responding with greater investment and experimentation and even expanding into novelty-shade mini carnations.

Carnations are not only gorgeous, they’re very easy to use!

Demonstrating spiral technique with “Fabulous” variety carnations.

Carnations usually come in unopened. They can appear stiff, upright, and tight like a fist. The wow-worthy carnation is the open version. Carnations can take a long time to open so consider bringing them in 5-6 days before your event and allowing them to fluff outside the cooler.

Fluffy and beautiful bicolor carnations, ready for design.

Don’t have enough time to let your carnations open naturally? That’s no problem! Carnations can also be massaged into openness. Ideally, let your carnation hydrate and get to room temperature before attempting this hack. If there is no time, the technique will still work but you may find the blooms aren’t quite as malleable.

To get your carnation to fluff open, pinch and roll the calyx (the green base of the flower) between your fingers a few times very firmly. Don’t be too gentle! While pinching the base, press your fingers into the center of the flower and open the flower. These blooms are hardy so don’t be shy… Watch the carnation transform in this reel! (Muscle emojis)

Now that you have a gorgeous carnation bloom on your hands, it’s time to get designing. Carnations are a favorite for daily design work, thanks to their impressive performance. Clients will be thrilled with how long they last in a vase. Carnations are also a great fit for event work. Some of my favorite varieties, including Lege Marrone, Creola, and Viper Wine, are great antique shades that make palettes really come together. Carnations can add a lot of aesthetic value without a lot of cost, so use them in centers, personals, and even installs. Carnations also keep well out of water, so don’t be afraid to put them in compromising positions: think flower walls, chandeliers, garlands, and anywhere else a water source is hard to come by. Should your carnation stem break (as they are known to do), they continue to perform wonderfully with wiring or on a toothpick.

Peach carnations appear not only in the body of this bouquet, but also wired within the cascade.

Few blooms have as much beauty, versatility, and performance as a carnation, they are truly a gift. Give these stunners a chance and let me know if the fluffing hack works for you! Tag me in your carnation designs on Instagram @thefloralcoach_. I can’t wait to see what you make!

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