Yes, You Can Make A Carnation Arrangement to Impress – Here's How

Birmingham florist Carolyn Chen gives these modest flowers their long-overdue shining moment.

When it comes to blooms, carnations may not win a popularity contest. "The floral industry kind of publicized them as fillers," says Carolyn Chen, owner of Wild Things in Birmingham. She also notes pop culture's influence—namely a Sex and the City episode in which a character predicts a date will be bad when a man gives her a bouquet of the offending flowers. "Things like that have snowballed into a big red X on carnations," she explains.

Heirloom Carnation Arrangement
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Carolyn Chen

But there's a lot to love about them. The wide variety available makes them a compelling choice for arrangements. "Each of them is so unique looking, especially the trendy dyed versions that they're coming out with," she notes. Blooms last forever too. "This arrangement looked the same for probably three weeks. They keep their color and are some of the hardiest flowers you can find," says Chen.

Combine the variety and longevity with a price of around $1 per stem, and you have a cost-effective flower that packs a modern punch. Here's how she made an arrangement that does just that.

Bring On the Wow

Inspired by moody still life art from the Netherlands, Chen twirled up eight selections of carnations to make a dramatic arrangement that's worthy of center stage. "The Dutch masters' paintings have the most expensive flowers in them, like peonies, garden roses, and parrot tulips," says the florist. "We wanted to show that it's possible to create an arrangement like those using the most affordable flower and still have it look really awesome."

Vary the Heights

Even if you're working with grocery store flowers, you can still design a stunning bouquet. "To help give your arrangement a little more of a dynamic feel, cut the stems in short, medium, and tall lengths," advises Chen. Also play around with their placement in the vase rather than just dropping them in, she suggests.

Build from the Bottom Up

Make the base by incorporating all the different carnation selections. Layer in several more blooms to shape the arrangement, and fill in any holes with some stems of greenery. (Keep the foliage minimal to let the carnations do the talking, says Chen.) Finally, pick a few colors to serve as the standout flowers, and tuck those in, choosing blooms that have long stems so they are showcased on the outside of the display.

Know Your Carnations

Ask a florist to source these spectacular heirloom selections

Heirloom Carnation Varieties
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Carolyn Chen
  1. 'Zurigo' carnation
  2. 'Solomio Tino' spray carnation
  3. 'Caramel' carnation
  4. 'Antigua' carnation
  5. 'Lege Pink' carnation
  6. 'Medea' spray carnation
  7. 'Hypnosis' carnation
  8. 'Raffine Petit Fay' spray carnation
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