[The name of Dianthus is of Greek origin, and signifies the Flower of Jove; which name is, according to some, bestowed upon the flower for its beauty; others say from its fragrance. That distinction is surely just, which exites a doubt only for which of its good qualities it is conferred. French, aeillet.}
Most of the species of this genus are highly valued, not only for the beauty and fragrance of the flowers, but also as being evergreens; their foliage during winter, being as abundant and as vivid as in summer. The fragrance of some of the species is peculiarly grateful, and no plant in this repect surpasses the Clove, and some other varieties of the Pink.
There is no flower more desirable in the flower-garden than the Carnation. A well-grown, superior variety, cannot be surpassed in elegance, beauty, or odor, by any other flower; yet we scarcily ever see it in perfection. Its cultivation in our climate is attended with many difficulties, which may account for its rarity. Our winters are too severe, and springs too changeable, to keep it in perfection in the open ground; and then our summers are too dry and hot for' the full development of its beauties. Seedlings stand the winter and spring without difficulty, with a light covering of leaves and evergreen boughs, and flower very well; but then not one plant in a hundred will be considered worth saving by the florist, although they will all be interesting as single, semi-double, or irregular flowers, and richly repay all the labor. Valuable varieties are generally propagated from layers, which often keep very well in the open ground by letting them remain with the parent plant, and covering them with leaves and pine boughs; but the most certain way is, when the layers have taken root, to pot them, and at the approach of winter put them in a frame where they may be kept with perfect safety, provided air is given them in mild weather, and they are not exposed to the sun when in a frozen state. The mice are very destructive to all Pinks; therefore the frame must be tight.
Carnations are arranged by florists into three classes, viz: Flakes, Bizarres, and Picotees. Flakes have two colors only; their stripes are large,, going quite through the petals. Bizarres are variegated, in irregular spots and stripes, with not less than three colors. Picotees have a white ground, spotted or pounced with scarlet, red, purple, or other colors. The finer sorts are regularly edged with these colors, on a clear white or yellow ground. The petals of a perfect flower should be rose-leaved, or with entire edges; the flower should be filled up in a regular manner with petals of this description. It flowers in July. On a strong plant the stem will be three feet high.
The propagation of the Carnation by layers is a very simple operation. When the plant is in perfection of bloom, lay around it one and one-half or two inches of compost, first gently stirring the surface so that it may mix well; remove the lower leaves of the shoots selected; pass the pen-knife, slanting upwards, half through the joint; fasten the shoot, where so cut, about two inches under the surface, with a small hooked peg, bending carefully so as not to break it at the incision; then fix it firmly by gently pressing the earth around with the fingers, and finish by cutting off about half an inch of the upper extremities of the leaves with scissors. The sap soon begins to granulate at the wound, and throw out roots. In about a month or six weeks, if the soil has been kept moderately moist, the layers may be severed from the parent plant and established for themselves; or they may remain where they are, if the stem to which they are attached be carefully cut off.
The Carnation requires a rich, generous, deep soil. A compost of three parts of good, strong garden loam, three parts hot-bed manure, two years old, three parts of coarse river sand, two parts dry manure from a hen-house, sifted, and two parts of soot from a wood fire, has been recommended for the Carnation.
Clove Pink is more hardy than the Carnation, of which it is the parent; the petals are more fringed, and the fragrance more powerful, resembling that of the Clove. In France it is called the Clove Gilly-flower. "Some suppose this latter name to have been corrupted from July-flower, July being its flowering time. Drayton so names it."
"The curious choice July flower. Whose kinds hight the Carnation, For sweetness of most sovereign power Shall help my wreath to fashion; Whose sundry colors of one kind, First from one root derived, Them in their several suits I'll bind, My garland so contrived,"
The great improvement in this tribe has added an invaluable feature to the section of winter-blooming plants for the drawing-room, conservatory, or green-house. The delicately rich and grateful odor, in connection with the brilliant color and good outline of the flowers now offered, will secure for them a prominent place in the forcing department, and, ere long, be regarded as an indispensable requisite in the portable drawing-room flower vase.
The flowering period of these plants may be prolonged beyond the winter by retaining the terminal, or upper-growth, but to ensure a fine early autumn or winter bloom, the upper growth should be shortened or pruned back (where requisite), in the spring or early summer months, and the plants placed in a cool, airy green-house, or cool east or south pit throughout the summer, to mature the requisite vigor of growth for bloom. During the warm summer months, the plants should not be placed in any position where a free ventilation of air cannot be afforded by day and night; and when the requisite growth is obtained, they may be exposed in the open air until autumn, with the usual daily attention given to plants in pots.