Monday, February 14, 2011
Middle School Carnations
Posted by Daricia McKnight
My daughter's middle school has a carnation sale every year for Valentine's Day. Maybe your middle-schooler does, too. Orders are taken, dollars are paid and special messages are written. Then everyone holds their breath and hopes to get a bunch of carnations from someone on the big day. Or else they're mortified they will get one from someone.
The flowers are delivered to the school a few days in advance of Valentine's Day. They arrive strapped so tightly in their boxes that you can barely get scissors underneath to cut them loose without squashing the stems.
They come out of the boxes all cold and skinny with tight little heads. The top photo was taken (by my daughter) shortly after getting them into some water. They start to open up immediately.
A few days later, they are open. While a scent is hard to detect if you put your nose into one, the tiny room where they have been stored smells wonderfully Dianthus sweet.
These summer flowers blooming in the middle of winter are miracles of breeding and transporting technologies. Amy Stewart's book, Flower Confidential, details some of this surprising botanical history. For example, the purple you see in these bouquets is likely the result of injecting delphinium's genes for blue into them. It isn't that anyone cared all that much about getting a "blue" carnation -- what breeders are really hoping for is a blue rose and they're using carnations, which are simpler genetically, to figure out how to do it. So, we have an ever widening spectrum of carnation color. We've come a long way since the days of having to ship small, pink, in-season flowers, by train in wet newspapers..
After our flowers took up a good drink of water, we gathered them into bouquets for each classroom. Some had over 150 carnations in them. That's a lot of brittle stems to keep intact. And a lot of counting and recounting to make sure everyone will get theirs. We put extras in each bouquet for insurance.
After all the bouquets had been dispersed by a group of happy-to-be-out-of-class eight graders, I went out to wait in the car line for my daughter. Soon flowers started to appear, bobbing out through the front door of the school with their enthused recipients.
Every child had at least one.
Happy Valentine's Day, Sweethearts.