Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pinks, carnations and such....

When I'm stitching or tinkering, I'm usually dreaming....lost in some reverie my mind has stored and then conjured up from some other time.. prompted by an image or article I have read...

Yesterday, while going through some old files that had to be sorted, I found some garden notes I had made a long time ago. It was information about the Chelsea Garden Show and the Hampton Court Flower Show in England.  I thought how timely, since we will be visiting England this October....unfortunately when all the shows are over!
It is something I have always longed to attend and every spring I think this might be the year!

But what especially made my heart ache, was the information I found, again, about Malmaison carnations, the heady fragranced Belle Epoque blooms of over a century ago...

They originated in France, where a chance seedling from the tree carnations, which were very popular winter flowers in the mid 19th century. It smelled like cloves, looked more like a rose, and so, was named Souvenir de la Malmaison, after the rose grown in Empress Josephine's garden. Is there anything more romantic or intriguing?

 Not for me!

In Britain, the outsize carnations, sometimes as large as a dinner plate, quickly became fashionable and were the darlings of the aristocracy, because of their rarity and incredible scent. They were only grown by wealthy gardeners who had glass houses.
Worn as a corsage, tucked into a button hole or gracing a dinner table, Malmaison carnations were never diluted with competing blooms. It was the carnation of Oscar Wilde.

They are a challenge to grow and need extreme coddling.  Today, Jim Marshall, a garden advisor to the National Trust is one of a few who grow and champion these long forgotten beauties. His little greenhouses, along with Crathes Castle near Aberdeen, house the National Collection of Malmaisons.  Can you imagine!!
This year the adventurous gardener will be able to grow these plants, as Mr.Marshall has made them far easier to grow through micro-propagation.He will be presenting them at the Hampton Court Flower Show.


Perhaps, some seeds....

So here I sit, stitching, dreaming of perhaps dropping in to see Mr. Marshall and his collection this fall !!

Cleaning and sorting and editing has its benefits it seems!!

I purchased some carnations for Valentine's Day at the supermarket.  I have always thought they were exptremely underrated in the floral hierarchy of things...
This lovely, deep pink colour looked beautiful with some of my china...
They are gorgeous grouped en masse, and great for spherical floral creations, which I have used for wedding arrangements....

So, I continue to stitch and putter and think garden dreams....

I dream of Souvenirs of Malmaison and England.... and the possibilities....

Spring is not that far away....

Projects begin and end....

....and I may have to be content with some lovely pink tulips.....

Jim Marshall may be reached at...

4 The Damsells
Tetbury, Glos

The heady fragrance of Malmaison carnations is still used today by Floris for making soaps and bath oils.


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  1. I love what I see though its just a corner of the book... it sets my heart aflutter.
    Susan x

  2. Darling Nella!

    I am enchanted, SO ENCHANTED by your wares and photos here! Les oeillets....carnations are so fresh and pretty in any color. I SO LOVE your English pottery with the images....and your book...OMGOODNESS, your linen book! I make books you know, and I see the time and effort and LOVE AND BEAUTY you have put into yours! Oh how I wish I could meet you to talk about the things that you enjoy making. I too collect the brass hardware found on old albums and IF YOU need to find brass embellishments for your wares, I have a source from Etsy where I get these items for my craftwares for my shop.


  3. Such a beautiful post, Nella! I had never heard of Malmaison carnations before - and I loved that you shared a little of their history with us.
    Hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend!

  4. Oh Nella,

    What a lovely word you have just left. You articulated it so well; all of us need validation, how very very true. Well dear one, your artistry is fabulous, and it comes from YOU. That is what I love about blogging. In the "real" world, people we work with or live near don't always have a forum to share their ideas. But here, we can share and discover each other and in turn, encourage each other. It is beautiful. Continue with your lovely work, it is stunning and all we can ever do is appreciate it, value it and who knows what magic it will create!

    Be well, Anita

  5. hello Nella, I enjoyed this post very much thank you!! I need to find some carnations....
    The marriage of your pink ware and blooms is so delightful. I am intrigued with your project...looks very special
    And one can see that you enjoyed making it.
    Thank you for your visitand comment to my blog, it is much appreciated.
    Have a lovely week
    Hugs&XX Colette married name is Nel....we have something in common.

  6. Nella, here in the US carnations have gotten a bad boring, plain, etc.
    I love them!!!! I love the way they look and I love the way they smell.
    Your post is, as always, enchanting. You have such a sense of color, combining everything to a delightful picture.
    I wish you a happy week.
    Hugs, Evi

  7. I never knew there was a Souvenir de la Malmaison carnation only the rose. I like the look I get when I say it...huh? what did she just say? i think carnations are one of my favorites even for the garden but they are under used there too. What's up?

    lovely post and photos Nella like always. Still missing your posts. Won't you consider putting a follow by email alert.

  8. I stopped by to read this (very lovely) post the other day, and when I tried to publish a comment, it didn't save.
    But... oh, such a lovely post. I never knew anything about the Malmaison carnations before - I enjoyed reading about their history. And your photos, as always, are stunning.
    Hope you have a wonderful week!
    ~ Zuzu

  9. Hi Nella!!! I have a few small pinks (dianthus) that are SO delicious smelling...and their gray foliage looks wonderful in the border! The carnation got a bad rap...perhaps the green dyed version "nipped it in the bud". But, as usual, I love the older, more natural versions! We are clearly both suffering the same garden withdrawal...won't be long now, though!!!!!XOXO Trish

  10. hello nella (such a cute name it must be short for something?),
    thank you so for stopping by my bloggy today...i am so glad to meet you and look forward to much beauty here at your blog! carnantions have gotten a bad rap for some reason...perhaps not fancy or expensive enough? i once made a birthday cake for my girlfriend out of florists foam and tiny pink looked great and lasted a very long time and my friend loved it! later i showed a garden club how to make a cake like that and they loved the project so much...they even made smaller cup cake versions too....i may have to make another one soon and then blog about it...thanks for the inspiration.
    p.s. love your photos and the lovely book too :0)

  11. Just beautiful girlfriend! Now those pink tulips at the end? They make my heart pitter patter.. Have a safe and fun trip <3

  12. gorgeous and what a fun trip. love all the detail and sweetness of each piece.


  13. Hi Nella.....I too love the scent of carnations, unfortunately over here they are a cheap supermarket flower which hardly ever make it into our shop...we do use the glorious pink vintage ones sometimes...we are so fashion lead aren't we??..the malmaision ones sound amazing maybe its time for us all to embrace the down trodden carnation again!!!...Kay


Thank you for visiting my blog..... I love to hear from you and appreciate every comment received! N.xo