Benoite Groult was not so convinced about carnations. In her book Le Féminin pluriel she had her Alter Ego Marianne trying to arrange the bunch of carnations that an admirer had sent her, but to no avail. The artist shatters when confronted with carnations, she whines.
This only holds true when carnations are arranged in crystal vases with lots of baby´s breath, which might be the reason why they got a bad rep in the first place. Banish crystal vases, full stop. Forever. Faced by the variety of Murano glass, ceramics old and new, porcelain and marble, one should never ever fall back on crystal vases. Bad taste. So sad. Baby´s breath should only ever be used for floral clouds or to soften up bunches of greenery. Carnations should be used in a very irreverent or fabulously serious way. Put lots of multi-coloured ones in a simple vase to resemble confetti, mix them up with lilac and tulips for the ultimate full-blown romantic bouquet, especially rewarding as their spicy scent adds depth to the light floral one coming from the lilac, or go for soft flesh-coloured tones to add depth to clouds of greenery. Magnificent!
I even found a fantastic bouquet in the book Flowers, White House Style, which is, as you might have guessed, about the flower arrangements of former White House Chief Floral Decorator Dottie Temple, and is every inch as grand as the title. White carnations, lavender and blue anemones, chrysanthemums and white stock were arranged for a private dinner held to honor Igor Stravinsky in 1962. I find Jackie Kennedy´s taste in flowers and interiors so much more interesting than her wardrobe, non?
Search for beautiful colours. Inconsolable lavender, succulent nude, mellow pink are good choices, as are striped and flamed varieties. They are a cheap but never cheap-looking alternative to cottage roses.
And always remember what Robert Mapplethorpe said about carnations, which he photographed as abstract bouquets in striped vases to the greatest artistic and stylish effect (in your face, Benoite):
I don´t think that there´s that much difference between a photograph of a fist up
someone´s ass and a photograph of carnations in a bowl.