Saturday morning, and you’re shopping the super market for a dinner party you’re hosting later that night. With the food all done, the only thing left is flowers. On its own, you might be tempted to dismiss the humble carnation as little more than a cheap filler for all those pre-made arrangements you know well enough to avoid. To make matters worse, over in the refrigerator case, you even spot a bucket of them dyed impossibly blue. How tacky, you think. I don’t do carnations. Ever.   


Forget, for a second, about all those bad dye jobs and consider a carnation in its simplest, purest form. Now, multiply. Then multiply again. To me, carnations aren't tacky or lowbrow in the least; they're just misunderstood and usually a bit lonely. When they're grouped, their ruffled edges form a beautiful texture that looks lush and rich. It's almost like that old-school seven-minute frosting I love!


Here in New York, the Gift Fair is in full swing, so my friends Pam Fleischer and Ken Weiner of Creative Candles asked me to do a centerpiece showcasing their celebration candles as part of the exhibitor display. In fact, I'm a huge fan of all their candles. Check out their new testimonial page from the Gift Fair. What an honor!


For the centerpiece showing off their new celebration candles, my first thought was to do a big, beautiful wedding cake. Problem is, the show started on Sunday and goes until Thursday, so the cake would have sat out a full five days—not pretty. We all loved the idea of a tiered cake to show off the candles but would have to come up with something that lasted longer. Then it hit me!  White carnations, grouped together, could mimic a frosted cake, showcase the candles, and last the whole week! I began by stacking three jadeite cake stands from Fishs Eddy.


Then I went to Michaels and picked up Oasis floral foam in 6, 8, and 12-inch rings, topped with a 4-inch cylinder. Make sure to soak them in water beforehand, like I did here, then work on a water-safe surface.


First, cut each carnation stem with a clippers, leaving an inch above the first knuckle. Begin by working from the inside of the ring and work your way out. Think journey, folks, not destination.

Then again, the destination's pretty great too! And best of all, you don't even have to be a professional florist to do this! Doesn't it just scream celebration cake?


No? Oh, I get it. Playing the cynic, are you? What about this?


Now the centerpiece is more about those gorgeous petal pink celebration candles, just as it should be! So to illustrate my point one more time for all those naysayers out there, still unconvinced at the merits of the humble carnation, here's a candlestick I found at Jamali for eight dollars.


Top it off with an eleven-dollar Oasis floral foam sphere, soaking it for 45 minutes, then draining on a paper towel. 


You know the drill, right? Just make sure you work the carnations evenly to distribute the weight.


And voilà! The footed base makes for an important looking arrangement, doesn't it? And how great would a grouping of these carnation confections look going down a springtime wedding table, each topped with a single elegant taper in mango, watermelon and petal pink? For Valentine's Day, think the variegated kind. They're my favorite!  


So the next time you're shopping for flowers, whether at the grocery store, the flower market, or even the deli around the corner, be kind to the carnation. There's beauty in numbers.