The carnation is the universal symbol of motherhood and the official birth month flower for January, and with its classic beauty and long lasting freshness it's easy to see why.
Carnations come in many colours but the most popular are pink, white and red with some bi-colour varieties with fringed petal edges of a different colour.
These timeless beauties have a unique spicy, clove-like scent and while some flowers may have lost their fragrance in the process of growing larger, the carnation has always retained its richness of perfume.
Pink is the most common carnation colour, symbolising gratitude and appreciation; white carnations denote devotion and good luck and red carnations express romantic love, but can also signify a true friendship.
There are hundreds of varieties available but a particularly lovely one to look out for is the pure white Dianthus 'Memories' bred to raise funds for Alzheimer's research, with specific reference given to the strong link between scent and memory.
An outstanding pink performer is Dianthus 'Candy Floss' with soft double blooms and in the reds, Dianthus 'Oscar Dark Red' with masses of semi-double flowers is another favourite.
You can change the colour of a carnation for special occasions by placing a white carnation stem in a glass of water with a few added drops of the specific food colouring.
The change from white to the colour of the water takes about a day.
Plant carnations in an open, sunny position in well-drained, moderately rich soil, with a light dressing, once a year, of lime.
A liquid fertiliser applied just as the buds are forming will greatly improve the size and intensify the colour of the blooms.
Cut back hard after flowering to induce new growth.
Propagate from small basal cuttings known as slips, division of clumps or layering and replace plants every three years to maintain vigour.
Prickly native a safe haven
Bursaria spinosa,or prickly box, is a hardy native that makes an interesting and attractive addition to any garden.
A very adaptable shrub it ranges in height from a medium tree to a small prostrate form based on habitat.
Bursaria comes from the Latin 'bursa' for bag or purse referring to the purse-shaped seed capsules.
The dense, spiny foliage makes an ideal deterrent hedge and provides safe shelter for many small birds and animals.
Clusters of small green leaves adorn the often multi-stemmed branches and in spring to summer, numerous tiny, fragrant creamy/white flowers, a valuable source of food for butterflies and other insects, are followed by uniquely-shaped seed capsules that rattle in the wind when dry, giving this plant its other common name of castanet bush.
Bursaria spinosa prefers a sunny or lightly shaded situation in reasonably drained soils, but will grow in most conditions.
Water when young and once established it is very long lived.
To propagate take semi-hardwood cuttings about 10cms long from the current season's growth.
January 19: Launceston Horticultural Society meeting, Windmill Hill Hall, High Street Launceston, 7.45pm. Speaker Rees Campbell is an author with a wild food garden at Wynyard of 120 edible natives.
January 22, 23: North West Lilium Society Lilium Show, Latrobe Memorial Hall. Saturday 1pm-4pm, Sunday 10am-4pm.
February 5,6: Launceston Horticultural Society Summer Show, Evandale Memorial Hall. Saturday 2pm-5pm, Sunday 9am-4pm. Strathmore Garden, Nile Road, Evandale will also be open that weekend.
February 12: Westbury Garden Club's Summer Flower Show, Westbury Town Hall, Lyall Street, 1-4pm. Entry $2.