Beautiful, Frugal Flowers: 3 Ways to Use White Carnations for Holiday Arrangements

We love flowers in the home, especially during the holidays. One of our favorite flowers for holiday decorating is the carnation: a much-maligned and often ridiculed staple of grocery store bouquets. Placed in the spotlight, however, the white carnation can be very beautiful. Here are three ways we love to arrange them.

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1. Massed for dramatic effect -- This is a classic, dramatic use for carnations. Take one blossom and evenly build concentric circles of more blossoms around it. Make sure the stems are well trimmed and stripped of greenery. When the bouquet is large enough, trim the stems to an even length and drop into a wide, squat vase or glass jar.

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Here we used a wide glass cylinder partially filled with cranberries, and we also created smaller versions in Duralex tumblers with a little bittersweet tucked in for color.

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2. Spare, with red accents -- Use a narrow-necked vase or bottle, like the vintage milk bottle we use here. Strip most of the leaves and greenery off the carnations.

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Trim and arrange three to five stems with one additional red element, like the sculptural bittersweet we used here.

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You could also try using hypericum berries or another small red accent.

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3. Classic and retro, with evergreen -- Something about carnations mixed with evergreens makes us feel sort of nostalgic for the 70s. These little bud arrangements feel very retro-holiday to us, and they make bright splashes of green and white around the house.

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These arrangements just had three small blooms (cut from the larger stems we used in the large centerpiece), sprays of evergreen, and a classic white IKEA vase.

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Don't forget flowers in the entry, in the bathroom, and in nooks and crannies -- these make just as much of a pleasant impression as a big centerpiece. And if you're lucky enough to have a guest room, make sure there are flowers there. This is the vignette from our office/guest room last week.

Total cost for all of this? About $16 for four grocery store bunches of white carnations, plus a few dollars for greenery. We already had the bittersweet, which we also used in a wreath for the door. Those flowers gave us three arrangements for the dining room table, two arrangements for the guest spaces, one for the entry, and one for the bathroom.

If you periodically refresh the water in the vases and trim the carnations' stems, these arrangements should last for at least two weeks. Ours have been going strong for for over a week now, with no signs of wilting or fading.