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British National Carnation Society

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Article posted 20/09/2018

A short history of carnation production and cultivars in Japan


Munenori HOSOYA


In Japan amateur gardeners who grow carnations as a hobby are very unusual and use only seed type carnations, for example Chabaud for planting in only a small area of flower beds.  So in this article, I describe the histories of commercial production and cultivars of the perpetual flowering carnation from their first introduction in Japan to modern times.  Hereinafter, in accordance with the historical turning point of Japan, I have divided the history of the commercial carnation production in to four periods.

Times of before 1870

The first time the old type carnation was introduced into Japan is recorded as 1645 and subsequently in a book ‘Chikinsyou Furoku’ written by Ihei Itou in 1695.  However cultivation of the plants did not spread in our country. In the book the carnation is indicated as being called

‘Oranda Sekichiku’ and ‘Anjaberu, the former means ‘Chinese pink came from Holland’ and latter means ‘anjelier old Nederlands’, anjer is the modern Dutch word for carnation.  In those days entry into ports of merchant vessels other than from Netherlands and China had been mostly forbidden by the national isolation policy (1639-1854) in our country.

Moreover, the name ‘Anjaberu’ and ‘Oranda nadeshiko’ (same ‘Oranda sekichiku’) was already indicated in a book ‘Kadan Kohmoku’ written by Motokatsu Mizuno in 1681.  ‘Oranda nadeshiko’ means ‘Pink came from Holland’.  In his autograph manuscript created in 1664 these terms had already been described.  There is no literature to indicate new introductions of carnations except for ‘Sekichiku’ and ‘Nadeshiko’ until the 1880’s, but many pictures of carnations which were bred are drawn in some botanical pictorial books in this period.

Early modern times (1870-1930’s)

In our country, the Meiji era (1868-1912) evolved from the Edo era (1603-1867), the national isolation policy was abolished and the measure which introduced Western modern culture and technology began.  In the agricultural field many ornamental plants came to be introduced in Japan.  

The first description of carnations at this time can be found in the seed lists of the plants introduced  into our country from America by the government in 1874, in a booklet of ‘Hakusei kasyu saibai ryakusetsu’ written by Kohbun Nomura in 1875, re-discovered in 1964.  In the booklet 38 kinds of names of species and cultivars of dianthus plants such as Sweet Williams, Maiden Pink and a carnation are indicated.

At the end of the former and in this era the carnation is sometimes called ‘Jakoh-Nadeshiko’ or ‘Tyouji Nadeshiko’ in Japan, the former means ‘pink with a smell of musk’ and the latter means ‘pink with a smell of clove’.  At that time in most cases the word carnation was pronounced directly as ‘Ka-neisyon’ in Japan.  

Next, the Malmaison carnation was introduced by Hayato Fukuba from France in 1902.  However since the cultivation method of the plant was not fully understood, it did not go beyond the trial production.  Moreover because the garden of his office ‘Shinjuku Gyoen (Shinjuku Imperial Garden) was founded to produce the vegetable, orchids and cut flowers for his Majesty the Emperor and the Imperial families, he is not considered to be the person who began commercial carnation production in Japan.

Commercial production of the carnation in our country started in Nakano, Tokyo in 1909.  Although Nakano is a residential section in the centre of Tokyo, farmland spread out widely in those days.  Mr Sawada (full name unknown)  brought home perpetual flowering carnation cultivars, such as ‘White Enchantress’, ‘Pink Enchantress’, ‘Victory’ and some greenhouse materials when he returned from Seattle, Washington whereupon he commenced cultivation alone.  Unfortunately he fell sick and passed away in 1912.  Thankfully his greenhouse was bought by Teisaku Itou who was also growing the flowers and vegetables nearby, ensuring carnation cultivation was continued.

The history of full scale carnation culture in Japan started in Meguro, Tokyo in 1910 which is within the centre of Tokyo. This grower was Mr Ryujirou Dogura and he had been involved with forestry on a large scale in Taiwan before. Because his father's management was not very good, he was obliged to withdraw from Taiwan, and started cultivating vegetables and flowers in Japan. Despite his father being a major forest manager at the time, his family shrunk his business in the late Meiji era.

First, he introduced some cultivars such as ‘President McKinley’and ‘Maria Immaculate’ from Henderson’s in New York and began cultivation.  He later introduced ‘White Enchantress’, ‘Pink Enchantress’, ‘Rose Enchantress’, ‘Prosperity’, ‘White Perfection’ and ‘Victory’.  However results did not go well due to insufficient knowledge of growing methods and the hot climatic conditions of summer times in Japan.  However he then began a new breeding programme of new cultivars raised by himself from seed he acquired from Henderson which he named ‘Dogurasu Scarlet’.  This was the first cultivar of carnation raised in Japan.

Then ‘Dogurasu Fancy’ was raised by Kazusuke Itoh with permission.  Breeding of new cultivars followed energetically and some 40 new cultivars were raised during his lifetime.  These cultivars were highly valued and were grown in various parts of Japan until around the 1930’s.   Many of these cultivars were named by members of the public who were readers of a gardening magazine issued in Yokohama, Kanagawa Pref.  

In 1923 the great Kanto Earthquake occurred in our Capital Tokyo, Kanagawa Pref and Chiba Pref with the Kanto district suffering destructive damage. However the Earthquake caused unexpected demand for cut flowers with memorial meetings and ceremonies in various locations which led to increased prices for the flowers being traded. It transpired that desire for flowers continued and so production increased to meet demand.

In 1925, Takuichi Inuzuka returned from Portland, Oregon bringing home 6 perpetual flowering carnation cultivars, namely:-

‘Mrs C W Ward’, ‘Maine Sunshine’, ‘Spectrum’, ‘Merry Christmas’, ‘Belle Washburn’ and ‘Matchless’ along with greenhouse materials and a new boiler. It transpired that he went on to master the most advanced growing techniques at that time in Japan and the technology he maintained over the next 20 years or so in his family’s greenhouse, he became a principal leader of carnation production along with Mr Dogura.  Today, Mr Dogura is called ‘The father of the carnation’ and Mr Inuzuka is called ‘The mother of the carnation’.  Further they are also known as ‘Dogura of breeding’ and ‘Inuzuka of cultivation’, both going on to support the foundation and development of the commercial carnation production in Japan.  

Mr Inuzuka built his greenhouse nursery along the river in Tamagawa, located within the western part of Tokyo which went on to be called ‘Tamagawa Greenhouse Village’.  Four other growers had already commenced cultivation in and around the same area with others joining in around the country in due course.  In 1933 some 30 growers had joined production of carnations and this is known as the ‘golden age’ and production increased greatly.  Many of these settlers were people who had received high education at universities, some had returned from foreign countries and some were property owners. In other words they were not your typical farmers from bygone days. They were in fact proficient in management procedures as opposed to having moved through the farming ranks. From a general agricultural perspective the greenhouse village became the birthplace of the modern protected floriculture in Japan.

‘Dai-Nippon Kaaneisyon Kyoukai (The Great Japanese Carnation Society) was established in 1932 in the golden age of the village and Mr Dogura was elected as the President and there were 10 honorary members, 12 supportive members, 39 regular members and 9 common members.  Mr Inuzuka was elected as Vice President respectively. It went on to enjoy 70 members. Although it was the first nationwide organisation in Japan, the members were mostly the growers around the Tokyo region. The Association published an annual report, held exhibitions and shows for local citizens which led to improving growing techniques and promoting the raising of new cultivars.  

Prior to the establishment of the Japanese Society, the American Carnation Society was established in Horticultural Hall, Philadelphia on Thursday 15th October 1891 at 2pm to be precise and resulted in much vigorous reward.

The first technical book on carnation culture was published in Japan in 1936.  Whilst other books on carnations had been published these were not concerned with cultural details. The new authors Mr Dugura and Mr Inuzuka were clearly the best qualified to advise on cultural techniques at that time.  The book contained all relevant matters concerning growing techniques, fertilization, watering, pest control, shipment, management and importantly breeding techniques. The book is A5 size containing 391 pages in hardback cover.

During this era the main production cultivars were as follows:-

The Foreign ones were, ‘Spectrum’, ‘Pink Spectrum’, ‘Betty Lou’, ‘Enchantress’, ‘Victory’, ‘North Star’, ‘Laddie’, ‘Harvester’, ‘Topsy’ and ‘Pink Abundance’

Domestic cultivars raised by Mr Dogura were ‘Saika’, ‘Ouhou’,  ‘Maihime’, ‘Kyokujitsu’, ‘Shirotae’, ‘Hakuun’, ‘Taizan’, ‘Taihaku’,

‘Hakuhou’, ‘Bome-no-Hoho’, ‘Awabotan’, ‘Kinki’, ‘Yuubae’, ‘Hagoromo’ and ‘Unpou’.

Soon after this the influence of World War Ⅱ and the Pacific war became strong and some demolition of glasshouses took place to avoid being targeted by enemy bombers and the introduction of food production priority measures were introduced in all horticultural areas. Not surprisingly, carnation production decreased alarmingly.

When the war was coming to an end, the most important cultivar in the breeding history of Japan to support our future was raised. I describe this in detail below.

Modern Times  (1940-1970’s)

After the war, the important agricultural policy was not surprisingly to increase food production and the time during which flowers could not be grown and this continued to the end of the 1940’s. By the 1950’s, flower production had been gradually revived and this of course included carnation culture.  During this time a new vinyl covering material had been introduced to replace glass for crop protection. In Japan the name of this structure is called a ‘Vinyl house’ as opposed to a ‘Greenhouse’. Vegetable production by use of this new material grew rapidly with the greatest reason being the construction of these new houses was very cheap in comparison to glass. As a result open growing culture decreased rapidly in favour of vinyl covered growing areas.

Thankfully carnation culture in the ‘Tamagawa Greenhouse Village’ was resumed by growers now returning from the war. However growers over the age of 30 were significantly reduced and therefore were no longer the vibrant and prosperous area prior to the war. Many of the growers converted to growing potted-plants and ornamental foliage plants and by 1994 cultivation was completely gone.

The main reason for this was the over growing population in and around the suburbs resulting in a house building expansion.

Around this time the cultivation of ‘Coral’ which had been raised in Japan during the war began to increase on a National scale. By reason of outstanding characteristics which were accepted nationally, this cultivar had been raised by the crossing of ‘Betty Lou’ mixed with pollens of ‘North Star’ and ‘Spectrum’.  This crossing was done by Kisaburou Uno in 1940 or 1941 (exact date cannot be established) who had been a keen carnation grower in the Yokohama, Kanagawa Pref.  It was raised as the cultivar to replace ‘Spectrum’ which had been the popular red cultivar at the time.  The cultivar had originally been called ‘Shin Supe’ meaning ‘New Spectrum’ but was later renamed ‘Coral’ by Seijirou Sugiyama.

The properties of ‘Coral’ are as follows:-

Number of cut flower is over 500 stems/net square metres/year in the early flowering line, ca 400 stems in medium flowering line, flower colour is crimson red self, flower diameter is 5.5-6.0cm, number of petals is 25-30.

The cultivar ‘Yosooi’ was raised by crossing ‘Diana’ and ‘Peter Fisher’ by Housaku Oono, Kumamoto pref in 1960 and was grown as well as ‘Peter Fisher’ and ‘Nora’. The cultivar was raised as a result of grower breeding at this time and was cultivated on a National scale. This should be noted along with ‘Coral’ of the previous era.

Although another important cultivar of this time ‘Peter Fisher’ had already been introduced previously in Japan, because of the war the true value of the cultivar was evaluated along with ‘Coral’.   Both cultivars were very important in Japan, comprising more than half of the cultivation area of the country during this period until handing over the baton to ‘Scania’ from ‘Coral’ at the end of the 1990’s, and to ‘Nora’ from ‘Peter Fisher’ in the early 1980’s.

In 1951-1957, mainly Sim types were introduced in Japan by a nursery company, namely;-

‘William Sim’, ‘Dark Red Sim’, ‘Pink Sim’, ‘White Sim’, ‘Yellow Sim’, ‘Harvest Moon’, ‘Orange Beautyt’, ‘Variegated Sim’, ‘Peppermint Sim’, ‘Golden Wonder’, ‘Northland’, ‘California’ and ‘Apollo’ etc.. However the preference in our country at this time had been for an upright stalk, suppleness with a slightly small sized flower but with an absolute requirement for high yields. Therefore the Sim types were not really accepted or popular amongst growers.

Initiatives for new breeding programmes by public agricultural experiment stations began and results came gradually.  Ooita Pref raised

‘Yunoka’, ‘Honoo’, ‘Yufu’ and ‘Sento’,  

Fukuoka Pref raised;-

‘Kibou’, ‘Pinky’, ‘Runa’, ‘Kibou-no-Hikari’, ‘Yukigesyou’ and ‘Chikushi’.

Yamaguchi Pref raised;-

‘Hi-no-Yama’, ‘Suhou’, ‘Mihori’ and ‘Hakutyou’,

Kagawa Pref raised;-

‘Kurenai’, ‘Akane’, ‘Seto-no-Hana’, ‘Seto-no-Komachi’ and ‘Seto-no-Hatsushimo’.

Shizuoka Pref raised 16 cultivars such as ‘Izu Red’, ‘Izu Pink’, ‘Irou’, ‘Zuyou’ and ‘Furusato’ etc each in the 1960’s.

These cultivars contributed greatly to their production in the region, because they were selected to match the environmental conditions prevalent to each region.  Some of the cultivars were grown across Japan.

At the end of this era, the main cultivars having a medium flower size like ‘Coral’ and ‘Peter Fisher’ were replaced in favour of the larger flowering varieties and some ‘Sim’ types.  Favoured ones were ‘Scania’, ‘Scania 3C’, ‘Nora’, ‘Rolita’, ‘Le Reve’, ‘Ohio light Pink Sim’, ‘Linda’, ‘Lena’, ‘Flamingo Sim’, ‘Arthur Sim’, ‘Red Diamond’, ‘Alaska’, ‘Unconn. Sim’, ‘Improved white Sim’, ‘Florence’, ‘Yellow Dusty’, ‘Butter Scotch’ and ‘Evening Glow’ etc.  It may seem strange but ‘William Sim’ which was the origin of many of these cultivars was hardly grown in Japan.

Today  (1980’s -)

Since the late 1980’s, standard cultivars of the Mediterranean type carnations have come to be introduced in Japan.  They were introduced initially from Israel and subsequently from Germany, Netherlands, France and Italy.  The main early cultivars were ‘Thatcher’, ‘Pallas’,

‘Rodeo’, ‘Tanga’, ‘Vanya’, ‘Doria’, ‘Caresse’, ‘Sarinah’, ‘Chanel’, ‘Tang Bambi’, ‘Zamora’, ‘Manon’ and ‘Alice’ etc.  After this time the Sim varieties were no longer grown and are rarely seen now.  The popular main cultivars of standard types were ‘Francesco’, ‘America’,

‘Exceria’ (domestic), ‘Master’ (imported), ‘Pink Francesco’, ‘Nora’, ‘Hiro Juliet Rose’ (domestic), ‘Silk Road’ (domestic) and ‘Prado Mint’ etc.  

Popular Spray type cultivars were ‘Light Pink Barbara’, ‘Barbara’, ‘Dark Pink Barbara’, ‘Light Pink Tessino’, ‘CherryTessino’, ‘Light Cream Candle’ (domestic) and ‘West Diamond’ etc.  It is estimated that more than 500 cultivars of two types are grown today in Japan.

The breeding objective of the Mediterranean type cultivars were hard stalk, large flowers, less side branches, less calyx splitting in the flower and resistance to Fusarium Wilt (Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. Dianthi.).    

A breeding program which began in the 1960’s, began to produce large flowers. The results from this breeding programme have been utilized in cultivation areas around the world. The improved points for noting are less calyx splitting and resistance especially to

Fusarium Wilt which was always the aspiration of carnation growers.

The spray carnation was introduced almost simultaneously with the Mediterranean carnation.  Already cultivars of this type were being grown in Japan in the 1960’s,  such as ‘Exquisite’, ‘Elegance’, ‘Scarlet Elegance’, and ‘Royalette’ with the 1970’s seeing the introduction of ‘Red Baron’, ‘Tony’, ‘Maj Britt’, ‘Sams Pride’, and ‘Lilli-Ann’.

Since the 1980’s, the current main cultivars and sports were introduced such as ‘Barbara’ and sports ‘Red Barbara’, ‘Light Pink Barbara’,

‘Dark Pink Barbara’, ‘White Barbara’ and ‘Magic Barbara’ etc.  Others included ‘Tessino’, ‘Cherry Tessino’, ‘Trendy Tessino’, ‘Light Pink

Tessino’, ‘Royal Tessino’ and ‘Lavender Tessino’ etc.

Towards the end of the 1980’s, , interspecific hybrid carnations completely different in characteristic to the Sim type and Mediterranean  in respect of flower size, stem length, flowering time, number of stems, flower colour and patterns were introduced.

They were groups associated with the introduction of characteristics of the Pink into the carnation blood lines.

These were provisionally classified as;-


Chinese type ;-  ‘May-Bao’, ‘Mei-Fu’, ‘Mei-Ling’, ‘Mei-Yen’, ‘Mei-Yo’.

Midi type;-  ‘Myriam’, ‘Sissi’, ‘Angie’, ‘Akane’, ‘Unesco’, ‘Giallo’, ‘Frisco’ and ‘Panda’.

Mignon type; -  ‘Cammeo’, ‘Sirio’, ‘Regina’, ‘Zechino’, ‘Pulcino’ and ‘Lara’.


Multi flora type; -  ‘Fidelio’, ‘Fort’, ‘Primo’, ‘Othello’, ‘Disco’ and ‘Trio’

Chinese spray type; -  ‘White Condor’, ‘Limbo’ and ‘Fuji’.

Diantini type ;-  ‘Flintstone’, ‘Riantino’, ‘Petimaitre’, ‘Latino’, ‘Veratino, ‘Sorentino’ and ‘Pico’.

Mini spray type; -  ‘Boa’, ‘Orca’, ‘Lima’, ‘Roland’ and ‘Pink Roland’.

Micro type ;-  ‘Eolo’, ‘Pink Eolo’, ‘Eolo Bianca’, ‘Arco’, ‘Wiko’, ‘Jako’ and ‘Maiko’.

Diana type (micro mini) ; -   ‘Diana’ and ‘Pink Diana’.

Gypsy type ;-  ‘Gypsy’, ‘Lilac Gypsy’, ‘Giant Gypsy’, ‘White Gypsy’ and ‘Pink Gypsy’.

During this time, breeding programmes by the public agricultural experiment stations in Japan continued to make steady progress and some experimental stations that began breeding carnations also appeared and as a result many new cultivars were raised.

During this period a total of 48 cultivars were raised by 12 experimental stations.  In addition the efforts of raising new cultivars by keen amateur growers and indeed seed companies themselves could be seen and many results had been obtained.

During the 1990’s, the Institute of Floricultural Science of  NARO (National Agriculture and Food Research Organisation) began a breeding programme for disease resistance to Bacterial Wilt (Burkholderia caryophylli, old Pseudomonas caryophylli (Burkholder) Starr

and Burkholder)  which is the most serious plant disease in Japan.  

In 2010 the first cultivar holding bacterial wilt resistance in the world was raised and named ‘Karen Rouge’. The characteristics of Dianthus

Capitatus made significant contribution to this particular breeding programme.

For carnation production in the world, the most serious disease is Fusarium Wilt and some tolerant cultivars have been raised in Europe already.  However in Japan Bacterial Wilt continued to be the most important disease and so raising resistant cultivars is a priority.  Therefore growing and maintaining resistant cultivars will continue to be our main mission.

In 2006 the Institute had raised two cultivars with genetic modification found to hold significantly longer vase life without the use of a chemical agent and these were named ‘Miracle Rouge’ and ‘Miracle Symphony’.  These two cultivars were found to keep about three time’s longer vase life compared to other cultivars.  These two cultivars had no need for the chemical agent STS (Silver Thiosulfate Complex) agent. Four parents were used in the raising of these new cultivars, namely;-

‘Tania’, ‘Scania’, ‘Sandrosa’ and ‘Candy’.


In 1990, the production area of our cut flower carnation industry peaked to 616ha, producing 694 million stems with a total number of growers at 4,570.  Later production reduced to 367ha, with 314 million stems from 1500 growers in 2011. It is interesting that during this time the proportion of imported carnations in 1990 was relatively small (only 2.9%), yet in 2011 increased rapidly to 48.1% and later in 2012 increased to over 50%.  

The main 90% exporting countries in recent years are Columbia, China and Vietnam and so it is clear that this was having a detrimental effect on our home grown industry

During the 1970’s, Japans production of carnations was almost completely standard type with limited production of spray varieties.  However the spray type production increased gradually in the 1980’s rising to a maximum of some 70% in early 2000.  In recent years the ratio of spray production has fallen to 55%, the reason being a decreased demand in economic downturn and it remains the case that the standard carnation remains popular in business use.

Variety Registration System

The cultivars protection system in Japan began in 1945 after World War Ⅱ; the name of the law was the ‘Agricultural Seed Act’.  Prior to this the raisers cultivars and breeders rights were not protected by Japanese law.

During the period (1948-1978) there were only 20 registered Dianthus species cultivars.  Classification of the registered cultivars was 17 domestic and 3 foreign.  

One of these 3 registered foreign cultivars was ‘Nora’ (Registry number 251)

The raisers of domestic cultivars comprised 14 growers, 1 company and 2 prefectures.

In 1978 after Japan joined UPOV (Union Internationale pour la protection des obtentions vegetales) the old law was abolished and a new law (The Plant Variety Protection and Seed Act) was introduced and enforced.

In article 1 (purpose) of the law, the phrase as shown below is listed;-

‘The purpose of this act is to promote the breeding of plant varieties and the rational distribution of propagating material by providing for a system relating to the registration of plant varieties for the protection of new plant varieties and regulations relating to the indication of designated seeds, so as to contribute to the development of agriculture, forestry and fisheries’

After the enforcement of the new law, during the 30 years to 30TH September 2008, 1,196 Dianthus species cultivars were registered.  The registered cultivars can be classified into various categories, breeding area; domestic 516, foreign 680, breeder company 335, municipality 44, growers 137, breeding method: crossing 912, mutation 284, flowering type; standard type 670, spray type 357, pot/bed type 169.

At the end of June 2018, 1,883 cultivars are registered with 99 cultivars under examination.  For the detailed data, please access the HP

(English Version) of the PVP office of  MAFF (Plant Variety Protection office of Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) of


Top page

Searching plant variety page

Please click the English at the upper right of the screen.  You should be able to browse and search the database of all registered and under

examination cultivars in Japan.

This is the second article by Mr Munenori Hosoya we are indebted to him for this contribution on Carnations in Japan

Page 3 has an article from Mr Al Maas from Michigan