Last Sunday's half-day marathon of Columbo on the Hallmark Channel included my favorite episode, "Étude in Black," with guest villain John Cassavetes playing an irresistible cad of a symphony conductor. Nick ("Coach") Colasanto directed the episode (as he did with my next favorite episode, "Swan Song" with Johnny Cash). Steven Bochco wrote the episode, and Myrna Loy and Blythe Danner (then enceinte de Gwyneth Paltrow, according to imdb.com) are featured in significant roles. Cassavetes' conducting is a joke (deliberate, I'm convinced), as he waves the baton wildly out of beat with the music, and affects a laughably beatific expression during a random passage of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. He makes an after-concert visit to the home of his mistress, wearing his sunglasses at night (don't mess a-round with the guy in shades, oh no), and even indoors, the only purpose of which is to allow the camera to show (in a split-second, hilariously clumsy special effect), reflected in the lenses of the sunglasses, the incriminating flower that fell on the floor of his mistress's living room while the maestro was committing his crime.
That flower is a border carnation, in a beautiful, pale, slightly cyanotic pink, from plantings grown by the conductor's heiress wife (played by Blythe Danner) in a large oblong planter next to the tennis courts of their estate. She hesitates through the botanical name of the flower: Dianthus----caryo--phyll--us, and explains to Columbo that it's a "shorter and scrubbier" version of the typical florist's carnation. Her husband wears a carnation from her garden as a boutonniere whenever he conducts, she says. And when it's proven that he didn't on the fateful night, he's busted, of course.
I ordered some Dianthus caryophyllus seeds from Thompson & Morgan this year, in a variety named 'King of the Blacks', promised to flower in deep, dark red. T&M earns high marks from me for customer solicitude: it enclosed an extra packet of the seeds with the order, explaining that it was concerned about reports of irregular germination, and recommending that all the seeds in both packets be planted. Whoa...after exceedingly successful germination (and excessive required thinning), it looks like I may end up with enough border carnation (blood red instead of pale pink) to fill a large planter, in homage to this Cassavetes Columbo, and to be renamed, during its stay in my garden, Dianthus caryophyllus 'Étude in Black'.