Green fingers held this wet carnation still for a photograph of the captivating colour scheme. I have loved carnations for over 60 years but never really got on top of growing or breeding for showing.
Carnations through the Ages
Dianthus caryophyllus have been around for over 2000 years well known to the ancient Greeks. Since that time they have been bred into a vast range of varieties.
Standard Carnations are the large single headed varieties grown in a greenhouse environment.
Hardy border carnations of the sort by family grew in their little cottage the 1950’s. These are the family of carnations that were depicted in old Flemish paintings.
Jan Albertsz Rotius – A Four-year-old Girl with a Pot of Carnations – 1663
Perpetual flowering carnations well-loved by the florists who sold these by the million as one of the longest lived cut flowers. Now overtaken by supermarket and garage forecourt sales of bunches in plastic.
Vintage varieties have been very popular in bridal bouquets for years
Spray carnations have multiple flowers per head by removing the terminal bud and leave the side buds to flower.
Pinks have smaller flowers than carnations and either single or double.
Bright brash ‘Indian Pinks’ are verging on red in this cultivar. It looked great in the first season but I lost the plant over winter so perhaps the variety should be grown as an annual. All that glitters is not Pink. I hope to do better with a new bed I have created just for a collection of Pinks or Dianthus plumarius
Pinks prefer neutral to limey soil and Rhododendrons like soil on the acidic side yet these two plants have thrived together for several years and both produce a good show of flowers in their season. The soil is very open and reasonably fertile and I leave them to their own devices.
The same clump in winter.
Top Feeding and Watering Tips
Feed regularly during the growing season with a rose or tomato fertiliser.
Feeding is particularly important after the first flush of blooms has finished in order to encourage them to flower again.
Pinks will tolerate dry conditions but will only produce continuous flowers if you water regularly.
Water the base of the plant to avoid damaging the blooms.
Do not over water young plants and make sure excess water can drain away.
Dianthus Species of Pinks
Dianthus alpinus – Alpine Pinks
Dianthus amurensis – Amur Pinks
Dianthus arenarius – Sand Pinks
Dianthus armeria – Deptford Pinks
Dianthus carthusianorum – Carthusian Pinks
Dianthus caryophyllus – Carnation or Clove Pinks
Dianthus chinensis – China Pinks
Dianthus deltoides – Maiden Pinks with green foliage
Dianthus gallicus – French Pink or Jersey Pinks
Dianthus gratianopolitanus – Cheddar Pinks
Dianthus monspessulanus – Fringed Pinks
Dianthus microlepsis – Tiny 1″ high species
Dianthus myrtinervius – Albanian Pinks
Dianthus plumarius – Garden Pinks, Wild Pinks
Dianthus seguieri – Sequier’s Pinks
Dianthus superbus – Large Pinks
Dianthus x hybrid – Sweet Pinks
The Star series are single Dwarf Pinks notable for their toughness and hardiness. Most varieties like the Night Star above will make a lovely compact mound of grey-green foliage, topped by a mass of sweet smelling flowers. They will repeat flower if dead headed and fed. Ideal for planting in rockeries, containers or pots. Flowering height approximately 5 inches.
More on a topical favourite Dianthus the Sweet William.
This selection of Sweet Williams are grown from one packet of seed. The frilly flowers look almost double and when massed together in one flowerhead they look stunning.
A cottage garden favourite the Sweet William is in flower from July to September. They make good cut flowers and a nesting spot for earwigs. (Give them a good shake before bringing them into the house.) …
In addition to collecting my own seed I like to try new varieties.
Suttons seeds have a ‘Kaleidoscope mix that I have just bought as an experiment. They were half price in the Wyvale sale and look as though the flower heads will feature white and a range of other pastel colours.
Cottage garden favourites are now running to seed in my garden. I am glad I dead headed the plants earlier and got a second flush of flowers but now is the time to collect seed.
Sweet William Seed.
Each pollinated floret will generate seed which is held in a firm upright cup.
As the seed dries and gets ready for distribution the cup opens and the black ‘gritty’ seeds can be shaken out. I use old envelopes to collect the seed into so I can keep and name different seeds.
If only a proportion of the seed capsules are open gently shake the plant into your container. If the majority are open I cut the head off, invert it over some paper and gently shake and squeeze to extract the seed.
Sweet Williams are quite promiscuous so do not always grow just like the parent you collected from. They will have many of the characteristics so select from the colours you like. The red flowered, red leaved types are my favourite but you may prefer the pastel or chocolate kinds.
Nature knows what it is doing and the seeds can be sown now to germinate and grow before the ground gets too cold. If you want an informal effect you can just shake your seedheads over a soil patch and wait.
Other members of the Dianthus family such as Pinks and carnations can be treated in the same way
The seed I collect will be organic as I have not used any chemicals for the last two years on or around my Sweet Williams. However they will not be certified by the soil association but in the scheme of things that wont matter.
Sowing & Growing Tips
As I have just bought the seeds I am sowing them to overwinter and flower next year.
If sown in February or March they should flower the same year.
They like a bit of space to excel so allow 6-9 inches apart when planting out in the final sunny positions.
Pinks are ‘divine flowers’ that can be planted in late April / May or October and produce a continuous supply of flowers suitable for cutting or exhibiting. They are perennials that are at their best for 2-3 summers. Scent, colour and uniformity are just 3 reasons for growing Pinks or other varieties of Dianthus.
Cultivation of Pinks
Pinks are completely trouble free if planted in a sunny position, in free draining soil. (asking for trouble there)
Occasionally water like any other garden plant and dead head after flowering.
Pinks bloom from early spring until the first frosts.
Hardy Pinks don’t mind the cold, so no need to lift them over the cold winter months.
Pinks will be a talking point in winter due to their silver/grey leaves .
Each spring tidy up around the plants and work in a fertilizer like Growmore, dried blood or Superphosphate …
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