DIANTHUS

Sweet William, Indian Pink or Annual Carnation (half hardy annual) Sweet William, Carnations and Pinks belong to the genus Dianthus, and its list of varieties is as long as its history. The Ancient Greeks called the Carnation the Divine Flower – the Elizabethans of Britain grew a wide variety of fancy gillyflowers (Pinks). In today’s garden you will find Dianthus varieties in the rockery, and in beds, borders and window boxes – at the florist you will see the showy blooms of Perpetual Carnations. Dianthus leaves are generally grass-like and often grey- or blue-tinged. Nearly all varieties have a liking for lime but it is not really essential.

VARIETIES: Three species of Dianthus are commonly grown as annuals or biennials. D.barbatus is the familiar Sweet William which bears densely-packed, flattened heads of flowers in midsummer. You can buy single-colour or distinctly-eyed varieties. Sweet William is usually grown as a biennial but annual types are available. D. chinensis is the Indian or Annual Pink – 1.5 in. fragrant flowers in many brilliant colours and combinations; look for ‘Baby Doll’ (mixed), ‘Snowflake’ (white), ‘Queen of Hearts’ (red) and the new bushy ‘Telstar’ (mixed). D. caryophyllus hybrids are the Annual Carnations – the double flowers are about 2 in. across and these plants make excellent bedding annuals except in the far north. Reliable strains are ‘Chabaud’, ‘Knight’ and ‘Raoul Martin’.

SITE AND SOIL: Any well-drained garden soil which is not acid will do – choose a sunny spot.

PLANT DETAILS: Height 1-2 ft (Sweet William), 6 in.-1.5 ft (Indian Pink), 1.5 ft (Annual Carnation).

Spacing: 9 in. (Sweet William), 6 in. (Indian Pink), 1 ft (Annual Carnation).

Flowering period: June-July (Sweet William), July-October (Indian Pink and Annual Carnation).

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