Maiden pink – Dianthus deltoides

For rockery or border. Ideal for rockeries, maiden pink forms low mounds of evergreen leaves which are covered with masses of small, bright flowers over a long season each year.

It grows wild in parts of Europe, and its natural home is in limestone areas.

ANNUAL CALENDAR

SPRING

March:

Plant out young plants in prepared soil if not done last autumn.

May:

Sow seeds for new plants.

SUMMER

June:

The main flowering season.

Plants continue to produce some flowers all summer.

June-July:

The best time to take cuttings of side shoots to produce new plants. Remove dead flowers.

AUTUMN

September-October:

Trim lightly to a good, rounded shape at the end of the flowering season to encourage compact, bushy growth. Pay particular attention to removing straggly growth. Plant out new plants now.

WINTER

December-February:

The foliage looks attractive throughout the winter. Check plants occasionally for fungus attacks and treat promptly. Remove dead leaves that lodge in the mounds. The plant withstands cold weather if it is dry.

Another method is to raise plants from rooting side-shoots taken from the parent plant in summer. Remove non-flowering shoots complete with a heel (wedge-shaped slither of older wood at the base of the shoot). Push the cuttings into pots of moist coir (coconut fibre) mixed with sand. Pot them up individually once they are well rooted (about two months later). Keep the pots in a cold frame or greenhouse outside over winter, and plant out in March.

IMPORTANT

Maiden pink must have well-drained soil and a very sunny position. It tolerates limy conditions and requires little feeding.

POPULAR VARIETIES

Several cultivars are grown, apart from the species

Dianthus deltoides. ‘Albus’, has pure white flowers ‘Brilliant’ has bright pink, ones, and ‘Wisley Variety’, blooms a vivid red

When you are planting, maiden pink in a rockery plant it with other pinks of, similar size, such as D. alpinus, which flowers from May to August in pink, purple, and white, all with an contrasting eye.

You may have to hunt out maiden pink as it is not always available in garden centres. Ask about nurseries that specialize in pinks, or check seed catalogues for seed supplies

M aiden pink is a member of the Dianthus family and is closely related to the many forms of garden pinks and carnations, as well as the sweet William.

With its compact form and thin evergreen leaves, maiden pink is attractive even in winter. The leaves are a dark blue-green, sometimes tinged with red. When they bloom in early summer, the richly-coloured single flowers almost hide the leaves. The colour range includes red, pink and white. Removing all the old flowers as they fade extends the flowering season until early autumn.

Planting schemes

This bushy plant is a dwarf, so it forms small mounds of foliage. It is ideal for adding patches of colour to a sunny rockery.

Like the other types of pink, the maiden pink looks perfectly at home in an informal, cottage-garden style border. Plant it in groups among other border plants in a casual scheme. Positioning maiden pink towards the front of the border ensures that the mounds of sweetly scented flowers can be fully appreciated.

Planting and care

Once planted, maiden pink should not be disturbed. As it gets older it may become straggly and lose its compact shape, producing fewer flowers, but you can easily replace it with new, home-grown plants. Be sure to provide

SELF-SEEDERS

In autumn check around the plants for seedlings. These usually come true to (look like) the parent, but if other pinks are growing nearby you may produce an interesting new plant. Put in pots and plant out in spring.

Good drainage or maiden pink may not survive long rainy spells.

Propagating maiden pink

The easiest way of producing new plants is to transfer self-sown seedlings into individual pots containing good-quality potting compost. Alternatively, sow seed in spring in a cold frame (protective outdoor box). Grow on in pots. Transplant the young plants into their final positions in autumn or spring.

Maiden pink-

SITUATION

Open, sunny position in a rockery or at the front of a border where it will not be dwarfed. The more light and sun the better. Space the plants 20-30cm apart to allow for spreading.

SOIL

Light, well-drained and not too rich. Work in sand or gravel if soil is heavy. Pinks dislike acid soils; add garden lime to reduce acidity. Add potash (ideally ash from a wood fire) and bone meal.

CARE

Cut flowers or deadhead regularly to prolong flowering; trim to shape in autumn to encourage bushy growth. Plant shallowly so the roots are only just covered, but firm in well.

PLANT HEALTH

Plants may wilt and roots rot in poorly drained soils. Do not mulch. Aphids can attack new shoots, weakening the plant and making it vulnerable to fungal diseases.

Control by spraying. Leaf rot can attack, particularly in winter, causing plants to look sickly with patches of grey or brown on leaves and stems. Treat by removing damaged areas and spraying with fungicide. Rust may show as gingery brown spots. Remove infected parts and treat with fungicide.

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