Why grow pinks (Dianthus)? Because you can!
- are easy to grow.
- make neat mounds of attractive evergreen foliage.
- are good edging plants.
- are good rock garden plants.
- will grow well in pots.
- can tolerate some shade (in the South).
- attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
- do not attract deer or rabbits.
- are pretty...and pink!
- smell sweet.
- are edible. (Check out the recipe at the bottom of this post!)
- you can make all sorts of things with them, perfumed floral waters and baby powder are just a couple.
I have been a collector of pinks without even realizing it! All of the Dianthus pictured above are blooming in my backyard, kind of clumped up together in a bed I had plans to fill with low-growing herbs, but which so far is mostly these gillyflowers.*
They're great flowers, traditional in herb gardens, with loads of use potential, so I'm glad to have plenty of them. Here are a few (all in the bed above) that you might like to try for yourself:
Tiny Rubies Cheddar Pink
I remembered only one of my Dianthus by name, though I'm kind of proud of the particular one, because it's a mouthful -- Dianthus gratianopolitanus. I praised it last year and continue to be thrilled with it.
The neat clumps of miniature blooms and foliage are so charming! 'Tiny Rubies' grows about two inches tall, with flowering stems four inches tall and blooms one half inch across. It was marketed as a plant you can walk on, but I can't imagine doing that. The clumps of foliage do look dense and sturdy, though, and I'm sure my dog has stepped on them a time or two without a problem.
Sweetness Cottage Pink
I planted these cottage pinks (Dianthus plumarius) from seed. With seeds you get variation (sometimes more than others), so flowers even within the same clump can have different shades and markings from stem to stem. I love that sort of thing; every day is a surprise bloom! The plant has a looser habit than the other pinks, with leaves more spread out along the stem and flowers that tend to flop in the rain. Sweetness cottage pink blooms stand about eight inches tall, with a scent that lives up to the name.
Rachel Cheddar Pink
Dianthus pontederae 'Rachel' has the spikiest, most white-gray foliage of any of my pinks. Variation in the garden greens, especially when the flowers are of a color to show it off, is especially nice. 'Rachel' is pale pink and ruffly with the characteristic petal edges that give pinks their name. (Did you think they were named for their color? In fact, it's the other way around!) Very fragrant double blooms are about an inch across atop stems that are six to eight inches tall.
Super Parfait Dianthus
Super Parfait Raspberry (sketchy parentage, but often listed as Dianthus chinensis) is my most eye-catching pink, with striking raspberry centers and large flowers nearly two inches across. The foliage is deep olive green with buds so dark red they can appear black. It's pretty whether it's blooming or not; mine stayed green all winter. I bought these as small plants, but seeds are readily available.
Maiden pinks (Dianthus deltoides) stand out in the garden, too. The bright little half inch blooms dance in the slightest breeze at the tips of their wiry ten to twelve inch stems. The foliage is pretty --more rounded than most of the pinks, and more purely green. These would make cute, long lasting miniature arrangements for a dollhouse or fairy garden scene, or just your kitchen windowsill.
*If you look hard, you might see lady's mantle (Alchemilla sericata 'Gold Strike'), alpine aster (Aster alpinus), a Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum 'Snow Lady') and a sedum whose species name I do not know, and who, after being lovely and well-behaved all winter, now appears thuggish, crowding out its neigbors. It may have overstayed its welcome. I'm giving it a few more weeks to convince me otherwise. Feverfew, Piccolo basil and nasturtium will find a place soon.
The Delightful Dianthus from Herb Companion Magazine website. Includes just about anything you would want to know about choosing and growing pinks.
Miniature Flower Arranging a how to from Janit Kalvo of Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center.