Still in the Pink

IN THE PINK: Dianthus can bloom whatever the weather.
IN THE PINK: Dianthus can bloom whatever the weather.
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I have to admit that I have a soft spot for pinks, but they are hardly a flower associated with Christmas and the dark months of a British winter.

But Pinks (Dianthus) whose stunning little flowers tend to scent the air in warmer times, are hardy little beasts and a few are still blooming gamely, having endured several frosts and a couple of coverings of snow.

The Dianthus family have been around for a long time – they were known as early as 300BC. The genus was given the name from the Greek dios which means divine, and anthos meaning a flower. And the Greeks got it right; Dianthus are divine flowers.

But these traditional cottage garden flowers, much smaller than their relatives, the carnations, fell out of fashion in the early 1990s, when many British growers couldn’t afford to keep producing them for the money the flower was commanding.

Now, however, sales of British blooms are up as much as 30 per cent year on year. And it’s not that surprising because when you have a vase of pinks, you’ll want the flowers themselves, growing out in the garden.

They’re easy to grow and propagate. They have their likes and dislikes, but they seem to be able to put up with much of what Nature has to throw at them.

Ideally, they love sunshine and a deep, crumbly, loam soil is the best for them, but if you can’t give them that, it doesn’t really matter. Just make sure their soil is not waterlogged.

And as this month is proving, they are tough little things.

As long as the soil isn’t acidic, they will be fine, and if in doubt, you can add a touch of lime.

Dianthus come in a multitude of sizes, from the likes of ‘Pixie Star’, a dwarf with blue-grey leaves and single pink flowers 3cm wide, with a dark red eye, to ‘Spinfield Betty’s Pink’, which grows to about 60cm in height and which has blue-grey foliage and bright pink flowers.

Another stunner is ‘Oakwood Splendour’, a vigorous spreading perennial with strongly clove-scented, double, rose-pink flowers.

The saying ‘sweet smell of success’ could have been coined for Dianthus.

In fact, there are so many members to this fabulous family of garden plants that the grower is spoiled for choice.