Dance of the Dianthus

Now is the beginning of the season of the dianthus dance here at the Faire Garden. Dianthus gratianopolitanus, the cheddar pinks, have been spread hither and yon to line the step stone pathways in the middle tier of the big hill behind the main house. They were chosen for their ease of care, evergreen silver leaves, pink spring flowers and beguiling scent. They are low growers, perfect as an edging along walkways.

We started several years ago with six pots of D. ‘Bath’s Pink’ to line the highest set of steps going up to the knot garden and shed area. This plant has very pale pink petals with a darker pink ring in the center of the star shaped flower. The edges of the petals are very ragged, as though they had been trimmed with pinking shears. The name for pinking shears comes from the dianthus’ pink flower edge, according to wikipedia.

We next added six more pots to the lower set of steps of D. Firewitch, a darker pink with smaller, more round flowers and bluer and more compact evergreen foliage. The ajuga along that group of steps has been quite the bully with this group of plants, completely covering the blue gray foliage with their searching offsets. The decision was made to leave some of the dianthus in place along the steps, but moved farther in toward the middle of the beds. The most threatened Firewitches were moved to the pathway that intersects the steps at a ninety degree angle in the middle. Over a period of several years, isn’t that the way gardening is, the dianthus has now nearly filled in the middle terrace pathway.

The Bath’s Pink is extremely vigorous and that has allowed for many cuttings to be spread wherever needed to stabilize the hill, provide winter interest and add spring color. I mustn’t forget to remind the reader of the luscious fragrance also. In the beginning , the flowers were deadheaded for neatness’ sake. One year the garden had to fend for itself while the offspring’s offspring needed our services to care for him while he was so young and mom had to return to work. That year the seedheads were allowed to stay on the plants and a new era of dianthus was begun. The pollinators were indiscriminate while doing their duty, and landed on Bath’s Pink and Firewitch paying no heed to dark pink or light pink differences.

A ceremony was performed by the minister of the garden to bless any offspring produced by these happy couples. Many and varied offspring have resulted. The middle terrace is now filled with a delightful mixture of dark and light pinks, center rings and ragged edges. The slight difference between their foliage is undiscernable to these eyes. Only in bloom does the uniqueness of each plant show itself.

This is a fine example of careful breeding, not! This is a fine example of nature performing her miracle of pollination, aided by the bees and butterflies. The dark color of Firewitch, the larger star shaped flower, dark center and ragged edge of Bath’s Pink make this offspring exceptional.

While shooting photos for this post, a closer look was taken at the flower structure. While shooting photos of the dianthus, it was noted that it is nearly impossible to get a sharp picture of Bath’s Pink. The light pink color and tissue weight petals that move in the slightest of breezes made for less than ideal photos. The flower children with the lighter color traits are many, but cannot be shown to you due to the above technical diffficulties.

There are many offspring that look identical to one or the other parent. There are many variations showing up as well. It will be interesting to see if these different flowers produce still more unusual traits.

This is a good example of the changes that have taken place from the appearance of the parents in the flower. Very attractive in form and color.

With a slightly bluish tint, no dark center and plenty of zig zag to the edges, this one is nice too.

Here the difference has occurred to the center ring. It is more pronounced and larger.

Very, very many photos were taken to try and capture the beauty of the new color combinations created by Mr. and Mrs. Firewitch-Bath’s Pink’s dance. These are the best of the lot, portraying the beauty of the product of their tango.

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29 Responses to Dance of the Dianthus

  1. Layanee says:

    Frances: Those are beautiful and they smell so sweet! I saw many at the garden centers yesterday and the ones with the bluest foliage stand out for me. I am determined not to buy one plant until I finish cleaning out the gardens! Your dogwoods in the previous post are beautiful in their spring cloaks.

  2. tina says:

    I love the scent of pinks. Did you know they are called pinks because they look like they were cut with pinking shears? I just bought a new cultivar last night that is taller. It is called ‘Heart Attack’. Ever heard of it? I hope it does well. It is blood red and one of my favorite colors in the garden.

  3. patientgardener says:

    lovely photos – I am waiting in anticipation for my Dianthus to come out

  4. Dave says:

    Very nice photos Frances! Do you start them from seed or do you buy the plants? I started some from seed but they aren’t ready for the garden yet.

  5. Frances, says:

    Layanee, thanks. That is some will power you have, to resist the temptation of new plants before the space is ready. I am always afraid they will be sold out, someone will come in and buy every one, when I go back, it has happened before!

    Tina, thanks. I did mention about the pinking shears in my first caption, you must have been hypnotized by the photo!;-> Heart attack is an unfortunate name, but sounds wonderful. Good luck with it.

    Patient Gardener, thanks. Ours are just in the earliest stages, that is why there was no photo of the whole area, waiting for more blooms to open.

    Dave,Thanks. I bought plants for the first ones, as mentioned, and they seeded themselves. I have had poor luck with purchased seed, having bought Siberian Blues without a single survivor. Seeds from my son’s trip to Scotland have lived and may bloom this year, or next hopefully.

  6. Frances, says:

    Tina and Dave, sorry for the snippiness. I am feeling a bit prickly today. :-<

  7. tina says:

    Frances, My apologies, I read so fast I sometimes miss things. I am noticing more and more lately. I should slow down! Even my mother says so! lol

  8. Frances, says:

    Tina, HA, that is what I get, it was the second caption, not the first. See above apology. But we all need to slow down, your mom is right.

  9. Gail says:

    Frances, you have inspired me…I am going to try pinks again, this time on the front hill where they will be both gorgeous and functional. Your descriptions are as captivating as your photos! Your blog is deserving of a mousie! Isn’t that a great name…mousie.


  10. Nancy J. Bond says:

    Gorgeous pinks, every shade. 🙂

  11. Frances, says:

    Gail, glad to have persuaded you to give pinks a chance. ;-> Thanks for the kind words, Mouse and Trowel is very clever for a title for garden blogging. Good job Colleen.

    Nancy J., thanks, we are in the pink here.

  12. Amy says:

    It’s so wonderful to be able to just soak in all these lovely photos. I had forgotten how much I love pinks. My plant wish list seems to be growing daily! My mother has a gorgeous dianthus – so dark pink it almost looks red and very tiny. It seeded itself on a very dry, fast draining slope beside the house that is almost never watered and just thrives there.

    Years and years ago Victoria magazine featured the most gorgeous garden – it was almost entirely composed of every dianthus you could imagine. I wish I had kept that article!

  13. Frances, says:

    Amy, thanks. I have been thinking about your comment, was a big fan of Victoria also, and saved lots of pages in notebooks, including several that featured lots of dianthus! That is one of the reasons I planted the dianthus in large groups. The dream book. I take the magazine again, it came back but only six times a year. The little one your mom had sounds like Tiny Rubies. Thanks for jarring my memory!

  14. Annie in Austin says:

    Frances, what a sweet and slightly goofy post you’ve made…who else could have come up with a wedding between species of carnations! I love it! With fairies as flower girls, right?

    Seriously, I’m impressed with your knack at making Dianthus thrive and spread and even blend their genes. The only kind that hang around for me are the Telstars, which are supposed to be annuals… go figure.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  15. Kathryn/ says:

    Frances, what an eloquent tribute to your history with this particular flower. Very inspiring. I’m also noting a lesson here, when you mention the yr. you did not deadhead–the result was sheer beauty and surprise, showing that birth is sometimes messy! 🙂 LOL!
    Thank you for a lovely, loving post.

  16. Frances, says:

    Annie, Bless you my child, for seeing the humor hidden here. I guess the Telstars hang around you because you are out of this world! ;->

    Kathryn, Thanks, what happened with the dianthus seed riot was a good example of the Semi school of gardening, the less you do, the better. Thanks for the kind words.

  17. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Your pinks are just gorgeous Frances. I just love that scent too. It just knocks your socks off when it is in full blooom.

  18. Entangled says:

    Oh boy, I’ve been faithfully shearing off Bath’s Pink and Firewitch when I could have been developing the next big thing in Dianthus instead. ;-0
    What a nice crop of hybrids! I think I’m going to let a few go to seed this year.

  19. brokenbeat says:

    after first reading this post, i have tried several songs from different musical genres to get my various dianthuses to dance. as it turns out, michael jackson’s ‘thriller’ is what they prefered. their little clawed flowers were up and swinging back and forth in the breeze. they even intertwined foliage in an attempt to combat the fear inspired by that final evil laugh. i love my garden.

  20. Melanie says:

    Frances, I only have one dianthus here and I’m thinking I need more! Do you cut them back after they’ve bloomed? I never know what to do with them and my one variety has the longest scraggly growth ever.

  21. Ewa says:

    Messy offspring – lol – that is transferable to other areas as well 🙂
    I love dianthus – easy and well scented 🙂 it is much for such little plant, rigt?

  22. Frances, says:

    Lisa, thanks. Yes, the dianthus have it all, evergreen no maintenance, look good with everything in bloom or out, and wonderful clove scent.

    Entangled, do let some seed, they look sort of messy for a week or two, but then the flower stalks kind of fall down and mix in with the foliage and disappear, you don’t even notice them.

    Brokenbeat, Thriller is a good choice for the edgey dianthus dance, I can see them doing the famous move. love.

    Melanie, if you cut them back, you won’t get the babies that are shown in the post. Firewitch and Bath’s Pink are shorter than some taller varieties. Just blind your eyes to the dried seed heads, they will fall down and disappear, just like the ajuga flower stalks, if you follow the semi school, doing nothing.

    Ewa, good analogy. Even the smallest garden needs to have dianthus for all it offers, as you say.

  23. semi says:

    I can picture the little fairies in your garden doing their little tango dance to thriller. What a picture almost fantasia worthy. LTB saw a big bee last night and said Mom pollen jocks!
    love semi

  24. Greg W says:

    I have become a huge fan of dianthus. They are the only plants that kept their foliage green throughout our Utah winter. Very impressive.

    They have such a wide range of shades too. Your photography always inspires.

    Thanks for sharing.

  25. Frances, says:

    Greg W., That’s good to know that they can also grow well in the north. I love the foliage as much as the flowers, the color, neat mounding shape, no insect or cold or heat damage, all good. Thanks for the kind words.

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