Although the dianthus family of hardy perennials including carnations, pinks and sweet williams has been around for a very long time, its popularity has not waned and is still much loved and admired for its dainty, fragrant flowers which are quite at home in the modern garden.
In Shakespeare’s era they were known as gillyflowers as mentioned in ‘A Winter’s Tale’ and were the preferred plants for the small knot gardens grown in this period.
In times past the carnation was looked upon as a symbol of motherhood as the hundreds of perfect tiny ruffled edges of the petals were seen as a symbol of a mother’s countless, perfect love.
In many countries they are worn on Mother’s Day and in the language of flowers, express love and distinction.
Carnations produce flattish heads of fragrant, velvety flowers in a vast range of colours that may be pink, white, red, purple, yellow or shades of these, some bi-coloured in single and double forms.
Hybridisers have greatly improved them over the years with hundreds of varieties and strains now available.
The two main types are the border and the perpetual flowering carnations which make valuable garden displays due to their long flowering ability.
Both types are very hardy and easy to grow.
The border carnations are bushier plants suited to rockeries, having a lengthy flowering season and flowers in lilac, maroon, pink, red, cream and white.
The perpetual flowering carnations have long stems with flowers in various colours used by the florist industry.
These are easily propagated from cuttings or side shoots, about 10cms long, taken in late summer or early autumn.
Dianthus barbatus, sweet william, has clusters of tiny flowers in mixed or separate colours on long stems and is a cottage garden favourites.
It has been suggested that the common name of ‘pinks’ comes from the old verb ‘to pink’ meaning ‘to pierce’ referring to the serrated petal edges. It was not until the beginning of the 18th century that the word ‘pink’ for the colour came into general use.
Carnations need well-drained, moist soil, ideally with a pH of 6.7- 6.9 in an open, but sheltered, sunny position. Don’t plant the seedlings too deep or the stem may rot. Potash will enhance the depth of colour in the flowers.
These perennial plants should be replaced every two years as by then they start to lose their vigour and become straggly.
For larger blooms remove all the lateral flower buds to encourage long stems and larger terminal blooms.
Filling that garden gap
Erigeron, or seaside daisies, have masses of pretty, small white/pink flowers widely grown to soften harsh features or as groundcovers and fillers where they will quickly cover bare areas of the garden.
These low maintenance, no-nonsense plants are extremely hardy and will do well in any soil providing the drainage is good and the position is open and sunny. They seed freely. Cut back hard after flowering and divide old clumps every three years.
January 5, 6: The Northern Tasmanian Lilium Society’s Lilium Show at St. Ailbes Hall, Margaret Street, Launceston. Saturday 1pm-5pm and Sunday 9.30am-4pm. Floral art and photography displays, plant sales and information on lilium culture. Morning and afternoon teas. Entry $3.
January 26, 27: The North-West Tasmanian Lilium Society’s Latrobe Lilium Show, will be held at the Memorial Hall, Gilbert Street. Saturday 1pm-4pm, Sunday 10am-4pm. Bulbs, plant and flower seed sales, demonstrations, interpretive displays, flower auction on Sunday 4pm. Morning, afternoon teas, light lunches. Admission $4. Accompanied children free.