Our initial response to most things is in part greatly determined by our senses; by what we see, smell and feel. Shapes and colours and scents of flowers are what helps us consider how a plant will fit into the environment that we have in mind for it.
Also going by the name of ‘Pinks’ and closely related to carnations, dianthus are a centuries old garden staple. With such a wide variety there is now a dianthus for almost any planting situation. A quintessential cottage garden flower and a favourite with florists, they are also suited to modern, contemporary settings looking great as a stark contrast against an urban, architectural background.
Native to southern Europe, with a name that originates from the Greek word ‘dios’ meaning divine and ‘anthos’ meaning flower. Gilliflower is also an age old general term for the plant. Florists in the 1800s didn’t favour the frilled edges of some varieties, preferring the version with the perfectly smooth-edged petals. Obviously today they are back in fashion and well-loved, Dianthus ‘Fire Star’ (P) being a beautiful example with pretty leaf shapes reminiscent of having been cut with pinking shears. This is also where the nickname ‘Pinks’ comes from.
With edible flowers, the Spanish originally took advantage of their culinary use as a spicy addition to drinks.
Their ornamental qualities are also very appealing, forming tight mounds of fairly slender, cool blue/grey foliage being a perfect compact backdrop to the starry, eye-catching flowers that explode in a profusion of vibrant, bright colours. Perfume is also an essential in the garden, dianthus are characterised by their spicy scent that is similar to cloves or cinnamon, making them attractive to butterflies and beneficial insects.
Preferring full sun in well-drained soil, keep foliage dry and water at the base. They won’t however tolerate standing in very wet soil, especially in winter
Ours are early flowering with a long succession of scented blooms in various shades. Definitely a sure way to brighten up your green space, these little stars are great for the border, rockeries or container displays:
Dianthus ‘India Star’ (P) – Grey/green foliage. Single flower. Mauve pink colour with a ruby red centre and a heady clove scent. Masses of single flowers.
Dianthus ‘Pop Star’ (P) – Like delicate pink ballet slippers, scented frilly double pink flowers with a hint of a cherry red eye.
Dianthus ‘Red Dwarf’ (P) – Single deep pink magenta petals with contrasting white stamens standing out from a plummy centre. Perfect as an alpine plant at 10cm tall.
Dianthus ‘Night Star’ – compact grey foliage, broad toothed dark cherry petals with a light pink coloured margin as well as markings on the petals.
Dianthus ‘Evening Star’ – Fragrant semi-double petit flowers in bright pink with a maroon centre over a small spreading cushion of linear grey/green foliage.
Dianthus ‘Starburst’ (P) – Raspberry flowers with frilled edges and a pink-white splash like a stick of seaside rock.
Dianthus ‘Arctic Star’ (P) – Snow white in colour, full double flowers as early as March.
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