Dianthus is a genus of about 300 species of flowering plants mostly native to Europe and Asia. The name Dianthus is from the Greek words dios (“god”) and anthos (“flower”). Among the best known members of the genus are Carnations and biennial Sweet William. However, it is the low-growing perennial species known as Pinks that interest me. I first encountered Pinks in my grandfather’s garden. His Pinks formed rounded cushions of blue-grey foliage that in summer were topped with pink flowers. I’m not sure what it was about them that so pleased my young self. The novelty of blue-grey foliage where most plants are undeniably green, perhaps, or maybe just the neat and tidy nature of the rounded cushion.
I have a variety of dianthus species edging the garden entrance. They were added to the garden last year and are just hitting their stride now. Pictured above is ‘Arctic Fire’. It is a deltoides species, one of the Maiden Pinks, which form low, spreading mats of foliage.
And here is ‘Brilliant’. What a perfectly named flower! Even the dullest day can’t rob these flowers of their impact. ‘Brilliant’ is also a deltoides species, but so far is more compact than is ‘Arctic Fire’.
‘Little Boy Blue’ belongs to the allwoodii or Border Pink hybrid group. It is a little taller and more gangly than its neighbours. The light green foliage in the background belongs to ‘Moonbeam’, a Threadleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’).
Here is ‘Snaps in Wine’, a gratianopolitanus species, or Cheddar Pink. There are many varieties of Cheddar Pinks, which have long been garden favorites, with their low cushions of grassy foliage. As you can see, Pinks don’t restrict themselves to pink flowers. A diverse range of interesting patterns is available. Cheddar Pinks are also known as among the most sweetly scented of the Pinks. Their perfume is often compared to the scent of cloves.
New hybrids are introduced every year. ‘Sangria Splash’, shown above with the flowers of a potentilla shrub, was developed by Kevin Hurd, a research horticulturist at Walters Gardens in Zeeland, Michigan, and was introduced in 2008.
‘Fire Star’, below, was developed by John Whetman of H.R. Whetman & Son in Devon, England. Whetman Pinks is a leading breeder of Pinks and you can see what’s new by visiting their website. ‘Fire Star’ has a nice, compact habit and has produced a bounty of eye-catching flowers.
None of these varieties quite matches my memory of my grandfather’s Pinks, which were obviously an old variety. I just purchased ‘Horatio’, which is listed as an heirloom variety and may resemble old-time Pinks more closely than newer hybrids. In any case, I’m sure it will be an enjoyable addition to my dianthus collection.