Coming from the Greek words Dios (God) and anthos (flower), dianthus used to be referred to as “the flower of the gods.” Seeing as it is hardy, easy to grow and heavenly scented, it’s no wonder this cut flower gem has such an ethereal reputation.
The dianthus family encompasses over 300 different varieties. The most common of these are referred to as Sweet William, Pinks and Carnations. Sweet Williams are bold colored and usually grow in sprays (multiple flowers per stem). Pinks are a more general name given to the vintage garden grown dianthus. They are easily recognized by their scalloped edges, pink colors and strong clove-like scent. Carnations are most commonly used in floristry work for corsages, funeral work or Mother’s Day bouquets. Of these three, my favorite is by far the carnation. Sorry Sweet Willy.
The garden grown carnation has so much more elegance and panache than your store bought carnation. For one, the scent is UNREAL! Many mass produced flowers are made without scent so they will last longer and travel further distances. Locally grown carnations get to keep their scent and tickle your olfactory nerve with clove-y goodness. Also, there are so many hybrids and varieties of the carnation, you can find it in almost any color. Why get the electric green dyed St. Patty’s day carnations when you can have the true creamy caramel color of an Irish ale? Not to mention you could mix it with a bordeaux red, a romantic pink or even a marigold orange colored bloom. Dottie’s is banking on old fashioned carnations making a comeback this year (you heard it here first!). Or maybe next year... Well... soon, that’s for sure.
Let’s get down to the dirty business now, eh? Sowing carnations couldn’t be easier. I like to stick with the chabaud seeds, but may branch out because they’re making a comeback, remember? The most important tid bit with dianthus is to start your seeds early in the season. Once the summer heat arrives, carnations tend to get a bit leggy. Dianthus seeds need light to germinate so just sprinkle them on moist soil. You can water them from the bottom so you don’t disrupt the sleepy babies. Like most annuals, they appreciate sun and well drained soil. If you are part of Team Pinch, dianthus can be pinched or pruned to promote branching. Their strong fragrance keep most animals away. However once the flowers die back, deer will be happy to munch on their leaves and stems. You can deadhead flowers to promote more blooms. I like to do this with a thumbs up motion and make a popping sound, if only for my amusement.
Dianthus as cut flowers are just as easy. They are a filler flower so think along the lines of cosmos, zinnia and godetia. Carnations are just smashing next to a nice airy Queen Anne’s Lace. They also pair well with bigger flowers such as dahlias and sunflowers. Don’t worry, they aren’t bitter playing the supporting role.
Speaking of bitter, did you know that dianthus petals are edible?! I personally haven’t schlepped any into the kitchen thus far, but a quick search on Le Goog (that’s French for… nevermind I’m sure you figured it out) has showed me that you can make jam, jellies, salads, and my personal favorite – WINE! Now, I know it may be foolish of myself, but if anyone out there is making dianthus wine and needs a taste tester, I will offer up my own personal Farmer Jeff to test it for you. If he likes it, I shall confirm by finishing it off. At great personal expense of course…
Ok let’s review, shall we? Dianthus, flower of the gods, is beautiful, easy to grow and smells nice in my garden. Please send wine.