Dianthus 2: More Great Varieties

In the last issue I mentioned that Dianthus in general like sunny and well-drained conditions, and that because they cross-pollinate freely, you can only be sure you are getting a named variety like ‘Pike’s Pink’ if it has been propagated by cuttings.It is also significant that the strong fragrance common to many of the Dianthus tribe is not only pleasing to us humans, it is very attracting to many butterflies.

            Here are a few more varieties that do well in our area:

Dianthus turkestanicus: this is a rock garden variety that seems to be tolerant of average garden conditions as long as it is not over-watered. It begins the year as a low (1”-2”) evergreen mat of bluish foliage which then elongates  in the spring to 8”-12” in height. It then blooms in May with fringed white flowers with a soft lavender center; these are strongly and deliciously scented and carry in the garden. The mats can spread 10”-14” in diameter and the plant is long-lived. Like most dianthus, it is best to shear the flower stalks down to the mat height after flowering.

Dianthus “simulans”: this is very dense with almost fur-like cushions that seem to invite petting; 3”-5” high and spreading over many years to 12” or even 20” in diameter. These perfect hemispherical domes undulate with age and hail storms, bearing single, tiny pink flowers in June, though not every year. The plants are tough and drought-tolerant and can be long-lived with good drainage. There is another form claiming also to be D. simulans, which is tiny and fragile with red flowers. Dianthus anatolicus also grows well here and looks very similar in cushion but is supposed to stay smaller.

Dianthus x Allwoodii: in this group are hybrids between caryophyllus, the garden carnations, and D.plumarius . They vary considerably in form and color and in general are fast growing, long-blooming, especially if cut back after the first flush of bloom, are short-lived and have little fragrance. The ones locally available are mostly 12”-18” tall and are useful to 8000’-9000’, with grassy foliage and carnation-like flowers bloom in June/July.

Dianthus plumarius: the Cottage Pink forms a grass-like cushion of blue-green leaves, the stems can be single or forked, 6”-12” tall with often fringed, single flowers that are white or light pink, sometimes with contrasting eye. They are very fragrant and bloom in June. Shear after flowering, but you can 20% or more to reseed if that is desirable.

Dianthus nardiformis: Cloud Pink has tufted foliage to 6”-8”’ with slender woody stems with short bristly blue-green leaves. As the stems lengthen, the airy globe expands until it blooms in July and August with small pink (sometimes rose or purple) flowers. It is very long-blooming and needs little watering.

Dianthus alpinus: Alpine Pink is a short and small tufted plant 4”-6” with large, finely toothed flowers with little fragrance. These seem to prefer part shade with more water or higher altitudes. Bloom time is May/June.

Dianthus petraeus ssp. noeanus: Fragrant Evening Pink. As the common name declares, this dianthus is especially fragrant in the evening. It forms a dense, mounding cushion 8”-12” in diameter with stiff leaves and rigid stems holding single, lacy white flowers in July/August. It is good to 9000’ and needs little water.             If you don’t know these Dianthus varieties, try some; both your eyes and your nose will enjoy them.