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Tickled Pink!

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September already and summer is holding on by a thread as fine as a spiders web! But there are still many plants that are working hard and refusing to let go of their summer dresses. One of which is the good old garden pink! This group of plants often gets overlooked as autumn flowerers but can continue flowering right into November and sometimes even December although in this blog I’m going to concentrate on heritage varieties which have a much shorter flowering time… But hopefully once you learn more about these historic lovelies, the more modern varieties will make their way into your heart too :)

When you think of garden pinks – what comes into your mind?… Your Grandmother?… Old fashioned chocolate box pictures or perhaps 1980’s wedding day button holes?… Well how about letting  your mind drift way back instead and imagine yourself in an elegant Tudor or Elizabethan formal garden on a warm summer’s day wearing a long heavy dress/cod piece – (delete as applicable) as the soft warm breeze carries to you the heavy spicy and exotic perfume of the ancestors to modern garden pinks … Their ’fruit coulis ‘n’ cream’ swirls of feathery petals singing out in the afternoon sun as their heady scent envelopes you in a sweet embrace whilst you walk through deserted pathways cooling your barefoot on rich, emerald lawns…

Got rid of those old stereotypes yet? Well OK it may take a bit more than me waffling on… But let me introduce you to some of these ancient treasures that sired the garden pinks we are familiar with today and see if they capture your heart:

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Dianthus ‘Sops in Wine’

This lovely little pink can trace is roots right back to Medieval times when it was used to give a clove like taste to wine! A cheaper alternative than using expensive imported spices. As you would expect, it has a very strong clove fragrance – the true fragrance of garden pinks.

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Dianthus ‘Pheasant’s Eye’

Pre- dates the 17th century and has an unusual torn appearance – again has a really strong scent.

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Dianthus ‘Queen of Sheba’

A beautiful name for a beautiful pink! From the 17th Century – this pink was probably around when the Roundheads and Cavaliers were busy bashing each other. A pink with stunning, intricate markings and as its name suggests, a heady, exotic scent!

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Dianthus ‘Cockenzie Pink’ or ‘Montrose Pink’

From about 1720 so not as old – This bright and bubbly shocking pink pink orginates from Scotland… Again very highly scented and one of the first to flower.

So there you have it – a few little beauties that will delight your eyes and your nose!

Old fashioned garden pinks like light soil in full sun – however I have grown them in improved clay and they have thrived – so as long as your soil never gets waterlogged, it’s worth a go! They also don’t like acidic soil and contrary to popular belief – they don’t like drying out in the summer so in periods of dry, hot weather make sure you water them and feed them once a fortnight with a high potash feed such as liquid organic seaweed. You will also need to take regular cuttings as the plants tend to look past their best after a few seasons – but that little extra work is very worthwhile – to be able to smell and touch a piece of a forgotten time! Also older varieties of any plant are much more wildlife friendly and by growing them you are helping keeping a bit of our heritage alive whilst at the same time filling your garden and house with intoxicating perfume and beauty as they also make fantastic cut flowers!

Check out Allwoods nursery for some great old fashioned varieties from the Medieval period onwards!

Oh and one more little piece of useless information… The word pink to describe a colour wasn’t in use until the 1600’s! It is thought garden pinks were called ‘pink’ after pinking shears due to their frilly edges… And it is thought that the colour was named after these lovely little plants!

JB

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