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Grow pinks for an easy, pretty garden
When a plant with pretty flowers is advertised as easy to grow, it always catches the gardener’s eye. While plants may not live up to this billing, pinks deliver in the landscape.
You can call them cottage, cheddar or just plain pinks, but this group in the Dianthus genus are composed of several species and hybrids. Pinks are close relatives of the florist carnation and the wildflower Sweet William.
Even though they are called pinks, flower colors include white, lavender, red and pink. They have a nice variety of flower types with single and double flowers and serrated and fringed margins. Their grass-like foliage ranges in color from bright green to blue-gray. And did I mention that many have a spicy clove-like fragrance?
Pinks can be from 3 to 24 inches tall and up to 24 inches wide. The smaller varieties have tight, formal growth habits. These are perfect for a rock garden or for straight lines and square corners in a formal design. Try cheddar pink varieties Tiny Rubies or Bath’s Pink.
The taller varieties are looser and have a more casual style. The 2001 Mississippi Medallion plant Bouquet Purple dianthus is perfect for the cottage garden. The flowers are a bright, hot pink/purple on stems up to 24 inches long. This is a good cut flower producer that will rebloom.
Other reblooming varieties include cheddar pink Firewitch, maiden pink Confetti Cherry Red and the hybrid Rose de Mai.
Deadhead your pinks after flowering. The easiest way is to simply hold a bunch in one hand and use your pruners or scissors to reduce by half. The plants will put out new growth, and reblooming varieties will give you a quicker encore.
Pinks have a reputation for being short-lived, but this usually happens when there is excessive soil moisture that causes the center of the plant to brown-out. To prevent this problem, always plant the crown slightly above the normal soil level so it stays dry. This advice is for both in-ground and container-grown pinks.
Having good drainage is the key to success with pinks in the landscape. Try this recipe to improve drainage in a heavy clay soil. Mix one-third of the soil removed from the hole, one-third poultry grit (a finely crushed granite) or horticultural perlite, and one-third compost. The new, coarse soil texture will allow water to drain away from the plant crown.
Try a combination planting of pinks with bugleweed, blue fescue, coral bells and stonecrop for a truly easy-care landscape bed.