There are many varieties of Dianthus that are successful here in Colorado. Since there are about 250 species and 30,000 registered names of Dianthus, this article is only going to cover a fraction of the subject. Most of the species dianthus come from the Mediterranean region, the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor. They grow mostly in sunny, dry, well-drained soils among rocks or with short grasses in meadows, and most are happy in a more alkaline environment. These are reasons why they are often well-adapted to our natural conditions. Many varieties are easy for us to grow, and they satisfy us in many ways because some 1) are very fragrant 2) are excellent cut flowers 3) are durable, evergreen ground covers 4) are good in borders, cottage gardens, rock gardens and xeriscape gardens.
Some varieties are biennial and some are short-lived perennials while others are long-lived. Dianthus may suffer or die in wet clayey soils. They often reseed and are sometimes referred to as promiscuous because they cross-pollinate freely with each other producing many variations.This is why if you want a named variety like ‘Pike’s Pink’, you should make sure it is cutting-propagated. Dianthus are called “ Pinks” not because the flowers are usually pink but because the flowers have pinked edges, i.e., having a toothed pattern as cut with pinking shears.
Here are a few I have found very successful:
Dianthus deltoides-the Maiden Pinks form 12”-18” tufted mats of small-leafed stems that send up short flower stalks 4”-6” with numerous small, single flowers that lack fragrance. The different varieties bloom in different colors: ‘Albus’-white, ‘ White With A Red Eye’, ‘Zing Rose’- rose red, ‘Flashing Light’- deep red; to name a few. The foliage is evergreen and turns bronzy-maroon in fall. These are drought-tolerant, but bloom longer and live longer with some water and/or some shade.
Dianthus freynii-from Bosnia this low mat-former with narrow grey-green leaves barely an inch high, spreads out to 6”-7”. It blooms in May with soft pink flowers on short stems. It may be a prized rock garden plant but it has been easy and strong for me in gravely soil with some compost.
Dianthus gratianopolitanus-the Cheddar Pinks which people in the Dianthus Society often refer to as “grats.” Generally these are low,dense mat-forming ground-covers but some can get to 12” high. They often have 2” long blue-green leaves and bloom with clove-scented, single flowers. There are numerous varieties: ‘Tiny Rubies’-short mat spreading widely to 12” or more with short-stemmed double, tiny, deep pink carnation-like flowers that perfume the air in late spring; ‘Spotty’ with single red flowers spotted white, possibly not hardy in our coldest winters; ‘Pike’s Pink’ with 6”-8” large semi-double pink flowers with good fragrance, blue foliage, and possibly needing more water; ‘Bath’s Pink’ is very cold-hardy, rose pink fringed flowers in abundance that are highly scented;’Firewitch’ (Feuerhexe) deep blue-green mats with single bright carmine flowers. May not survive our coldest winters. There are many others
Since the original form is native to Cheddar Gorge, England, why can’t we just name these “Dianthus cheddari”, something we can pronounce and write on one side of a plant label??!
Next month: more varieties of Dianthus that excel and smell good.
Membership to the Dianthus Society is $15 to The American Dianthus Society,P.O. Box 22232, Santa Fe, NM87502-2232