Every morning this past week, I have gone out to my front garden and buried my nose in the hauntingly-beautiful fragrance of the Dianthus superbus (aka pinks). I could look at the deeply-fringed flowers of this pink forever. Luckily, for me, I have several clumps of this flower in my garden.
I came across this flower many years ago when it was in bloom and purchased one. Looking back, it was one of the flowers that inspired my gardening passion. It is easy to grow, if given a light, well-drained soil. It does particularly well in this climate, where high humidity and heat are not a problem. If deadheaded regularly, the flowers last for much of the summer.
On a warm summer’s evening, there are few pleasures quite as delightful as breathing in the scent of these pinks. It is truly intoxicating. While I love most rock garden pinks, these are, by far, my favourites. I have never understood why this particular pink is so rare in gardens. My solution is to grow it from seed which is, thankfully, easy to do.
Pinks, which also include the ubiquitous carnation, have a long and rich history. They received the name, Dianthus, by Linnaeus in 1737, from the Greek, signifying divine and flowers. The common name, pinks, is thought to have originated from the look of the petals – as if they had been cut by pinking shears. Pinks were called gillyflowers for centuries – their name originating from the French, girofle, which means cloves (alluding to the clove-like scent of the flowers). In her book, The Language of Flowers, Marina Heilmeyer talks of how the French army during Napoleon’s time wore pinks in their lapels to signify their bravery.
In England, pinks were generally shunned by the aristocracy, which gave rise to pinks being regarded by the lower classes as flowers standing for bravery and love.