A pink in the garden

 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).Œillet-mignardise 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.Œillet-mignardise2 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.

35 thoughts on “A pink in the garden

  1. em says:

    i don’t have this pink, but i’m going to have to look for it! i like spidery flowers and deeply cut leaves and petals also. nice photo!

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    This is a beautifuland delicate looking pink. No wonder you like it so well. I don’t have this particular one but I love the smell of the pinks that I do have. I can’t imagine any soldier now days wearing any type of flower. Life has changed so much and continues to do so.

  3. gina says:

    Kate – That is so interesting and pretty! I’ve never seen one. I have to tell you I love my Sweet William – I just wish it wasnt so far from my patio.

  4. ChrisND says:

    An interesting flower…I like the scent of Dianthus blooms too. It’s great to know some of the tidbits about the flower. The petals do have a nice texture.

  5. Debi says:

    I’ve NEVER seen pinks like these, Kate. The common Lowe’s variety is in my garden, but these are exquisite and new to me. I can see why they’ve captured your fancy! Now, I’m on a quest to find them as well and add them to my garden. Thank you for the introduction.

  6. Selma says:

    What a spectacular flower. It is like something from the world of fairy. I have not ever seen it in Australia. It is stunning. I can’t blame you for being captivated by it!

  7. Weeping Sore says:

    Smell is my favorite sense in the garden. Fragrance seems to awaken memories much more than sights or sounds, giving me a connection to the past and hope for the future. And who knew they were called “pinks” not for their color but for their shape?

  8. judith says:

    A truly lovely flower and a lovely perfume too. I read that like pink, carnation originally meant the colour, from the Latin for flesh: The painter Nicholas Hilliard describes painting flesh colours as “laying in the carnation”

  9. nikkipolani says:

    I know the scent you speak of, Kate. It is intoxicating – makes you wish you only inhaled! Mine have been on strike this spring but perhaps they’ll return again in the fall.

  10. Cheryl says:

    Oh dear….now I know why I have never been part of the aristocracy….I love pinks. The one that you have shown Kate is so very pretty. My father has grown pinks every year for as long as I can remember. I cannot grow them here as rabbits treat them as breakfast, dinner and tea.

  11. Frances says:

    Oh Kate, that dianthus is stunning, and so different from the others, and the green center is enticing too. I must search for seeds. Those petals are like gypsy skirts twirling, exotic and enchanting.

  12. Sandy says:

    I don’t really have that many great smelling plants in the garden. This one sounds interesting. Do you remember where you got the seeds?

  13. Aiyana says:

    So delicate looking. I’m sure this wouldn’t last two hours in my garden in this heat. It is something totally new to me–I’m always fascinated with the fringy flowers that grow in other climates.
    Aiyana

  14. Sarah Laurence (England) says:

    That is truly “hauntingly-beautiful,” I wish I could smell it too. I’ve never seen anything like it before, but perhaps I never looked closely. Interesting story. I can see why it would turn you into a gardener.

  15. green thumb says:

    Pinks! No wonder Kate, coming from you an ode to pink seems so very relevant; after all your blog is studded with shades of pink, blue and purple. That bit of information about pinks was very entertaining.
    I love pink color, not only in my garden, but also in my wardrobe!

  16. Kylee says:

    I never knew all that about Dianthus! And I never noticed mine having a fragrance! I ‘ll have to check. I have one similar to yours called ‘Kawara’. Deeply fringed. It doesn’t have that green heart though.

  17. Oh says:

    Kate,
    Don’t mean to barge in, but saw your comment on Alberta Postcards (Diana Schuller) where you mentioned Mavis Gallant! I so rarely hear of anyone reading or even mentioning Mavis. I am reading her PARIS POSTCARDS…found it in a used book shop – first edition! Anyway, just wanted to say hi across the miles.

  18. Willow says:

    I too love dianthus. I saw them in many gardens in England. I haven’t seen your particular blossom before–it’s lovely, so feathery.
    I’m back in blogland and will be posting as soon as I fnish uploading my photos!

  19. meems says:

    Hi Kate: What an unusually exotic looking dianthus. Love the extreme frilly edges and the lime green center. No wonder you are favoring this beauty! Whatever does double duty with an intoxicating fragrance is worth making a fuss over.
    You said… It does particularly well in this climate, where high humidity and heat are not a problem. Oh well, that description leaves me enjoying it from afar.
    Meems @Hoe&Shovel

  20. MrBrownThumb says:

    Hi Kate,
    I’m catching up on comments and wanted to stop by and thank you for the recent comment you left. I’ve missed visiting your blog glad I did too ’cause that flower pic is awesome!

  21. Yolanda Elizabet says:

    Like you I love pinks. They are such good and easy to grow garden plants with beautiful flowers and a wonderful scent. I like your pink very much with those frilly petals. Wish I could smell it’s scent!

  22. Sarah O says:

    Gillyflowers! I just finished reading Brideshead Revisited and gillyflowers grow outside Charles Ryder’s windows at Oxford. I was wondering what they were, he mentions their scent often. And now I know. Thanks!

  23. entangled says:

    Kate, have you noticed that each color seems to have a slightly different scent? I sniffed these until I had sensory overload this spring, then cut them back hard and now a few are blooming again.

  24. Benjamin says:

    Cool flower. Hey, I bet no one else left a comment like that, right! Still, I apprecaite getting to know such a unique looking thing.

  25. Terra says:

    Inspired by this post on pinks, I bought my first one, and planted it a few days ago.
    I have heard about pinks and their beauty and scent, and then saw your post, and decided I need one! And probably more pinks in the future, after I get to know this one.

  26. healingmagichands says:

    Well. I must acquire this pink, it is absolutely stunning. Hopefully it won’t suffer in Missouri. Perhaps if I find a place where it gets some afternoon shade it won’t mind August too much. Anyway, it is beautiful and definitely worth a try.

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