From the Sperry Garden – November, 2009

If you tell someone that garden pinks are related to carnations, they can see (and smell) that it’s true. They’re in the genus Dianthus, same as the florist’s crop, but we grow this type outdoors during the winter.

Most garden pinks have single or semi-double flowers, meaning that their petals are arranged in whorls around the stems, with the reproductive parts tucked away in the middle. Their colors range from reds, pinks and white through orchids and bicolors. But, the plant’s common name isn’t about color. It’s about the fact that the petals look like they’ve been trimmed with pinking shears.

Most varieties of pinks grow to heights and spreads of 10 to 12 inches. They’ll bloom in late fall, on and off through the winter, then heavily come early spring. Although nursery labels may call them "perennials," they weaken and die away in the early days of the Texas summer. You need to use them as annuals. Look at nurseries in your neighborhood now for the best selections, and include a few in pots. They’re outstanding winter accents at the doorway or on the patio. Be ready to protect them for a few days if temperatures could fall below the mid-20s.

Pinks need full sun and well-draining soils. They’re best in beds that are elevated several inches above the surrounding grade, and they’re also good in floral borders. You’ll especially enjoy their clove-like fragrance if you use them near walks and paths.

We do have a few types of perennial garden pinks here in Texas. Bath’s pinks and German red pinks are two examples you’ll commonly see in collections of Texas heirloom plants. Most of the others, however, will fail to survive our summers.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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