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Gardening From Southern California

by Gerald Burke
by Gerald Burke


Gerald Burke is a freelance travel and horticultural writer. He spent 35 years in the seed business, 30 of them with Burpee, and is a member of the Garden Writers Association and the North American Travel Journalists Association

August 28, 2005

Dianthus, or pinks as we used to call them, are still around and going strong and they’re one of the good flowers we can plant in the fall for color throughout the year. They may not live over the summer in the low desert but they’ll bloom well there in the winter. In inland valleys and the high desert and along the coast, dianthus will usually do its thing all year long. After the first flush of blooms begin to fade, cut them back with a hedge shears to about three inches, fertilize and water well and they’ll be back again in full bloom in a few weeks.

In some climates dianthus has a good, strong and spicy perfume, but they don’t usually have too much scent in hot areas. They do have marvelous fringed and bicolored blooms on compact, mounded plants making them especially good for borders, edgings, containers and in a massed flower bed.

You can start from seed or plants this month. Plants will already be in bloom, seed will take awhile. Nurseries and garden centers will have some good ones that have performed well in Southern California. Look for names such as Charms, a good mixture, and the Parfaits in a mixture and separate colors of raspberry and strawberry.

You may also find Corona Cherry Magic as a started plant. It was an Al-America Selections Winner in 2002. It has big blooms, some over two inches across, and has solid colors as well as bicolors.

There are a dozen or more varieties available from seed, most listed in major seed catalogs and sometimes one or two on the seed racks. A good one to look for is Valentine in the Burpee catalog. It has a consistent pattern of colors, bright red with fringed white edges and gets about ten inches tall.

Another to look for is named Black and White Minstrels in Thompson and Morgan’s catalog. Very dark purple petals are set off by fringes of white. Others that you can plant from seed now are Fountain Mix, a tall one at 15 inches, Rainbow Loveliness Mix that has some fragrance and a mixture of shades of rose, lilac, white, red and purple. An old one, but still very good is Ipswich Pinks, with a mounded plant about ten inches tall and flowers that are white to deep pink with red eyes.

These are all China pinks, not to be confused with Sweet William, which is in the same family but is a different kind of dianthus, not as fragrant but with flowers quite similar.

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