The genus Dianthus is a large one, comprising around 300 species, and including the carnations we often see in florist's shops. They hail from Europe, Asia and southern Africa. The lower-growing types are endearing favourites in English cottage gardens and are often referred to as 'pinks'. They have dainty, rounded - and often fragrant - flowers in a variety of colours ranging from white, many pinks, to crimson, often with a contrasting 'eye' or edge, and with single or double forms. Alas, I have never had much success with them in my Sydney garden - with two exceptions. A number of years ago I was given a green-leaved form (many of them have silver foliage) with fringed, hot-pink flowers (pictured above), about 20 cm in height. It has thrived for me in a dry, sunny position, spilling over the edge of a brick wall, and blooms almost all year round if it is deadheaded every so often. I have no idea of its cultivar or species name, but every time I pass it, I admire it.
The second success story is a lower-growing perennial form with crisp white flowers (shown at left), about 10 cm tall. This was grown by a friend from a punnet, years ago, and I acquired a cutting. It grows as well as the pink form. Both forms survive our hot, humid summers, whereas most of the Dianthus cannot cope with these conditions. They are easily propagated by cuttings taken in autumn or early spring (the parent plant is best replaced by a cutting every few years), and have no noticeable pests or diseases. I cut them back very hard in late August and they rejuvenates well. They are possibly cultivars of Dianthus barbatus or perhaps a hybrid of two species. In general, Dianthus are said to like an alkaline soil, so a little lime added to the soil is beneficial. It is also advisable to make sure the plants are not swamped by their neighbours and have plenty of space around them.
These plants are attractive to bees.