Introducing The Flower of The Year 2015 - Dianthus "Sweet William"
One of my all-time favourite annuals, Sweet William, is the choice for the 2015 Flower of the Year! This little, bright, hardy and resilient fellow made his way into my heart by chance. I was out searching for a few annuals to fill the voids and of course, though it was the end of the bedding plant season, I knew we still had lots of good gardening time left.
There were few choices and I picked up two flats of overgrown, root-bound, straggly looking plants. Only one basket had a tag in it telling me what this plant should look like. The colour indicated that bright fuchsia was what I could look forward to. At that point it looked unlikely.
As soon as I started to plant these little guys I thought that the steep discount hadn’t been enough. But, having already made the leap, I made up my mind to enjoy the ride. Of course, with lots of yard work and other gardens calling my name, I soon forgot about my recent ‘great buy’. Only a couple weeks later, all the Sweet William had begun to bloom again. Not only did I have fuchsia, but red with white trim, an incredible salmon, and a bright white with the tiniest speck of pale pink at the edges. They were all so pretty! I couldn’t believe this was the first time I used them in the landscape. We enjoyed the flowers until well after the first frost and were elated that the deer didn’t eat them.
In preparation for winter I let everything die down, water all the beds extremely well and leave the stalks to protect the tender crowns of the perennials throughout the winter. Once everything was extremely well watered, I packed up my hoses until spring. Fast forward many harsh months of winter. Ahhh, spring, finally! I pulled the hoses out and watered again, letting the water soak into the ground before I began the task of cleaning the beds up, AND...To my delight there were little green shoots around the crown of what I knew was the Sweet William from the year before. I began to second-guess, thinking it was just a coincidence that a weed had sprung up in the same area...until I saw the same green sprouts at every crown! This wasn’t meant to happen! Sweet William is an ANNUAL. Well technically, yes. But, like the pansy, Sweet William is known to send up ‘volunteers’ the next year. They reseed themselves and give their gardeners little gifts in the spring, of new plants to enjoy for another summer.
I have planted these little guys in baskets, buckets, raised beds and railing planters. I have started them from seed as well as purchased bedding plants. They come back and say hello, not matter the pot, as long as they have sufficient water in the fall. They bloom from June-October and although only 7-12 inches high, prove very showy in any setting and are resilient to deer. I love this plant!
Kelly Grant was a 2013-14 Wood Buffalo Communities in Bloom member.
Dianthus comes from Greek origins - dios meaning “heavenly” and anthos being “flower”, and these plants are also commonly referred to by the names Pinks, Carnations or Sweet William.
Type: Over 300 species that include annual, biennial or perennial that do well in zone 3 – 10.
Light: Full Sun (minimum of 4 – 5 hours recommended).
Flower: Blooms from late spring/early summer through to fall. Flower colours come in a variety of shades of pinks, reds and white. Plants height is from 2 inches to 3 feet tall and 4 - 18 inches wide.
Special Features: Produce fragrant flowers that do well in containers, mixed borders, entry beds, and make great cut flowers in arrangements. Flowers attract butterflies, bees, birds and are deer resistant.
Planting: Start indoors 6--8 weeks before last frost. Move outside after frost dates have passed. Sow seeds near last frost date, cover with light coating of soil and keep seeds moist but not wet till seedlings emerge. Seedlings or seeds should be planted 10-12” apart for optimal growth. Plants started indoors will more likely bloom the first year.
Care: Dianthus plants are very easy to grow and require minimal maintenance once established. They like full sun, with well drained neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Water once or twice per week in dry periods and avoid overwatering. Do not mulch around the plants as it can increase stem rot. Treat once a month with a general purpose fertilizer and deadhead faded flowers will encourage blooming. Many varieties will reseed naturally and can be cultivated through cuttings. After final flowering, cut stems down to ground level.