This is a wonderful plant to share with small children who delight in seeing flowers that are ‘their size”—at least that is how I saw them as a kid. The New York Botanical Garden highlighted the “kid-friendliness” of Sweet William in a lecture they hosted by Bill Calkins, a manager with the Ball Horticultural Company, he “mentioned that a child was twice as likely to appreciate gardening as an adult if they experienced nature first-hand with their parents.”1
According to Fine Gardening, Sweet William can be summed up like this: “These short-lived perennials or biennials are charming plants, and are worth their weight in gold in the cottage border. After flowering, the attractive foliage holds the space well.” 2
From William Curtis, writing in the U.K. in 1793, 3 “This plant was cultivated in the Netherlands, from whence it was probably introduced to this country, where it certainly is one of the oldest inhabitants of our gardens.
“Beautiful as are the numerous varieties of this species of Dianthus, Florists have not deemed it worthy of that peculiar attention which they have bestowed on its more favoured relatives the Pink and Carnation, and hence it probably has not arrived at that degree of improvement of which it is capable; our figure is intended to represent one of the most esteemed of its kind, viz. the Painted Lady variety, which has a deep rich purple eye, surrounded with a pure white, having the edge of the petals slightly indented; but our colours fall far short of the beauties of the original.
“Besides single flowers producing an infinite variety of colours, there are several double varieties of the Sweet William, some of which are observed to have more scent than others.
“To possess these plants in perfection, we must renew them yearly; for though the root be perennial, it is apt to decay, especially if the soil in which it grows be either very moist, or very dry; or if the air be not pure, the single sorts must be raised from seeds, which should be saved from the choicest flowers; the double sorts may be increased by cuttings, pipings, or layers, in the same manner, and at the same time as Pinks and Carnations; the seed should be sown early in April, the seedlings transplanted into a bed in June, taking advantage of a wet day and placed about six inches asunder each way; in September they will be fit to transplant into the flower border, where they will blossom the ensuing summer, during the months of June and July, and ripen their seed in August.” 3
In the video below, Jeff Turner tells how to plant Sweet William, and even tells us how the plant got its name.
1Uyterhoeven, Sonia. Kid-Friendly Annuals. New York Botanical Garden, Plant Talk. 28 May 2013.
2The Plant Guide. Sweet William, Dianthus barbatus. Fine Gardening.
3William Curtis. The Botanical Magazine or Flower-Garden Displayed, Vol. 6. London: Couchman & Fry, 1793. No. 207. [A Project Gutenberg ebook that carries this statement: This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net]
Video: J. Parker’s. How to Plant Dianthus Barbatus (Sweet William). 28 September 2015.
R.A. Kroft writes about her day-to-day journey in living a smaller, more sustainable life and other topics that interest her.
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