Leading the way with Dianthus
Can I start by saying before we get down to the nitty gritty of this report, growing and exhibiting is really a nice hobby. Propagating and growing plants keeps one reasonably fit, busy and alert. You also meet the nicest people as go around the different venues during the ‘show season’ and it actually becomes a social occasion. So I would say to anyone who enjoys and grows the Dianthus family, do take some of your to your local shows and I am sure you will meet many like minded souls who are only to pleased to offer whatever help they can.
Moving on to the detail of ‘Doing it my way’ or ‘with a little help from my friends’ on growing, propagating and enjoying Pinks, this is the method that usually works well for me
During the season and when I am cutting stems for the show bench, I make a note of the good, robust healthy plants that have produced quality stems and mark them by pushing a brightly coloured label into the pot. This effectively marks the plants from where I will get the bulk of my propagating material from later on. I used to start taking cuttings in August, putting seed trays of cuttings under the greenhouse bench which was quite successful. Now, living in Tow Law, I find they grow on to quickly with my Pinks flowering in May and June which is far too early for my purposes. Accordingly I have now begun to take my cuttings much later, mainly during September and October time.
ALWAYS give your stock plants a good watering the day before you require cuttings, this makes them turgid and fresh and gives them a better chance of rooting. Then select a non flowering shoot about 2 1/2 “to 3” long, cutting carefully below a node remove the bottom pair of leaves before dipping in into hormone rooting powder and inserting into the compost. Just insert deep enough to hold them upright but no more than ½” deep. I am presently using cell trays in groups of ten, the cells I fill with a mix of 50/50 multi-purpose compost and a good quality gritty/sharp sand mixture. Finish by marking and inserting the label and watering them in. Mine then go into a heat mat propagator at 65degrees F with clear plastic lid on top and I check them every day to ensure they are not drying out, spraying with water as required.
I do usually leave a spare cell at one end of the propagator for one or two late cuttings, in the hope of extending my showing season, but this does not always work out. Sometimes the late struck cuttings catch up on the first batch, but ‘Hey’ that’s the name of the game.
It normally takes about 3 to 4 weeks for Pinks to root well, depending on the variety. My advice is to wait until you can see tiny white roots at the bottom of the cell, which indicates the best time to pot them on into 3” pots filled with a mix of John Innes No. 3, multi purpose compost and sharp sand in equal quantities by bulk.
They are then left to over the winter in a cold greenhouse or cold frame with plenty of fresh air, essential for good growth.
Once they have begun to break and the centre elongating, break out the centre stem to encourage the side growths to form.
As the winter progresses, probably around early February or when the pot is well filled with roots, the plant will need moving on into its final pot.
I use a 6” pot filled with the mix Bill uses for his Carnations, namely:-
2 x buckets of peat, 2 x buckets of loam, 2 x buckets sharp sand to which is added the following ingredients :-
1 x 3” pot of bonemeal 1 x 3" pot of Vitax Q4, ½ a 3” pot of dolomite lime and 1 x 4" pot of charcoal. Some may think this mix a bit strong for Pinks but it seems to suit my own plants. Plus I get it mixed for me, with grateful thanks to Eddie Payne and Bill.
I only put 1 plant per pot which I find easier to manage once they get growing away.
They need plenty of air and any damaged or dead foliage needs removing straight away. At this time I also insert 2 x 18” split canes per pot and begin to apply rings to keep the plant in bounds and growing straight.
After a couple of weeks settling in, ALL plants go outside on a platform of pallets, surrounded by fine green windbreak material for extra protection from cold winds. It is my experiences that as soon as the clocks go back to British summer time, the plants just seem to romp away.
In June all plants get a drench of systemic pesticide which ensures I have no problems with Aphids or biting sucking insects.
I am always on the lookout for ‘rust’ and the dreaded ‘Red Spider Mite’ and as I prefer preventative medicine I treat for all eventualities at regular intervals.
As the Pinks spindle up to ‘bud’ I give a half strength feed of high potash like Tomorite which helps to strengthen the stems. Then the same again once the crown bud is well formed which I find helps to add a little extra colour to the blooms
As soon as the crown bud shows colour the plants are brought back into the greenhouse to protect them from the bad weather with any bad or discoloured foliage removed at this time to tidy them up. I must stress here that ALL plants are not taken in at the same time, with different plants maturing at different times.
Hopefully in a few weeks time I am cutting my first Pinks of the summer.
Now having put pen to paper, I am not always successful in my efforts. Last year (2006), I experienced very poor rooting in certain varieties only to find help at hand via generous friends, namely Doug Cottam, Tony Derrick and Jim Reynolds who helped out with replacement plants. As a result I was able to get up to my usual numbers and for that I thank them most sincerely.
Well there it is, the up’s and down’s of growing Pinks which I will not like having to give up in the fullness of time, which will be inevitable as time goes by. Until then however, I shall stick with it, and may I wish each and every one of you much success in the coming years ahead.
Pink - 'Anders Fay Seagrave'
Pink - 'Anders Peace'
Pink - 'Kessock Big Blush'
Pink - 'Lakeside Sophie Louise'
Pink - 'Welton Stripes'