Dianthus carthusianorum bears little relation to the grey-leaved alpine pinks or showy, highly bred garden pinks we all know or recognise, although it is a member of the same family. The grass-like mounds of fine green leaves, the tall straight stems and the small, flat-headed clusters of seven or eight single flowers found on Dianthus carthusianorum are more reminiscent of another member of the dianthus family, Dianthus barbatus, the Sweet William.
Known as The Carthusian Pink, it was introduced into Britain in the 16th century, but has never been widely grown. This is changing, however. Its elegant habit, upright stance and simplicity are well-suited to modern planting styles and the need to provide more pollinator plants. It has the same see-through quality as the popular Verbena bonariensis.
Dianthus carthusianorum produces a succession of slender stems topped with a cluster of slightly fragrant flowers, they provides a splash of bright magenta from June until September. It is perfect for giving an airy feel to borders, it looks great when planted amongst ornamental grasses, in gravel gardens or in more ‘wild’ effect gardens and meadows. It will do well in any well-drained soil in full sun. It is particularly suited to growing in sunny borders.
The flat clusters of small, single, vivid magenta pink flowers are held on slender stems from July to September above mounds of grey-green, grassy foliage. The flowers are slightly fragrant and as each flower fades it leaves a darkly decorative seed head. This is a great plant to attract bees and butterflies into the garden and if content will naturalise moderately.
Sowing: Sow February to June or September to October.
Sow seed on the surface of a good, free-draining, damp seed or multipurpose compost. Do not cover the seeds as light aids germination, but tightly press into the compost.
Place the container in a propagator or seal inside a polythene bag and place at 16 to 20°C (60 to 68°F). Germination usually takes 14 to 30 days. Keep in cooler conditions after germination occurs. Transplant to 9cm (3in) pots to grow on and transplant outdoors once the plant is established. Overwinter September sowings in a coldframe and plant out the following spring.
Most dianthus species and cultivars require full sun for their best flowering. They do best in neutral to alkaline soil that drains well. Dianthus do not tolerate wet soil well, particularly in winter so don't plant them in a low spot where water collects and keep mulch away from the plants. Overwatering and heavy clay soils are the kiss of death, quickly killing the plants from stem rot.
Mix in plenty of well-rotted organic matter when planting and apply a balanced liquid fertiliser once a month throughout spring and summer. Pinching out faded blooms with finger and thumb will encourage a second flush of flowers. Shear back the mounding ones to encourage repeated blooming.
Cottage/Informal/Natural Garden, Borders and Beds, Dry Gardens and Rockeries.
Dianthus carthusianorum is native to the limestone hillsides of southern, central and western Europe. From Spain north to Belgium and Poland, and east to Ukraine. It occurs in dry, grassy habitats at altitudes of up to 2,500 metres in mountains.
It is common in the wild throughout much of central Europe and is considered to be rare in some parts of its range (eg in Bulgaria). A study carried out on a large population of Dianthus carthusianorum in the Rhône Valley in the Swiss Alps concluded that persistence of this population was at risk because its pollination was dependent on two vulnerable butterfly species, the great sooty satyr Satyrus ferula and the marbled white Melanargia galathea.
Dianthus was named by Greek botanist, Theophrastus. He named them from the Greek dios meaning ‘divine’ and anthos ‘flower’, meaning ‘God’s flower’.
The species name, carthusianorum is for the Carthusian order of monks, founded in 1084, who originally came from Grande Chartreuse near Grenoble.
Many Dianthus are called 'pinks.' Not due to their colour which can also be white, but to the distinct cut edge that the flowers have. The verb 'pink' dates from the 14th century and means 'to decorate with a perforated or punched pattern' (maybe from German 'picken' = to peck), coming from the frilled edge of the flowers. This verb sense is also used in the name of pinking shears.
Interestingly, the colour pink may be named after the dianthus flower.
The word ‘carnation’ is derived from the Latin word coronae, meaning 'coronations'. Coronations were decorative, woven flower strings worn on the head like a headband that are often pictured as being worn by young maidens.
Dianthus carthusianorum was named to commemorate the monks of the Carthusian order, founded in the 11th century in the Chartreuse Valley in the French Alps.
Carthusian pink is occasionally found in Britain as a garden escape, but the exact date of introduction to the British Isles is unknown. It is possible that it was introduced to Britain by the Carthusians themselves, when they arrived there in about 1180, having been granted land in Somerset by Henry II.
A notable feature of Carthusian foundations was that each monk had their own walled garden. At one point there were 11 Carthusian monasteries in Britain, but in the Reformation these were all closed and the communities disbanded. Therefore, if the plant was introduced by the monks, it must have occurred before 1536, and was probably the plant recorded by Gerard in 1597 as ‘single red sewt Johns’, before the return of the Carthusian order to Britain in 1873.
Carthusian monks traditionally used the plant to treat muscle pain and rheumatism. Nowadays, Carthusian pink and the closely related Dianthus giganteus are grown by those who appreciate their understated elegance.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 500mg Average Seed Count 400 Seeds Seeds per gram 800 seeds / gram Family Caryophyllaceae Genus Dianthus Species superbus Synonym Caryophyllus carthusianorum Common Name The Carthusian Pink Other Language Names Fr: Oeillet magnifique Hardiness Hardy Perennial Hardy Hardy to minus 30°C (-22°F) Flowers Single, white and finely cut Natural Flower Time From late spring to early autumn Foliage Low mounds of deep green foliage Height 40 to 50cm (16 to 20in) Position Full sun for best flowering Soil A wide range of soils provided they are well drained. Time to Sow February to June or September to October. Germination 14 to 30 days at 16 to 20°C (60 to 68°F).