Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Travel -

Pinks are easy to grow. They need a well-drained soil and an open, sunny sit­u­a­tion. Both are es­sen­tial: even par­tial shade from over­hang­ing shrubs or other peren­ni­als will re­duce flow­er­ing and in a wet soil the plants will rot. Heavy clay soils should be im­proved by adding lots of hor­ti­cul­tural grit. Don’t be tempted to use an or­ganic mulch to feed pinks, as its mois­ture con­tent can cause the plant to rot. By the end of sum­mer plants can be­come strag­gly and mess, al­though this can be avoided by dead­head­ing hard as the flow­ers fade through­out the sum­mer, it is also a good idea to cut them back by about a third at the end of the sea­son. I do mine in early Septem­ber.

Pinks are not long-lived and af­ter a few years plants be­come woody and sprawl­ing. When that hap­pens, dig them up and plant new ones. Some modern hy­brids that are mar­keted as long-flow­er­ing or even per­pet­ual flow­er­ing tend to need re­plac­ing more of­ten, usu­ally af­ter just two years.

Pinks work well in pots, us­ing a John Innes No. 2 loam­based com­post, mixed half-and-half with hor­ti­cul­tural grit. They are among the eas­i­est plants to prop­a­gate. Cut­tings, taken be­tween June and Septem­ber will root quickly and make strong plants the fol­low­ing year. To take cut­tings, known as pip­ings, firmly hold a non-flow­er­ing shoot in one hand just be­low a leaf node and pull the rest of the stem sharply with the other hand. Re­move the lower leaves and you have a cut­ting. I learned from Mark Tre­n­ear that soak­ing the pip­ings in wa­ter overnight pro­duces suc­cess­ful cut­tings. Pot them into a cut­tings com­post, in­sert­ing them around the edge of the pot. I find that loam-based com­posts are more re­li­able than coir or peat-based ones. Keep in a shady place out­doors, in a cold frame or a cool green­house that is shaded from direct sun­light. Af­ter three or four weeks the pip­ings should be rooted and can be re­pot­ted on in 9cm pots of pot­ting com­post and grown on un­til the fol­low­ing spring.

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