Martin Fish is growing garden pinks for cutting
They make delightful indoor displays and are easy to grow
As a child I remember seeing buckets of garden pinks for sale outside flower shops and greengrocers. Back then they were a popular cut flower and lots of market gardeners and nurseries grew them as a summer cash crop. Sadly, their popularity declined as tastes changed and more exotic-looking blooms became readily available. Nowadays you can struggle to find pinks for sale and there’s only one British producer of cut flowers left.
Fortunately, the plants are very easy to grow and with just a little care you’ll be rewarded with bunches of pretty garden pinks through the summer months.
Young plants can often be found in garden centres and, if planted in spring, you’ll be cutting by July. Old favourites include ‘Doris’, ‘Haytor’, ‘Gran’s favourite’, ‘DevonCream’ and ‘Cranmere Pool’, which all make excellent flowers for cutting.
There are also many more great varieties and Calamazag Plant Nursery, based in Cornwall, specialises in dianthus and pinks, growing a large selection to sell at flower shows and mail order through its website.
When growing them in the garden, they need a sunny position and a well-drained soil. Ideally, they prefer a neutral to slightly alkaline soil, but they’re not too fussy.
Although they’re perennials, they’re short-lived and after three or four years the plants become straggly and flower less. To keep a healthy, vigorous stock, cuttings can be taken in the summer to produce strong new plants.
Once flowering starts in summer, pick on a regular basis to encourage more flowering stems to develop. As a cut flower they’ll stay fresh for around 10 days if you use a flower feed in the water, and many of the old varieties have a delicate clove scent. They look great on their own in a vase, either in single colours or mixed, or to fill them out a little use some foliage from the garden.
Pinks make a lovely cut flower
Bunch stems together with foliage from the garden