This dianthus ranks high in quality

This dianthus ranks high in quality

Posted: Tuesday, September 30, 2008 9:42 pm
By: By JIMMY WILLIAMS Special to The Messenger

Back in June, I was in a Madison, Wis., garden and nursery visiting with friends. You may remember I wrote of the botanical garden there and some private gardens we visited in Peoria, Ill., on the same trip.
At one nursery in Madison with an extensive array of alpine plants, I was intently shopping for some of those types for underplanting small bonsai shrubs and trees in my several hypertufa troughs.
Dianthuses are among the most ubiquitous, and at the same time eminent, of alpines and, of even more import, among the relatively few that will thrive in our heat and humidity, about as far removed from alpine conditions as you can get.
I have for many years enjoyed the miniature dianthus Tiny Rubies, in a trough. It has stayed through thick and thin, with a timely mulching of fine grit and crushed lime.
So it was that a little dianthus in a four-inch pot caught my eye there in Madison. There were several other varieties nearby with the typical grayish dianthus foliage, but this one has glossy grass-like leaves, making it stand out among its brethren.
My (female) fellow shopper and I turned up the label at about the same time. She blushed (a little) when she read Dianthus alpinus “Dark Nipples.” No kidding. (I didn’t blush.)
Well, of course, I had to have that plant, and since the $4 was well within my budget, I went away with one (and a few — well, several — other things).
The glossy foliage has held up well all summer and the plant has spread modestly into a 6-inch patch of inch-tall leaves, just what is called for in that trough.
No bloom yet, since dianthuses are spring performers. However, that label states the flowers will be “rose pink, with a dark eye.” Fitting.
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Following a horrendous growing season (yet another) with losses piling up faster than they can be counted, a report card on successes of the year would necessarily be short. But, in addition to “Dark Nipples,” there are a few other things that have performed in spite of historic drought and heat.
The Knockout series of roses continues to please. I have had the original one several years and you’ve heard me extoll it. This spring I came into Knockout Coral, Sunny Knockout and Knockout Pink.
All have bloomed more or less constantly during the summer, the Coral and Pink very similar, with single flowers of about the same color. Sunny Knockout has been less floriferous, as yellow roses tend to be. It has semi-double blooms of a pale yellow that go well with other border ingredients.
None of the few roses I have are segregated into beds but are included in my mixed borders. Beds of hybrid teas and floribundas appeal to me not at all, especially considering the constant spraying of poisons necessary to keep them in good fettle.
None of the Knockouts requires spraying of any kind, and none has had so much as a speck of blackspot, the fungus-borne bane of roses. The only problem has been Japanese beetles; there’s no stopping them. They’re just as hopeless on their many other hosts as well; might just as well let them run their course, which they did on the Knockout roses.
With all the apparently continuing Goreable warming, I am backing off a bit on my caution of extensive use of the Encore series of azaleas. I have, as a matter of fact, joined up three of them, of different colors, into my stable of perhaps 100 or so more traditional kinds.
The Encores are bred from some azaleas that are not winter hardy here, but since their inception there have been no killer winters of extreme cold in these parts, and the Encores have fared well.
I will admit it is fortuitous to have on hand azaleas that bloom both spring and fall and, in some cases, intermittently during the summer. One of my Encores is coral, one purple and another magenta. All are blooming as we speak.
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From Poor Willie’s Almanack — Drought knocks out a lot of plants but not Knockouts.
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Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 9.30.08

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