Check out the collection of Dianthus barbatus, aka sweet William, blooming at Gaiety Hollow today!
Dianthus barbatus is a biennial or short-lived perennial native to the Pyrenees, Carpathian and Balkan mountain ranges as well as several disjunct areas in China, Korea and Southern Russia. It makes a fantastic cut flower with its long stems and slightly spicy scent. Sweet William was often used in classic Victorian cottage gardens.
The majority of the sweet William at Gaiety Hollow was propagated by seed. I’m a big believer in starting plants from seed as the genetic variability allows you to make your own selections based on personal preference.
This winter, I’m looking forward to working with the Gaiety Hollow Gardeners to locate seeds that best represent the works of Lord and Schryver. Many modern cultivars propagated in nurseries don’t quite fit the color palette preferred by Elizabeth and Edith. But by pouring over seed catalogs, especially of rare and heirloom varieties, we can make our own selections.
Another reason to start your own seeds is to stagger your plantings to maximize bloom times. I like to start a tray of plugs, plant out half as plugs into the garden, then pot up the rest into 4″ pots and let them mature for a few more weeks. This way, when you plant them out, you have variability of maturation and bloom times, resulting in longer lasting color.
Don’t forget to visit Gaiety Hollow on an upcoming Open Garden to see the sweet William and other seed-grown beauties in bloom.