Thursday, May 24, 2007

BBB: Sweet William

Reading other garden blogs, I don’t think Sweet William is in any danger of disappearing from the garden soon. Still, I think it’s an unappreciated plant. I can’t say I’ve ever seen it for sale. I think, as a biennial, it is probably difficult to sell to the average nursery-goers. Even the discriminating gardener finds its biennial habit frustrating. I remember reading Amy Stewart’s post in which she rails at the fact that no matter how large and robust the plant she buys, it still doesn’t flower until the second year.

Like the rest of my biennials, I grew Sweet William from seed, using the winter-sowing method. I don’t recall major problems with germination, but, as I only ended up with six mature plants, it could not have been that good. I planted them into the candycane bed last fall. They bloomed this spring.

One amusing aspect of growing plants from seed is that each is an individual – unlike the clones for sale at the garden center. (Not that I don’t like clones.) My plants vary a bit in stature, but the most striking difference is the flower color. They are all a deep, dark, almost black, maroon, except for one plant with cherry red flowers. The oddball plant adds a note of discord to my sweet curves. The scent isn’t as variable as color. They all possess a light, clove fragrance. I do wish it were stronger.

Like most biennials, Sweet William plants can last longer than two years, but still remain short-lived. I plan on direct sowing additional seed into the bare spots, between the plants, as insurance for next year’s crop. It does self-sow, but I’d like to experiment with deadheading in an attempt to encourage a second flush of flowers late in the season.

Germination: medium difficulty (but my seeds were old)
Culture: easy
Form: neat and lush
Scent: light clove
Color: shades of red and pink

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Anonymous Dianne said...

My local garden center sells Sweet William (dianthus) and it always flowers for me. I have some from last year (or the year before, I just add to it every year as it's one of my favorite plants). I love your dark burgundy ones.

8:24 PM  
Blogger OldRoses said...

I love Sweet William, both the bloom and the fragrance. Very easy to grow from seed.

10:22 PM  
Blogger Sylvana said...

I have grown this and it does self seed pretty well. One problem I noticed is that it only seemed to grow from seed well in open, un-mulched areas. I tend to mulch everything, so eventually my Sweet William couldn't find anywhere to start anew.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Zoey said...

Should be no problem getting this to reseed. I still have offspring from the plants I grew from seed 20 years ago!

8:16 AM  
Blogger Inthemood said...

Hi i have recently bought Sweet William- at first the red is really dark, almost close to black, but when more flowers bloomed, I see a mix of red with pink, what a nice surprise these flowers give!

Wonder if you know- can Sweet William survive in humid and hot weather such as Singapore, where temperature can go beyond 84 degree Fahrenheit?

5:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was wantering what the seeds look like? & how do i harvest the seeds?

2:26 PM  

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