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Leading the way with Dianthus

British National Carnation Society

Articles 7

Growing My Way

By Ray Knight


In answer to your questionnaire I will try to do my best but would prefer to write it in report format rather than answer each question individually.

Firstly, I try to grow about 50 plants of each of the main Dianthus, Pinks, Borders and Perpetual Carnations and apart from not having the space for many more, those that I do grow ‘keep me on the ball’ with regards to my judging standards etc.


Border Carnations

I will start with these first, at present I have ‘Nichola Ann’, ‘Jean Knight’, ‘Leslies Scarlet’, ‘Rudheath Ruby’, ‘Mystic Dawn’, ‘Mike Briggs’ and ‘Catherine Glover’.

How many of each depends on how many survives the winter, three or four years ago I had ten varieties, now I am down to seven.  Perhaps if I got back to 10 varieties I would grow 5 plants of each?

I do not take cuttings of borders unless forced, I prefer to layer them instead at the end of July to the end of August in their pots, after having first removed about 2” of the medium from around the plant which I then replace with a 50/50 mix of peat and course sand.  I then commence to layer into this new medium making sure the layers are pegged down firmly.  Once well rooted which I find takes about six to eight weeks, I pot on into 3.5 inch pots into John Innes No 1 compost.

They remain in these pots until early March when they are potted on into 6” or 7” pots using a 50/50 compost mix of John Innes No 2 and good Multi-purpose compost.

I commence feeding six to eight weeks later with Chempak No 3 every 3 weeks at the recommended strength switching to Chempak No 4 when the flower bud is showing.  I cease feeding when the bud starts to show colour and that is when I also start to apply the calyx bands to prevent splitting.

It is important to remember to support the plants with at least a three foot cane when the plants begin to spindle and attach a support ring between each leaf joint.  I do not keep any plants of the borders more than one year, but if you wish to, it would be well to plant them into the open ground.


Perpetual Flowering Carnations

I currently grow: ‘Aicardi’, ‘Fragrant Ann’, ‘George Allwood’, ‘Purple Emperor’, ‘Doris Allwood’, ‘Joanne’s Highlight’ and ‘Jo Emma’.

I hope to receive one or two new varieties this spring, though I hope to keep to my fifty plants which would mean about five plants of each variety.

My P.F’s are rooted in a 75/25 Peat/Perlite mixture with either one cutting to a 2” pot or three in a 3.5 inch pot.  I take cuttings when available but mainly during September.

Once rooted, they are potted individually into 3.5 inch pots either John Innes No 1 or a 50/50 John Innes No 1 and Multi-purpose compost.  I still have a few clay pots which are used with straight John Innes mix. They remain in these pots until March when they are potted into the final 6”, 7” or 8” pots, John Innes No 3 alone in clays whilst a 50/50 mix will be utilised for the plastics.

I begin feeding after about six weeks with Chempak No 3 and No 4 alternatively, every two weeks.

The plants are staked with a 3 or 4 foot PVC cane using the tri-port support rings I obtained from Tom Gillies and some rings I obtained from Harry Haller, both types being of different sizes.

Some of the plants grown in 8” pots are kept for a second year and they are cut down to about a third in size during mid to late October of their first year.  These pots are treated to a teaspoon of Arthur Bowers garden lime which is raked and watered into the pots to counteract any acidic build up. No feeding is carried out during the winter months.



I have to admit at present I do have a few more plants than the 50 I had planned.  Nevertheless the varieties are ‘Gillian Garforth’, ‘Oakwood Candy’, ‘Doris Delight’, ‘Devon Cream’, ‘Hilary Flett’, ‘Pamela Flett’, ‘Brierley Grace’, ‘Amethyst,’ ‘Olivia Newby’, ‘Mary Richardson’, ‘Twilight Shadow’ and ‘Doris.’

Cuttings are taken anytime from June to September, are rooted in the same mix as the P.F.’s and once rooted are potted on into 3 inch pots using a 50/50 John Innes No I and Multi-purpose compost mix.  The plants are stopped at the fourth or fifth pair of leaves and when roots start to show through the bottom of the pots they are moved into their final 5” or 6” pots utilising a 50/50 John Innes No 1 and Multi-purpose mix with a little added grit.  Come the spring, usually early to mid March I begin feeding alternatively with Chempak No 3 and No 4, every three weeks.

All Pinks are staked when needed with split canes.

I spray all my plants in May and again in October with Dynamec although I am about to try a new product this year.

Whatever spray you use, do not ‘over do it’ or you will regret it.  Only spray when the sun is down never in full sunshine and do ensure your plants are given a good watering the day before.

Thankfully I have not suffered with rust or other disease for a long time, hardly ever in fact.  If grown correctly then you should not have any problems.  However to those growers who may be troubled with disease I would suggest using Bayer garden Systhane Fungus Fighter at the recommended strength after first removing any infected leaves which should be burnt.

As for tips, it is advisable to use cardboard rings/collars placed under the blooms and when you cut for show allow the whole stem to stand in deep water through a 2” square plastic mesh placed over the water vessel.  This will help to keep the guard petals straight and firm and do this at least two days before the show.  Obviously this applies to P.F and border blooms only.  A little drop of bleach in the water will help to keep the mix sterile and fresh.


I hope you have found my way of growing helpful and I wish you all every success, whether you are growing for pleasure or for show.


NB   The use of chemicals in horticulture, are subject to strict regulation and control and must be used in accordance with manufactures instructions.   Editor