BNCS Badge

Leading the way with Dianthus

British National Carnation Society

This is from an article in May and an update on how they have progressed.

Here we are in May, and what a year so far, freezing conditions for the beginning of the year, in fact -20 was a common theme; now warm weather, hottest April since records began.

So how has it affected the Pinks, absolutely loving it, I would have thought that some would have shuffled off this mortal coil, but no, they are well and reporting for duty.

They have all now been potted up into finals; some have gone three to a 3ltr pot just to save space and to see if they will grow as well as single potted plants. The final mix is back to basics, basically a well drained mix of 50/50 J.I.No2 with limestone grit, and then 50/50 mixed with re-cycled compost. I have not added any fertilizer, as I prefer to see how they are growing and feed if necessary. The one difference this year is that I was very kindly given a bag of compost to trial, this was from Dalefoot composts and it is a wool and bracken mix and is the double strength mix. This has to be mixed with your potting medium and cannot be used on its own. I know several of the Yorkshire growers use it, including Barrie Gamble and Brian Hunt, so I am pleased to give it a go on some of my Pinks, and for purposes of the trial I have kept these Pinks separate. I will try and give updates on their progress. So far they are looking better than the other Pinks, but this could be down to the wool content; as wool has a high nitrogen content that acts a slow release fertilizer. The other benefit that I have noticed is that the compost although still porous has a better water retention, which does help with a small pot.

 I would hope that as the season progresses the nitrogen will be equalised by the potash from the bracken. All I can say at the moment is that I am impressed with the plants, and I suppose we should be more aware of using more renewable resources that benefits the environment.      

The Pinks are the ones that have had the wool/bracken compost added to the mix. The foliage is a lot greener, and there is no sign of soft growth. I have inserted a cane in the pot with a ring attached to keep the growth within the pot and assist the stems to grow straight.  If you are growing Pinks undercover, give them a good check over, especially any newly acquired plants. Have a real good look at the underside of the leaf, preferably with a magnifying glass. I have heard from fellow growers here in the N.E. that the dreaded Red Spider is about. Now I know this pest never sleeps, but it normally becomes active here in summer and it shows how the temperatures have risen, as this is when it becomes active. There is also a belief that it does not attack Pinks, this is true if they are grown outside all year, but if they are grown under cover, then they are a target for Red Spider, be warned!!

Keith 2

Candy sport

The growing and showing season is now I am afraid nearly over, although as I write this there are still two National shows in which you can exhibit your Pinks; but for myself alas the end is nigh for most of the plants.They have had a long season and although there are some stems that could be cut I feel now is the time to start thinking about next year’s plants and so most have been cut back for the new growth to commence. As in all plants the best were marked out with a red label and it’s from these that the best cuttings will be taken.I normally start taking Pink cuttings in September and carry on till the winter chill stops the plants growth.

The plants that had the wool and bracken mix added have performed very well. The stems were strong and the blooms were abundant, if there is a big difference it’s the actual plants appearance compared to the others.They have been quite vigorous with lush green foliage and have needed less watering. I will certainly be using it again and I will be also keen to try it in some of the P/FS compost mix.

Some of the plants have thrown sports this year, this is where a bud opens to reveal a different or mutation from the plant, of course not all sports are particularly desirable and one has to consider if it is better than something already being grown. If you do decide that it is desirable and wished it to become a new cultivar then you would have to propagate from taking cuttings from the stem carrying the sport and hope it reproduces the sport.  

The plant above on the left is Oakwood Candy shown at a show. It can be quite difficult to match in a multi-stem vase. The one in the middle is also Oakwood Candy that has thrown up a Sport; one has to decide if it’s worth keeping. The plant on the far right is one that has been cut back and new growth has sprouted, which will soon be available for cuttings.


Growing Techniques In The North East

New growth has started to sprout and is ready for taking as cuttings. We are looking for material that is 3-4” long from non flowering shoots. Make sure the Mother plant was well watered 24 hours beforehand as this will ensure that the shoots are turgid, dry plants rarely give cuttings that root. I use a sharp knife and cut just below a node and then dip just the very end of the cutting in rooting hormone powder, then insert the cutting into rooting medium of your choice, just deep enough so that the cutting stands up. Place a label alongside with the date on. Gently water the cuttings in and place the container out of direct sunlight. Check on them occasionally and spray/mist with tepid water to keep a moist atmosphere.

cutting material

I have been asked if I can please explain what is meant by side buds and the height allowed for showing.


When judging, stems that do not have side buds will not be considered.


The following is taken from the Rules of judging Pinks.


The plant should ideally display the full spectrum of the flowering cycle with equal proportions of fully opened, partially opened and unopened buds. The flowers should be equal in size and the colour should be consistent throughout. The freshness should be noted by the condition of the stigma or pollen sacs, with perfume being a bonus.

Unless the schedule state otherwise, Standard Pink exhibits must have a height of not less than 5 inches (125 mm) to the top of the crown flower and not more than 16 inches (400 mm) to the top of the crown flower, measured from the top of the vase. Exhibits containing flowers above or below these dimensions must be disqualified.


erim mitchell side buds
no side buds

The stem on the left would be perfect for showing, it has the full spectrum of the flowering cycle.












The stem on the left has no side buds, so it can not be considered when judging.