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Leading the way with Dianthus

British National Carnation Society

Keith 3

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The sprays have flowered non-stop and needed very little attention.

I must admit that I am now hooked on growing sprays and would recommend them. They have constantly flowered with very little attention and are certainly value for money. On a recent visit to a friend’s garden I could not be impressed with the assortment of sprays on show and the colours, what a variation and also scented. If you are thinking of trying them out, look for the ones that have been awarded the RHS AGM, these have gone through rigorous trials and have to meet a very high standard.

I shall be definitely growing more next year and I will try five in a large pot on the patio in the summer, it will certainly be a talking piece.  

Above. Just some of the wonderful Sprays that are available.

Snow covered carnations at Wisley

SPRAY CARNATIONS                                                                                              


Although spray carnations have been available for many years they are not as widely grown as they should be by the amateur gardener. As an extremely popular cut flower they are readily available in bunches of mixed flowers or as single varieties.  Most, if not all, of those from both the florist and the supermarket are grown abroad.  As far as I am aware none are now grown commercially in the United Kingdom, up to fairly recently some were grown on Jersey but I have been give to understand that this is no longer the case. In recent years we have been trialling spray carnations alongside perpetual flowering carnations at Wisley.  As part of the trial some have been grown in the normal way, for cut flowers in the greenhouse and some have been grown outside with no protection as patio plants.  For the cut flower trial they were potted up singly in 20cm (8”) pots in normal compost, supports were provided and the flowering stems were allowed to develop. For the patio plant element of the trial the plants were potted 5 to a 10 litre pot with one plant in the middle and four round the outside, these were also provided with some support.  The central plant was not stopped but the outer four were, they were all then allowed to develop normally.  Both perpetuals and sprays have been treated in the same way except that sprays are not disbudded in the same way as perpetuals.  In perpetuals we remove all the side buds leaving the terminal bud to flower, in sprays it is the opposite way round, we remove the terminal bud and leave all the side buds to flower. What surprised the trial team was how well they performed consistently throughout the trial providing a continuing supply of good sized high quality flowers in both the cut flower trial and the patio planting trial. They certainly had the “wow” factor, in fact the two varieties we had on trial were that good we awarded them both the coveted Award of Garden Merit this year.  For those who want a good consistent supply of cut flowers for the house or for floral work there is nothing better than spray carnations with some good varieties now available.  Grow in the same way as perpetual flowering carnations in the greenhouse, use the same type of pots, compost pest control and watering/feeding regime. They are relatively trouble free and put on a good show providing blooms over a long period.  Apart from the two varieties, Coquette, pink with a large burgundy eye and Milky Way a white self, which received the Award of Garden Merit there are some new introductions which are worth growing:-


EMMA- a pink self with good sized flowers

BIRBA-a yellow ground fancy with good markings

WISH –a deep pink self with a good show of large flowers

GUADALUPE-a showy apricot fancy


The two AGM varieties withstood being grown outside with no protection for two seasons and despite the snow and ice covering earlier this year continued to produce flowers.  These are plants that are certainly very rewarding and easy to grow and I can thoroughly recommend giving them a try.