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Leading the way with Dianthus

British National Carnation Society

Articles 3

It has been a winter to try and forget and this following on from a summer that one would not want to remember but now spring has finally arrived and like the poem states "In like a Lion, out like a Lamb" so fierce and the wind so cold, it seems to pierce. Early March was just this as it was marked by biting cold and winter storms that left many parts deep in snow and now here in April the winds are bringing warmer weather at last. It is now the time to try and catch up on all of the jobs that need doing and the plants need potting on into finals urgently.

I must stress however that only pot on those plants that are ready, that is those that have filled their allotted pots with root as it is pointless potting on any plant that is not ready for such. If you have just purchased plants and especially if they have arrived as plugs, then it is best to pot them on first into small 3-4” pots and allow time for them to develop a good root system before potting on into a final pot. This year I will only be growing Border Carnations with the odd Pinks and sprays for cut flower. It seems strange that many years ago I had never heard of Border Carnations as being a Dahlia grower my season was geared for the late summer and autumn shows and by then the Border Carnation had finished flowering. I did know about Perpetuals and Pinks due to them being shown at late shows but due to never visiting early shows I was in total ignorance of Borders, yet funny enough they would have fitted perfectly in my Dahlia routine and filled a void as whilst the Dahlias were growing the Borders could have been grown alongside without causing any problems.

Anyway back to potting on the plants, they are all just about potted into finals, seedlings and Picotees are potted one to a one and a half litre pot and the rest are potted three to a four litre pot.

I used a three litre pots last year but found the plants became too compacted and close together. I have used the Dalefoot compost in my mix this year as I found the Pinks last year that had the compost added performed a lot better. I must stress though that I only add a small amount, around a gallon to the final mix as the bracken/sheep mix compost is very water retentive, it does contain many trace elements and contains natural potash. My mix this year is based on a bushel or 8 gallons, which is a two gallon bucket of each of the following, recycled compost that has been sterilized, J.I.No3, top soil or loam if I feel the mix needs it. I have also added Perlite this year instead of sand or grit, this should allow the pots which are larger this year to be slightly lighter and as I have found with Perlite added it prevents the compost from becoming compacted and it holds moisture but does not become soggy, unlike sand. It also stimulates root growth and insulates and minimises temperature fluctuations within the pot, this I find is very helpful when using plastic black plant pots. To this a 5” pot of Vitax Q4 is added and that is it. I have to add that this is my mix but all growers use their own formula for mixes and if you are just starting then I would advise using a 50/50 mix of multi compost and J.I.No3 with added grit and see how the plants perform before tinkering with the mix.

I am also growing some second year plants and I learnt last year that not all plants grow well as second year plants, well at least not to exhibition standard. I will also limit the amount of stems this year from around 8 per plant to 5-6 per plant. The selected plants have all been potted into four litre deep rose pots as these pots will have a layer of limestone chippings in the base to give good drainage and weight to the pots as the second year plants can grow quite tall and as they will be grown outside they will become top heavy. I will also use two canes and hoops as I used on the Perpetuals, this I hope will keep the stems straight as more hoops will be added as the stem elongates; I do not want to if possible add a cane for each stem. All plants are now sprayed regularly and a constant look out for any pests such as aphids.


Plants are ready to move into final pots only when ready, this is when the plant has a good root system. I plant three to a four litre pot and seedlings and Picotees one to a one and a half litre pot.

Selected second year plants are grown on for another year in the hope for some early blooms, they have been potted on into four litre deep rose pots and I am  hoping two canes with attached hoops will support the elongating stems and keep them straight.