Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day zipped right past me while I was working in the garden, but I’d hate to let the day go unremarked. So, instead of a list of everything in bloom, I’d like to draw your attention to two plants that could make any gardener’s day – Dianthus ‘Rainbow Loveliness’ and Thyme ‘Lemon Mist’. They’re both in bloom now and “in bloom” doesn’t do justice to the exuberant number of flowers.
A few years ago, I planted seeds of Dianthus ‘Rainbow Loveliness’. I can’t remember now why I bought them. It may have been something I read in The Fragrant Garden by Louise Beebe Wilder, or perhaps I was just swayed by the catalog description. I remember reading in Dear Friend and Gardener, a selection for the now-defunct Garden Bloggers’ Book Club, that Christopher Lloyd loved them. Up in the kitchen garden where the soil is sandy and the sun is hot, they bloom well enough but haven’t really thrived as a perennial. I seem to lose a few every winter. But I love the fringy flowers and particularly their wonderful fragrance, and decided last year that I’d like to have more and I’d like to have them close to the house where I could better enjoy the scent. So I planted eight or ten seedlings around the deck last spring. I wasn’t expecting too much because the soil is heavy clay in a not-very-sunny spot.
Well! Just look! They seem to be happy there. More than happy. And the fragrance is heavenly. I honestly think I wouldn’t want more of them in this same spot because the scent would be overwhelming. Last evening I opened all the windows and the house smelled nicer than any trendy expensive home fragrance product could do. Rainbow Loveliness is also a good cut flower. The stems are thin, but wiry and the flowers remain attractive in the vase for several days.
It now occurs to me that I’ve never tried to use ‘Lemon Mist’ thyme as a cut flower. It might work as a filler for tiny bouquets.
As you can see, there’s plenty to cut. Just three years ago, this was a plant in a 3-inch pot. Today it’s a mound of tiny purple flowers 4 feet in diameter. I’d say it’s happy in the sunny, sandy soil of the kitchen garden. I sort of want to see how big it can get, but it’s starting to cover up the paths so I think a little pruning is in order. I’m not quite sure of the history or taxonomy of this plant; it may be a selection made by DeBaggio’s Herb Farm. That’s where I bought it anyway, and they say it’s a variety of Creeping Thyme (Thymus x citriodorus). It has a nice lemon-thyme flavor, but I don’t use it for cooking all that much. Bees love it. Butterflies occasionally like it.
Now, should I take the rest of this rainy day and visit other Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day posts?
For those interested, some of the history of ‘Rainbow Loveliness’.
What follows is a plant genealogy story. I thought ‘Rainbow Loveliness’ must be a variety of Dianthus superbus, which it resembles. Dianthus superbus is a European/Asian wildflower and its natural habitat is alpine, according to Wikipedia. But Dianthus superbus is only one of the ancestors of ‘Rainbow Loveliness’, and the least complicated. Its other parent is known as Sweet Wivelsfield. Sweet Wivelsfield is a group of hybrid annual dianthus, the progeny of a cross between Sweet Williams (Dianthus barbatus, a biennial) with the Allwoodii pinks. The Allwoodii pinks are perennial dianthus hybrids, created by and named for the Allwood Brothers nursery of Wivelsfield, East Sussex, England.
They crossed Dianthus plumarius, another European wildflower and cottage garden plant, with Dianthus caryophyllus, the perpetual flowering carnation. The progeny were recognized as a distinct form and given the name Dianthus x allwoodii and includes many named varieties.
Or so it is written, but what exactly were they using as parent material? By 1905, predating the founding of the Allwood nursery, hybridizers had been long at work on garden pinks and perpetual carnations. Did the Allwood brothers start from scratch with the plain species or did they use some of these earlier hybrids? In any case, the ancestry of ‘Rainbow Loveliness’ contains at least four species and I think the taxonomically correct way to refer to it would be Dianthus ‘Rainbow Loveliness’.