Carnations and Pinks Hints and Tips

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Give support to carnations using 1m canes and rings of garden wire along the upright flower stems. Plant out annual carnations as the weather begins to improve. Watch for pests - in particular aphids, caterpillars and froghopper larvae - either pick them off or use an insecticide spray. Rust and leaf spot may affect carnations and pinks and should be treated, if they appear, with a suitable fungicidal spray and all affected leaves removed. Rust causes both leaves and stems to rupture and is accompanied by a brown dust, leaf spot begins with purple patches appearing on the leaves which then die back.
Carnations growing under glass can be potted on from 75mm to 100mm pots and glass can be shaded and the greenhouse or frame damped down in hot weather.

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Disbud the flower stems of carnations, but not pinks, leaving the bud at the top of the main stem and each bud at the tip of the side shoots. You should be able to do this by rubbing them with your fingers. If you didn't stake your carnations last month, you will need to do it now. Continue to watch for pests (see May). Cuttings of pinks can be done in June. Remove side shoots with four pairs of leaves, pulling downwards. Trim with a knive, just below the joint. Pot your cuttings in sandy soil, water and place in a cold frame; new growth in a matter of weeks will show that the cuttings have taken and these should be potted on, a couple of weeks later. New plants should be appearing in the catalogues, ready to order for autumn.


Continue to disbud border carnations as for June and remove old flower stems from pinks - water both thoroughly if they are looking dry. Border carnations can be propagated by layering which is the easiest and cheapest way to produce new plants to replace the parents after a couple of years. To layer the plants prepare the soil around the parent by mixing in sharp sand and peat in equal volumes and watering well into the top two inches of soil. Strip the lower leaves from young vigorous side shoots and cut the stem upwards with a sharp knife to a depth of about half the stem width and about an inch long. This enables the stem to be pushed and pegged into the ground around the parent so that the new plant sits vertically next to the parent but is still attached to the parent and receiving nutrition until its own roots are formed in about six weeks time. Keep the new plant moist throughout the rooting period and after six weeks cut the new plant from the parent near to the stem of the new plant – leave for another four weeks before lifting to plant in its new position or pot.


Now is the time to prepare new beds for the planting of carnations and pinks. They require a very well draining site so if your garden is subject to water-logging at any time then you will either need to improve the drainage or raise your carnation beds at least six inches above the normal garden level. The soil needs to be not too acidic and it is well worthwhile testing the pH of your soil and applying lime if it less than 6.5. Carnations can still be layered to produce new plants – if you did it last month you can check for rooting by gently pulling on the layered stem to see if roots have formed – you should be able to tell by the amount of resistance you encounter. If they have rooted you can sever the rooted stem from the parent plant.

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If you didn't prepare border beds last month, you need to complete this now. If your carnation layers have rooted, sever them from the parent plant. Harden off pink cuttings and plant out strongly growing plants. The new plants may need to be stopped if they are not making good side shoots. Once there are 10 joints, snap the top off the plant, or cut it cleanly above the joint. If you are growing under glass, remove any shading if you live in the north. Keep damping down in hot weather. Disbud perpetual carnations to leave only the top or crown bud.
When watering, take care not to drop water on the flowers. Cut stems as long as possible, cutting just above the side shoots. Stand them in water up to their necks, in a cool place for 1 day, before arranging.


Border carnations and pinks can be planted out into your pre-prepared beds although if you have particularly heavy soil or live in a very cold district then you can play it safe and put them into pots in a cold frame and wait until early spring to plant them into their final position. If planting out spread the roots out well, firm the soil and provide some support with a small stake and wire as protection against the winter winds.


Carnations and pinks can still be planted out if the weather remains mild. New plants should be staked and the base of the stems kept free of rubbish, i.e. leaves and weeds. Place orders for new plants which will be planted in March. Perpetual carnations under glass should be well ventilated and kept at 7 degrees centigrade. Watch for aphids and treat if necessary with a dust, rather than liquid compound.

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Keep the base of the plants free from rubbish and check that stakes are secure. Firm the soil around plants if affected by frost. You can order plants now for planting out in March. If the weather is good to you, well drained beds can be prepared. In the greenhouse, maintain a temperature of 7 degrees centigrade, remembering to ventilate. Cut and disbud flower stems as required and continue to feed and water sparingly. Perpetual flowering carnations can be propagated by removing side shoots with four or five pairs of leaves; pull off the lower set of leaves and cut the stem just below the joint. Put the cuttings in sharp sand almost up to the bottom pair of leaves. Put in a propagator for up to two weeks, allowing ventilation once the leaves start to grow. Pot on into small 2.5 inch pots, again potting on when the roots start to grow through the bottom.


Continue to check plants after frost and firm the soil around the base. Keep clear of rubbish and check stakes. In the greenhouse maintain a temperature of 7 degrees centigrade and provide ventilation; water and feed your perpetual flowering carnations, cutting regularly for display. Check any cuttings done last month and pot on if necessary. Seed can be sown into seed boxes but first treat the compost with Cheshunt compound. Spread the seed out and cover with a thin layer of soil. Maintain a temperature of approximately 16 degrees centigrade, preferably under a sheet of glass. Gradually harden the seedlings and pot into small 2.5 inch pots when the second set of leaves starts to grow.


Carnations being grown under glass will need a temperature of at least 7 degrees Celsius and plenty of ventilation. Perpetual flowering carnations will need to be fed and watered sparingly and blooms will need to be cut regularly to maintain the flowering. You can continue to propogate new plants from cuttings and pot on well rooted cuttings into bigger pots.

Buy seeds and plants from Thompson and Morgan.


Finish preparing beds for spring planting and order plants and seed. Beds should be in a sunny position with well-drained soil. Dig the bed over and incorporate manure into the bottom of the bed at least one spit deep. If the pH is below 6.5, apply lime. If no lime is required, hoe some bonemeal into the top 4 in. Modern pinks that haven't developed good side shoots can be stopped by pinching off just about the seventh joint, once ten joints have developed. Older plants will benefit from a fertiliser feed. Pot-grown plants can be planted out this month. Watch for pests such as aphids and froghopper larvae and treat as necessary. Carnation flies burrow into the leaves and leave a whitish streak - pick these leaves off and destroy. Prick out seedlings, pot plants on as required and consider if the plants need stopping.


If you didn't apply fertiliser to beds in March, this should be done this month. Border carnations and pinks can still be planted this month, as early as possible. Stop pinks if necessary and watch for pests and disease. Some carnations and pinks may need supporting with twiggy sticks. Seed can be sown towards the end of the month and pots placed in a cold frame. Pot on once the first true leaves have appeared and plant out once they have developed into bushy plants. Orders of perpetual flowering carnations will arrive this month and should be placed in a light greenhouse with good ventilation. During hot weather, damp down the greenhouse and increase ventilation. These carnations can grow to 4-5 ft. and will need support and plenty of air around the plants - placing them on slatted staging can help to achieve this. Water thoroughly when the soil is almost dry. Mist the leaves of plants during the warmer months. Weak, liquid fertiliser can be applied every couple of weeks during the summer months.


Gardening information, hints and tips on how to look after Carnations and Pinks in your garden including pest control, planting, propagation and general care advice.