Firewitch Garden PinkDianthus gratianopolitanus ‘Feuerhexe’
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The Firewitch Garden Pink is a mat-forming evergreen perennial that is perfect for any and all hot, sunny, dry places in your garden. Low-growing, it is wonderful in rock gardens and xeric gardens, along paths, edging beds or planted with evergreens among rocks and gravel. The needle-like gray-blue leaves sparkle in the sunlight year-round, except when they are hidden by a cloud of abundant pink flowers like single carnations. A rich purple-pink, they come in spring, and through summer and into fall more sparingly, keeping this plant always attractive – heck, even with just the leaves it is as lovely as any juniper. Forms a low mat just a few inches tall, but up to 2 feet wide, reaching about 8 inches tall when the blooms rise up.
Plant the Firewitch Garden Pink in full sun in any well-drained soil. It grows well even in poor, sandy and stony soils, but not in wet, rich ground. It is hardy even in zone 3, and stays attractive throughout the winter months. Deer won’t eat it and pests and diseases are almost unknown. Trim lightly after flowering to keep it dense and neat – it will quickly recover with a crop of new leaves, soon looking sparkling and fresh. Trimming also encourages additional flowers in summer and fall.
One big way to have a great garden is to have plants of all sizes – from big trees to tiny spreading plants. Many people stop after planting some trees and shrubs, which is fine, but if you want a garden that is Instagram-ready, and has the lush complexity of gardens you admire, then you need to focus lower down and closer up, with low-growing plants that occupy the foreground – like the Firewitch Garden Pink. These plants are amazing, because they are perennials that don’t die back in winter, but stay as low plants you might mistake for a spreading evergreen. Forming a low mat that can easily be 2 feet across, but just a few inches tall, they are perfect for the front of beds, especially where they can spill onto a path or patio, or cascade down a rocky slope. Sun-loving and drought-tolerant, garden pinks are great additions that we would happily grow just for their silvery, juniper-like foliage. They have much more though, because for several weeks in spring they are covered in the most delightful miniature flowers. Brilliant glowing pink, and full of a delicious carnation scent, they transform that silvery mat into a Persian carpet. For everything from cottage gardens to xeric, low-water planting, no garden is complete if it isn’t in the pink.
The Firewitch Garden Pink is a low-growing perennial plant with persistent trailing stems, that forms a dense mat of vegetation 1 to 2 feet across, and just 3 or 4 inches tall. The tiny slender leaves are in alternating pairs along the stems, and they are bright silver-blue to blue-gray, narrow and pointed, with a resemblance to the needles of juniper bushes. They grow together into a dense mound that resembles a miniature conifer. The foliage is persistent even through very cold winters, and looks great pretty much all year round. In spring – May and June – every stem sends up a small flower on a short stalk, rising to 8 inches above the ground. The flowers are about ¾ of an inch across, with 5 flat petals that are deeply fringed along their edges. From the center a pair of white reproductive parts grow out, adding an accent to the deep hot pink or purple-pink of the petals. In the center that pink fades to a small area of near-white. The flowers have a strong scent, the classic clove-like scent of old-fashioned carnations, which attracts butterflies and even hummingbirds. After the initial weeks of flowering, especially if you trim the old flowers away, further flowers are often produced sporadically through summer and especially in early fall, but not in the dense abundance seen in spring.
With its resistance to drought and sun, the Firewitch Garden Pink is popular for planting in sunny rock gardens and in dry beds. It is also great for edging beds along a path, driveway or around a patio or stone terrace, where, like other trailing plants, it softens the hard, straight lines of construction. It can be used anywhere to fill small gaps in the front of beds, but always take into account its final size, especially where beds are edged by lawn.
Despite being reliably evergreen, the Firewitch Garden Pink is incredibly cold-resistant, growing happily in zones 3 and 4, and in warmer areas too. It does grow best in places with cooler summers and doesn’t grow so well in states with very hot and humid summers. It will grow in zone 9 in the northwest, but not in the southeast – or only with difficulty.
Sun, sun and more sun are what it takes to get the best out of the Firewitch Garden Pink. This will keep the foliage compact and a good silver color, and give you lots of flowers in spring and better reblooming. Grow it in any well-drained soil, including alkaline soils. It grows best in light sand or gravel soils, and established plants are very drought resistant. Don’t add compost or manures to the soil, and avoid rich, moist earth.
The Firewitch Garden Pink is almost maintenance-free. It isn’t bothered by deer, pests or any serious diseases, although leaf-spots can develop in hot, humid summers. Trim it after the spring blooms have died. You can just trim off the flowers, but it is best to lightly trim the foliage too – it quickly re-sprouts and you will have a neater, denser plant with better foliage color and one that is more likely to rebloom. Don’t trim at any other time of year.
The plant group called Dianthus is a large one, with well over 300 species in it, growing mostly in mountainous and rocky areas in Europe and Asia. The name ‘pink’ is commonly said to come from the serrated edges of the petals, which look like they have been cut with dressmaker’s ‘pinking’ shears. However it is more likely from the Dutch Pinkster or the German Pfingsten, both meaning Pentecost, the time when they are in flower. Garden Pinks are mostly varieties of wild species, with the selection of interesting forms already popular in Elizabethan England – the 1500s.
The Cheddar Pink, Dianthus gratianopolitanus, is native all across Europe, and a protected species in England. It is often called ‘clove pink’ for its delicious clove-like fragrance, which was once used to flavor wine – simply drop a flower into a glass of sweet wine to enjoy the same drink. There are numerous varieties of this plant, many of them very old, but the Firewitch Garden Pink is relatively new. It was selected from a batch of seedlings by the Kayser & Seibert Nursery in Germany, who introduced it in 1957 with the official name of ‘Feuerhexe’. In 1987 Pierre Bennerup of Sunny Border Nurseries in Berlin, Connecticut, bought two small plants at the Van Delft garden center in Noordwijkerhout, the Netherlands, while traveling there. He brought it home, shared pieces with other growers, and it took off, becoming one of the most popular garden pinks around. It soon became known by the translation of its German name – Firewitch.
In 2006 the prestigious Perennial Plant Association named the Firewitch Garden Pink as Perennial Plant of the Year – so you know how great it must be. A fabulous and easy-to-grow addition to your garden, order now while our stock lasts. Even if you don’t know garden pinks, it’s time to start growing one – you will love it.