In The Pink – Scented Pinks
Scented garden pinks are among the most beguiling of all flowers with their dainty little faces and delicious spicy clove scent. Allwoods nursery have been breeding and propagating pinks for over a hundred years.
Allwoods have one of the largest collections of ‘Heritage Pinks’ including a few dating from the 1600s. To give a few examples: one can easily see a posy of Messines Pink (dating from pre.1933) adorning the dressing room of a Hollywood starlet, whilst Musgrave’s Pink (1730) looks so refined it must surely have been bred by an aristocrat,Fair Folly (1700) would look at home in a Cotswold manor house and as for Mrs. Sinkins, the most famous of all pinks, it was bred by her husband who ran a lunatic asylum in Slough.
I find the Laced Pinks utterly irresistible. Beloved by the Victorians, they have extraordinarily attractive markings plus a long flowering period. ‘If we didn’t grow them they would cease to be grown’ says Emma Sumner Wilson. Emma and her husband, David both come from nursery owning families and have run the nursery since 1994.
Designers restoring historical gardens often seek advice from Emma and David. For example they recently helped English Heritage create an ‘Elizabethan Garden’ at Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire.
Allwoods was started in 1910 when three brothers, Montagu, Edward and George from a Lincolnshire farming family moved to Sussex. In those far off days land in the south was cheaper than Lincolnshire plus the climate was better.
George had worked in carnation nurseries in America and on his return along with his brothers built the largest commercial greenhouse (50ft span) in the country. They revolutionised the way carnations were grown by copying the Americans growing them in three foot wide borders watered by hoses.
Hitherto plants had been grown in individual pots which necessitated laborious hand watering. Just two years later they won a gold medal at the International Horticultural Exhibition in London.
Montagu loved crossing old fashioned pinks with perpetual flowering carnations resulting in repeat flowering varieties and long flowering periods.
The fortunes of the nursery ebbed and flowed during the 20thcentury. At one point in the 1930s some 200 men were employed. School children would have to get out of the way when the nursery workers bicycled home at the end of the day.
Emma’s top tips for growing pinks:
Regular deadheading is essential for repeat flowering as well as cutting the stalk off ‘getting right into the plant so that the plant bushes out from the base.
Pinks hate being waterlogged and therefore might struggle to flourish on heavy clay.
Some of the older varieties have a straggly habit making them good window box plants, i.e. the Queen of Sheba.
Water in the growing season and feed plants every two weeks with a phosphate-rich tomato feed.
In early September cut back to make a tidy mound.
Allwoods, London Road, Hassocks, Sussex BN6 9NA
Mail order is available.