Now is the time to start planning for the season to come, it does seem that one season of showing just seems to finish when we begin making plans for the next season. I have in recent years grew all three genus of Dianthus but had decided to concentrate my efforts into just growing Border Carnations this being that with Border Carnations there is an awful lot of heritage that could be lost if more do not grow this particular genus and therefore to pay homage to this genus more space was required, therefore the Perpetual Flowering Carnations had to make way but I have just been given quite a few Perpetual Carnations and Pinks and I felt to be able to help those who have just started growing them that I should try and assist to show in how to grow these beautiful plants, so to do such justice I feel another growing area is required; so hopefully I will be purchasing a new greenhouse in the coming months to house these extra plants. In the meantime I will try to explain what needs doing to grow these plants on.
So now back to planning for this year and the first thing is to start off with good clean stock and I cannot emphasise this enough, start as soon as possible to commence a spraying programme and stick to it rigidly, no putting it off until tomorrow as we all know tomorrow never comes!! I have always found that it is far better to spray whilst the plants are small and all together and spray as a preventive rather than when they are large and trying to cure. The weather should in the next few weeks begin to warm up as light levels will be improving dramatically now that the clocks have gone forward as this seems to act as an alarm clock to the plants growing system; you might have even noticed already that the plants are starting to wake from their inertia, so now is the time to make sure you have the necessary fungicides and pesticides ready. Next is to make sure all the final pots are clean, washing them thoroughly with a touch of Jeyes added and all of the final compost is mixed and placed in the greenhouse ready for use. I also like to dip all of the cane ends and any supports into a bucket of bleach/ Armillatox solution to eradicate any hibernating pests.
It’s now time to look at potting the plants into their final pots, this is something I tend to commence at the beginning of the month as its quite an arduous task for me, can I please stress that this can commence anytime that you feel the plants are ready for moving on, the best guide is the plant itself and only ever pot on when the plants roots have covered most of the compost in its pot and NEVER pot on a plant that is not ready to be moved on, far better to wait.
Only move the plants onto their final pots when needed, good sign of such is when the roots have covered most of the compost.
Compost needs to be open yet retains moisture and I find a soil based compost suits Borders best, try and replicate their natural growing conditions which normally would be the garden border; they are quite tolerant to what they actually grow in whether that be sand or grit based and likewise they are also quite happy around a neutral ph. Pots can be clay or plastic, I prefer plastic as they tend not to dry out as fast as clay and of course are a lot cheaper. I plant two plants per a 2 litre pot, three to a 3 litre and so on but please beware of any pot larger than a 3 litre as weight of pot needs to be considered and I have stopped using any size of pot below a 2 litre due to the compost drying out quicker and therefore all my Picotees now are grown two to a 2 litre pot.
I have been trialling some compost that has been sent by Dalefoot and has been customised for flowers and I have to admit that I have been very impressed by the results so far and have now used the compost for some of the final pots and It will be interesting to see how the trial plants finish up against my own mix as it would be great to use just one compost straight from a bag. I will keep you updated on how the plants perform but so far so good.
The Pinks have started to grow apace and like the Borders it’s now time to start to think about their final pots. Pinks have to be stopped, this is the taking out or stopping of the growing central stem and I like to do this when the stem elongates and breaks are seen around the base of the plant as these are the flowering stems, I do so when these are visible as often when I have stopped the plants before the breaks are seen I have found that a break will shoot away and make the plant look unbalanced. It is also vital that the plant is stopped neatly and this is another reason that I wait for the central stem to elongate as if one tries to do so to early then its never a guarantee that the stem has been stopped and one finds the central stem will begin to grow again as shown.
I use 1.5 litre pots for all my final Pinks and plant one per pot. I have found that a J.I.No 2 mixed 50/50 with grit serves them very well, to this I add a dusting of Vitax Q4. I only use such a size pot as they are grown for one season only and for my needs they are only wanted for Summer stems and are then cut back in early August for cuttings.
Below Perpetual Carnations
These have been stopped and like Pinks they have been stopped via breaking the central stem and also like the Pinks patience is needed because if you do not take out the central growth neatly then it will begin to grow again. If at all possible you can try and just take out the very central growing tips, do not just use scissors to cut across as the stem will grow again as shown.
I have not started to pot the P/FS into their finals yet but when I do so they will all go one per 3 litre pot, compost once again needs to be an open porous mix and I find added Perlite assists. It is also advisable to add some form of feed such as Vitax to help sustain the plants growth through the season. Canes and supports will be needed to help the plants growth but I will explain about this next month.
Central growth due to not being stopped correctly
Once stopped the flowering stems will grow rapidly and will need supporting