They are totally at home in containers, rock gardens, raised beds and even traditional hotspots at the foot of south-facing walls. Pinks team up well with other small, slow-growing sunlovers such as silver feathery Artemesia schmidtiana Nana, thrift, houseleeks and ornamental thymes, besides fellow chalk-lovers such as gypsophila. There are hundreds to choose from, many with wonderful scent. Modern pinks, such as the famous salmon-pink Doris, flower prolifically all summer from June to September. Then there are the stocky rockery pinks and their numerous hybrids such as Little Jock, all with a long season.
The collectors’ favourites are old-fashioned pinks, such as Fenbow’s Nutmeg Clove, which are known for their rich, spicy scents, though as a slight drawback most of this group have a short flowering season, around six weeks long in June and July.
Whichever type you opt for, the family have one thing in common – they are a little short-lived.At the age of two most pinks are in their prime; at three they are getting past their peak and by four most varieties are visibly declining, with fewer flowers, balding stems and thinning mats of foliage with areas of die-back. By five they’ve often died off entirely.
So if you don’t want to replace your plants every few years it pays to propagate stock regularly.
It’s especially urgent for old-fashioned pinks which die out fastest and – being scarce – are hardest to replace but it’s a good idea to take cuttings of any pinks in their second or third summer.
Done at the right time, propagating pinks is easy.
Shortly after their first flush of flowers is over you’ll see a few strong, non-flowering growths.
When these are two or three inches long, around early to mid July, nip them off close to the base. To turn them into cuttings peel away a few lower leaves, then push four or five in round the edge of a pot filled with a 50:50 mixture of multi-purpose peat-free compost and sand.
Stand them on a windowsill indoors in good light but out of strong sun and after six to eight weeks pot them up individually. By next spring you’ll have strong young plants ready to take their place in the garden.