Clove pinks are miniature members of the Dianthus family from which carnations are descended and add an old fashioned touch to the garden including their light clove-like or nutmeg scent. Going back as long as 2000 years, these edible flowers have numerous common names including gilly flowers from the French girofle for “clove” and pinks which may be connected to the ragged fringed edge of the flowers as if cut with pinking shears, but is likely a corruption of pinct which means “scalloped”, and a possible origin of the color named pink. Used to make floral crowns in ancient Greece, their botanical name is from the Greek dios, meaning “divine” and anthos, meaning “flower.” Native to Europe and Asia, they were a favorite from the Middle Ages and the flower petals were used medicinally as well as in soups, sauces, and vinegars plus by tavern keepers as a cheap way to flavor wines. Today, the petals are still a secret ingredient of several wines and of the French liqueur, Chartreuse.
These scented, old-fashioned favorites are sturdy, no-fuss plants. Often planted in herb gardens for their beauty and fragrance, they are also recommended highly for window boxes and containers with their masses of frilled pink flowers and handsome silvery blue-green or grey-green foliage. They are also a reliable ground cover for open sunny spots. The flowers of these “plants of the poets”, bloom in June and July and need deadheading and a light feeding to extend the flowering period and give full bloom potential. They grow best in full sun or at least 4-5 hours of sun each day in ordinary soil that is well drained. Clove pinks are tolerant of long dry periods although best growth and flowering occur in a slightly moist soil. Short-lived perennials, new plants need to be raised every 2-3 years either by seed sown in the garden in spring or early summer or, in the case of named cultivars, by division or cuttings.
Clove pinks are edible flowers, but be careful not to eat the greenery as some carnation leaves are poisonous. Be sure, also, to use only those flowers grown without the use of pesticides. Harvested petals should be separated from the calyx and the narrow base of the petal should be removed before use as it is bitter. The flower petals may be added to salads, sandwiches and jellies or candied to use in butters or desserts. They combine well with the clove fragrance of sweet basil and are rather herbal in taste with a hint of spice. Syrup may also be made for use on fruit salads or compotes by infusing the petals in hot sugar syrup. A combination of blue borage, purple sage and clove pink flowers make a pretty garnish together.
should not be mulched or over watered.
They require good air circulation
and do not like soil or mulch touching
the stems and foliage