It is a good idea to grow some clove pink (Dianthus caryophyllus) at the front of a container if you have a sunny site and enough room. Single, semidouble, or double flowers in white and shades of pink, rose, red, yellow, and orange; many have rich, spicy fragrance. Clove pink has a greyish-green to blue-green slender leaves and intensely sweetly scented bright pinkish-purple flowers that attracts butterflies. The clove pinks (or Wild Carnation) are most attractive perennial flowers, deliciously scented, especially the old-fashioned varieties, and the flowers of the clove pink D. caryophyllus can be used to make cordials, flavor drinks and decorate soups and salads.
Main bloom period for most is spring into early summer; some kinds re-bloom later in season or keep going into fall if faded flowers are removed. Performing best in areas with cool summers, they benefit from additional shade where summer temperatures are very hot. They can be grown as annuals in areas where they are not winter-hardy. Sow border carnation seed outdoors in fall (in areas where they are winter-hardy), or start indoors in late winter for planting out in early spring.
Pinks flourish on chalky light soil in a sunny positions and do not need too fertile a soil. They do not like being waterlogged during the winter, so container-grown pinks need well-drained compost and little added fertilizer. Clove pink can tolerate maritime exposure and atmospheric pollution.
How to propagate the clove pink? Sow seed or take cuttings or pipings (a method peculiar to pinks and carnations where the central portion of a shoot is pulled out and the bottom leaves removed).
Uses of clove pink. The main uses are in the cooking and medicine – fresh petals can be candied, pickled in vinegar, added to salads (remove the white heel which tastes bitter) and be used to flavor fruit. They can also be used as a substitute for rose petals in making a syrup. The flower petals are alexiteric, antispasmodic, cardiotonic, and diaphoretic. Treats coronary disorders. Used as a nerve tonic in the past.
Today carnation is grown commercially in France for its rich clove-like essential oil that is used in perfumery. The flower heads are dried for potpourri and scented sachets. The plant is rich in saponins – the leaves can be simmered in water and used as a facial soap.
Other varieties and species are: D. barbatus, D. chinensis, D. deltoides, D. superbus.