From its shape and colour, you may have guessed that Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) is part of the carnation family (Dianthus). Dianthus is derived from the Greek words dios (God) and anthos (flower). In Latin, barbatus means bearded. (source: Wikipedia)
Colorful pink and white “bearded God flowers” bloom in my June garden. With their frilly edges and bright hues and clove-like scent they attract pollinators and butterflies. While they may not always survive as perennials, I planted them several years ago and they have come back every season.
I cut them back regularly to prolong the blooming season. I do miss a few that turn to seed. This year, I have a light pink Sweet William that self-seeded the year before. This is interesting to me since the previous plants were either white and dark pink or dark pink.
The flowers are edible and may be medicinal. They are referred to in records of early monastic gardens. In the 16th century, monks used these gardens for food and healing, not just within the walls of the monastery but for the community as well. Sweet Williams flowers may be used as garnishes. Here is an interesting use I came across recently.
My personal crop of Sweet Williams is dedicated to my own sweet William, my dad Bill. Here is why:
- Carnations and roses were my wedding flowers. Dad, now a retired Anglican priest, walked me down the aisle and then officiated at our wedding.
- In his 80s, Dad still loves gardening in raised beds on the patio.
- Dad dedicated his life not only to the church, but to healing in the community. His ministry of helping others was lived at home, through provincial politics, work on a Royal Commission on the Northern Environment, social work, school board trusteeship and parole board work.