Sweet william

<em>Dianthus barbatus</em>

One of the most loved, most popular, “old fashioned” perennials, but no one is entirely sure which William it was named for! The first known reference to this name was by herbalist John Gerard in 1596. Sweet williams are usually red in the wild, but they can also be pink, purple, or white. Modern forms have been made available in all these colors and more. These are short lived perennials or biennials that are often sold as annuals. They usually flower in their second year, and generally disappear after that. If you don't deadhead them, they self seed prolifically.

Loved by both butterflies and florists, sweet williams are generally fragrant, but this can depend on the cultivar. Some are more scented than others.

There are a very large number of cultivars with ‘Noverna’ being especially excellent due to its vigorous growth habit and resistance to powdery mildew. ‘Wee Willie’ is an extremely dwarf strain growing to only 6” tall. It is almost always grown as an annual and is ideal for containers. A few other excellent varieties to recommend include: ‘Albus’ (pure white), ‘Homeland’ (dark red with a white eye), and ‘Newport Pink’ (deep rose). ‘Sooty’ is an interesting cultivar with extremely dark red, almost black flowers. However, the flowers are much smaller than most other kinds.