True Romance!

25 Jul

Introducing John Barrington’s Deliciously Fragrant Heirloom Carnations


Glowing in the garden, Dianthus ‘Queen of Hearts.‘  Thank you John Barrington!

If any of you follow my ramblings over the past several decades, you know that I am enamored with the genus Dianthus. Now, not those silly, boinky, dwarfed, sadly scentless and die-really-fast ones you get at the box stores and garden centers, but the cottagey-perennial, divinely fragrant and long lived prolific bloomers of my gardens here at the nursery.

Interestingly, our most popular Dianthus has been the strange and fantastical (but not intensely scented) Carnation type Dianthus ‘Chomely Farran.’ As far as I can tell, it is the last remaining (at least in the US) of a huge group of Carnation types called “Bizarres” that were very popular prior to 1830. Looking for any information on “Bizarres” and another category of lost Dianthus called “Flakes’ I came across a reprint of Thomas Hogg’s 1839 book, “A Practical Treatise,” which lists well over 200 named varieties of ‘Bizarres.’ How exciting!

Dianthus 'Chomley Farran' in hand

Nearly perfect and oh-so-psychedelic ‘Chomley Farran’, why can’t you be more fragrant?

Wondering if there could be any of these heirloom Dianthus still alive somewhere in the world led me to Google every named variety listed in Hogg’s book until ding-ding! A hit!
Vintage plane blue sky

Off I flew to the UK – to the house and nursery of Carnation fanatic and devotee John Barrington in Somerset, England. Tucked away on a 200-acre farm in the middle of what seems like nowhere, John is passionate about recapturing the long stemmed, ever-blooming Carnations of old and has devoted his life to bringing romance – and most importantly FRAGRANCE – back to this heirloom favorite.

Walking through John’s greenhouses, packed with hundreds of varieties in tidy rows, was like waking up on Christmas morning! So welcoming and kind-hearted, John was delighted to share the delicious scents we had only dreamed of! It was like I had found the Holy Grail of Carnation-kind!

John_Barrington's_ greenhouse

Row upon row of heirloom Carnation inspiration!!

As I thrilled to each new scent, he excitedly bounced around taking cuttings of all the varieties I liked the best. To meet someone so obsessed with one particular plant – and so dedicated to saving and recapturing an important piece of horticultural history – made this my favorite plant hunting experience ever! If you ever find yourself in the UK, you must visit him. I guarantee you will love him as much as I did!

Now, after two years of increasing our stock, we are thrilled to be able to finally share these enchanting heirlooms with you! Almost non-stop blooming (year-round here in our mild climate), strongly perennial and vigorous – we’re offering the prettiest and most fragrant of the bunch. Among them is a legendary “Flake.”

dianthus JB #12 'Cheshire Cat'

The purrrr-fect “Flake”- introducing ‘Cheshire Cat!’

dianthus JB #33 'White Rabbit'

‘White Rabbit’ boasts the most fragrance of all!

dianthus JB #29 'Queen of Hearts'

Off with its head! ‘Queen of Hearts’ makes a fabulous cut flower.

Check out all our Perpetual Carnations HERE!

Our obsession with all things Dianthus runs deep – check out all of the wonderful and heirloom varieties we offer!

10 Responses to “True Romance!”

  1. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words July 25, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    I am soooo envious! *sigh* to be with all that color, that fragrance!
    What a wonderful post …yes magickal
    I love the carnations with fragrance and not the “new and improved varities
    I like the tried and true….
    Thank you for a wonderful post….!
    Take Care……. You Matter

  2. sorticulturist July 25, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    Dianthus is one of those plants that everyone should have in their garden. They just the right combo of great foliage and beautiful flowers. My own Dianthus is fragrant. I look forward to every spring to smell that light, sweet floral scent.
    As usual, these are great offerings!

    Here is my baby this past June – Its best year yet. Been in this container for 3 seasons.



  3. Heather July 26, 2013 at 3:43 am #

    So excited to add these to my garden!

  4. Pamela Bateman July 26, 2013 at 7:12 am #

    Thanks for all the sleuthing. These carnations are beautiful. What a find.

  5. Mary Rosenfeld February 24, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    Wow Annie! What a fun adventure….and so much fun to hear about all the carnations you found and the amazing John Barrington! Yeh for the english! There is still that old-time love of nature, nature spirits, hedgerows, hedgehogs AND flowers still surviving there! Thank you! And now….which goodie to order?? Cheers, Mary

  6. Olivia Wright May 29, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    I just wrote a blog posting about your wonderful Dianthus last week!

  7. terrariadesign May 29, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    I just wrote a blog post about your wonderful Dianthus last week!

  8. Lynn Cross July 3, 2014 at 9:26 am #

    I am soooo excited to have received my Bliss plants…and am anxiously awaiting the Ric Rac! These are close to identical to the carnations I carried in my wedding bouquet back in 1964. I do have some questions…how close to each other should we plant them in the flower bed…and, if we decide to go with pots so we can have them closer to the house, how large (inches) a pot and how many plants can we plants together in that large pot?? Thanks so much for finding and cultivating these carnations!! And thanks for your time with my questions.

    Best regards,

    – Lynn

  9. Michelle D October 22, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    We purchased some Chomley Farran from you a couple years ago for our home garden and they are stellar; super sweet and so cheerful – just like you Annie!

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