Sweet William

Sweet William all in  a rowIn the era of truly global commerce, very few flowers are seasonal anymore.  Heck, lately even Mama Nature isn’t getting the seasons right.  This is not so with the June charmer, Sweet William, (Dianthus barbatus).  Thomas Jefferson planted Sweet William at Monticello.

Dianthus medleyIn Victorian flower lore, Sweet William was the symbol of gallantry.  The English botanist John Gerard first described these flowers in a 1597 treatise, Herball.  He was a contemporary of Shakespeare for whom the nickname may have first appeared.



Other candidates the for source of the nickname are Saint William of York and William the Conqueror, both of whom would qualify for gallantry I expect.

Bouquet for a princessIn the Duchess of Cambridge’s bouquet in 2011, tiny pure white Sweet William show who is her favorite knight.

Dianthus of many colorsThese flowers in the wild are mostly in solid reds.  The cultivated one are a riot from Kate’s pure white (which I haven’t seen) through pink, salmon, crimson violet to purple with every conceivable bicolor in between.  Flower stems, which are rather thick, can hold a cluster of up to 30 tiny blossoms.  These biennial flowers are fringed to make them even more delightful.

Sweet Williams all in  a rowThey look best when all these differences show up rather like a millefleur tapestry.

Bouquet of WilliamsThese clusters are woven through a design of contrasting textures and colors.  I’ve used: tulips, poppy seed heads, hydrangea, and cockscomb.

William on the  StreetQuick find a bunch before they disappear until June 2014.



About Susan

Susan Detjens is a former landscape painter, she lectures, demonstrates and runs workshops on floral design for museums, horticultural organizations and garden clubs across the US.
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3 Responses to Sweet William

  1. Liz says:

    Happy First Birthday to a most delightful and very inspiring site.

  2. Liz says:

    Happy First Birthday to a most delightful and very inspiring site. Congrats!

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