While most varieties of Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) are biennial, 'Heart Attack' is one that is known for its longevity. Bold, clusters of carnation like flowers are blood red with a hint of chocolate and a white eye. Blooming on rich evergreen foliage from mid April until early June, it is the star of our spring garden.
'Heart Attack' was an introduction from a local nursery, Plant Delights, and was found in Southern Europe by their plant explorers. It grows in zones 4a through 8b, and prefers to be shaded from the afternoon sun in southern gardens. It generally likes well drained soils, but does fine in our clay mix. This year, the blooms first started to show April 20th, as the tight buds opened one by one. Although the petals are now starting to fade and some stalks are flopping from the rains, it still makes an impact. After cutting it back I usually get a smaller flush of flowers in mid summer.... but I might wait this year so I can collect some seeds.
The deep purple winter color is also a great feature on the evergreen foilage, making it an excelent choice for year-round interest in the front of the border. The new grows appears rich dark green in the spring, as the purple coloration fades. It gets to about 16 inches in height when in bloom, and otherwise the foliage stays low.
'Heart Attack' Sweet William is one of my favorite plants, and from what I hear about its perennial nature I will be enjoying the blooms for years to come. Its rich color is made even better by a pairing with the spring blooming 'Minnie Pearls' Phlox, another Plant Delights introduction which will be the topic of my next post in the Spring Spotlight series.
"How can one help shivering with delight when one's hot fingers close around the stem of a live flower, cool from the shade and stiff with newborn vigor!" ~Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette