The Dianthus Walk


When I open the front door during the first week in May, a flood of fragrances greets me.  Even without knowing the date, I realize this special time has come.  Many sections of the garden vary in their peak times, but the Dianthus Walk is always right on schedule.  Short plants growing in well drained, gravely soil make up this border.  Many old dianthus from previous gardens here and from other old gardens give it the name.  They aren’t fancy but they are all fragrant and in the humidity of early May the scent is powerful.  Pastel shades of pink to white dominate the picture but there are other colors and forms. All winter I saw mounds of silver on moonlit mornings and one by one crocuses, then tiny narcissus, and then masses of Phlox subulata announced the approach of spring.  A few volunteer verbenas with brilliant white flowers bloomed throughout the winter. The verbenas have to go—too big, too smothering when they settle down into summer growth—but they add just the right amount of height for right now.  To appreciate fully the intricate plantings of this garden one must walk along the brick path to see tiny forms of chives with blue flowers, low-growing veronicas Vv. peducularis ‘Georgia Blue’,‘Waterperry Blue’, and prostrata. A few sedums and orostachys provide a base of leaves above the gravel and below that we have thymes.  The thymes, some of which have spread onto the brick path, were carefully selected for color, heat tolerance, and fragrance and they bloom with delicate pink or white flowers. The real treasure in this low garden is Omphalodes linifolia, grown from seed sown every fall. Pure white flowers above gray foliage almost 1 foot high provide an airy delicacy not often seen. This garden, as most, has presented us with problems as it aged.  In the 1980s, when we first made it, we planted Tulipa clusiana, which blooms in spring, is an appropriate color, and heat tolerant.  The seeds, which germinated easily, have produced mature, flowering size bulbs and now, we have a real show of these lovely, yellow flowers.  The problem is that as their foliage dies down, they smother whatever grows (or grew) beneath them.   When summer approaches the character of the Dianthus Walk changes with bolder colors, especially on Geranium sanguineum, and in August, masses of tall, fragrant Lilium formosanum underplanted with rain lilies bearing white, pink, or yellow flowers greet me as I head down to the gate to retrieve the paper. A stroll down the Dianthus Walk is a wonderful way to start the day.

Montrose Garden