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Sweet William Dianthus barbatus

The unpretentious blooms of the dianthus Sweet William have been decorating gardens and tables for centuries, bearing clusters of variously coloured flowers above green leaves. The plant is biennial, generously self-seeding in the garden so there are always a few gallant volunteers popping up to brighten the mixed border. In the southern States, the plants will behave as perennials, but are not long-lived and should be divided every 2 to 3 years. They prefer full sun and ordinary neutral to alkaline soil. In the south they may need a little shade. Deadheading will keep them blooming, and they are wonderful cut flowers, lasting for days in water. The clove-scented flowers are edible, and can be added to salad, fish dishes, tea, marmalade and sorbet. Butterflies are attracted to them. In historic English ballads 揝weet William?is a nickname meaning a young man in love, and the dianthus is just as irresistible to anyone who encounters its unassuming charm and sweet fragrance in the summertime garden.