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Sweet William

Sweet William

Narrow-leaved versions of the Dianthus barbatus were called Sweet Johns and the broad-leaved Sweet Williams. The Sweet William was also historically known as Jove’s flower, London pride, tolmeiners and London tufts.

Sweet Williams were particularly suited to town gardens – they were easily grown and always gave delight. They could be grown from seeds or cuttings (cuttings generally taken only for the double-flowered varieties, or singles which you needed to be certain to get precisely the same flower again). Seeds could be sown directly into the border, but Hibberd wrote that the best way was to sow them on a bed of fine soil in a frame in a sunny position in April or May. From there they could be moved to a sunny border, and then transplanted on yet again (Victorians appeared to enjoy double the work!) in September.

Sweet Williams liked rich soil and water in dry weather.

Seeds should not be allowed to ripen (unless you particularly needed them) as that often proved fatal to them.

Information and image taken from F. Edward Hulme and Shirley Hibberd, Familiar Garden Flowers (Cassell, Peter, Galpin and Co.: London: c. 1890), 5 vols.

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