This article first appeared in Perennial Notes Winter 1994.
The Story of Bath's Pink
by Jane Bath
Dianthus gratianopolitanus 'Bath's Pink'
In my work, the saddest thing that I see is people
saying that they kill everything they plant. All of these people are
striving for color and low maintenance, but mostly they want success.
Success to them means plants that live and perform well.
All of us in GPPA have a passion for plants. The
affliction hits at different time in our lives. Mine came at age eight
when I received a German iris in a cellophane package. This package had a
picture on it of a bright yellow iris and promised a glorious reward if
only I would plant it. I did and it did! This initial success held to me
strongly over the years when I branched out and success was sometimes
I have spent hours pouring over catalogs, then nervously
ordering from them or digging up plants here and there. During this time I
have found only one book, Low Maintenance Perennials, by Robert S. Hebb,
that really dealt with gardening problems as I saw them. I was looking for
plants that were disease free and non-invasive, required no staking, and
had a long bloom time and good foliage. Most importantly, they had to be
plants that would grow here in the South. Too often, this last item was
never addresses since most written material was from other regions.
Whatever the odds, my perennial search was on.
From the outset, pinks particularly attracted me. I
bought every kind, both those available locally and through catalogs.
Daystar had a particularly large offering, but it usually took only three
years or less before all of them were gone or in decline. However, during
the time that we were settling into a new home, a neighbor shared a pink
with me. I planted it along with numerous other plant gatherings, but
strangely this pink thrived in two locations - each site very different
culturally from the other.
By this time my design business allowed me to go into
many different garden situations. Besides sharing this pink with visitors
to my garden, often I would tear off a piece in the early morning before
leaving for a job and stick it in my pocket. While planting, if I thought
the site warranted it, the pink was stuck in. I even mailed pieces of this
plant in envelopes to customers, only for them to be surprised at their
My biggest gamble was asking my contractor to plant it
at the main entrance to Emory University, my alma mater. It was a wild
success in that spot for several years until progress took the site for an
addition. When that happened, employees and patients begged and were given
every piece of that pink that was torn out.
All of us in GPPA are aware of the exceptional abilities
of Marc Richardson and Rick Berry at Goodness Grows. They too wanted
successful plants to propagate and market and on one of their plant
searches they came to my garden. At some point, either then or later, this
pink was shared with them. The year was 1983.
It was obvious by then that I wanted this plant to be
available to the public, but at that time I did not have the business
capability to make it all happen. Marc and Rick at Goodness Grows did.
First, they tested it in their own garden, then had it searched in the
trade, and finally began propagating it in great numbers. They even had a
tee-shirt emblazoned with it when the pink was first made available to the
public. Because Marc and Rick took the gamble, they have received any
financial gains accrued from the sale of Dianthus 'Bath's Pink'.
During the four-year span when all of this was taking
place, the three of us never communicated about this particular pink. I
was too busy sticking it in my landscape jobs and they were just as busy
doing the testing and propagation. One day, when the Goodness Grows
catalog came in the mail and I was reading through it coming up my
driveway, I was quite surprised to see that they had named the plant for
Now folks, both you and I know truthfully that if my
name had been McGillicuttie…! But Goodness Grows people are very special
and I thank them and, of course, my husband for having such a proper name
for a plant. Not long after that Bill Funkhouser (ed. note: Funkhouser is
founder of GPPA) called to tell me that he was introducing 'Bath's Pink'
in the Wayside Gardens catalog. On my bookshelves is every Wayside catalog
for over twenty years. Now this wonderful pink is offered in the plant
In addition to all of this, 'Bath's Pink' has been
mentioned on a national TV morning show, Cathy Henderson talks about it
frequently on her Saturday morning radio talk show, Southern Living
magazine did an article on it last April (1993), and the plant selections
committee of the Georgia Green Industry Association named it one of the four
Gold Medal Winners for 1994. When I go to trade shows, more and more of
the large and small nurseries are picking it up to sell and, of course, it
is for sale at Land Arts, our nursery in Monroe, GA.
So, why is this pink so successful? Quite simply because
it gives success to the gardener who uses it. This is true of some of the
other plants that I have: an aster that blooms all at once, then neatly
crinkles up for winter; a yellow-blooming hypericum shrub whose leaves
color vividly for months while the plant never gets woody looking; and a
perfect Japanese maple ('Osakazuki') that performs well despite the
South's late freezes and hot summers.
Whether I am going to trade shows and asking about
grasses - what's invasive and it is perennial or annual - or finding a
clerodendron growing as a thirty-year old tree in Asheville, my questions
are always the same. How big does it get? Is it invasive? And, what is the
'Bath's Pink' comes out just fine in respect to all
three of these questions. This plant is a success story that we all share.
Special thanks to my neighbors at Goodness Grows, Marc and Rick, and to
all of you who are enjoying the success of growing 'Bath's Pink'. Be sure
to come and see us at Land Arts.