All About Thyme
  A Weekly Calendar of Times & Seasonings

  Celebrating the Mysteries, Magic, and Myths of Herbs
Susan Wittig Albert  
Special Feature, April 1, 2019  

Garden Pinks

April 13 is the birthday of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. He created a plantation called Monticello, where he enjoyed gardening above all else. Jefferson once said, "No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden."

One of the stars of Jefferson's cottage garden was his collection of heirloom garden pinks or carnations (Dianthus). Jefferson himself sent seeds to a friend in 1786, noting that they were to be sown in March, and were "very fine & very rare." But in those days, the pink was not just a decorative plant. It had several important uses.

The Edible Pink
The pink most often used in cookery was the clove-scented pink (Dianthus caryophyllus), or gillyflower—what we now call the carnation. (Gilly comes from the French girofle, or clove, and refers to the spicy scent of the flower.) The blossom was used to make conserves, preserves, syrups, and vinegars, and as a flavoring for wine. The petals add a clove-like flavor to salads and fruit compotes. (Don't use flowers from the florist, for they have probably been sprayed). Here's an old-fashioned recipe for blush pink carnation-flavored vinegar.

Carnation Vinegar
1 cup red or pink carnation (Dianthus) petals
6 cloves
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 cups white wine vinegar

Pull the petals from the flower heads and snip off the white heels. Wash. Place petals in a jar with the cloves and cinnamon stick, and crush lightly. Add vinegar, and store in a dark place at room temperature until it has reached the desired intensity. Strain into a pretty bottle. Use on crisp greens or on a fruit salad.

The Medicinal Pink
John Gerard (1597) praised the clove pink as a restorative, which "wonderfully above measure doth comfort the heart." John Parkinson(1640) recommended it for headaches. Dianthus superbus has been used in Chinese medicine as a tonic for the nervous system, and to treat the kidneys, urinary tract, constipation, and eczema.

The Fragrant Pink
For most of us, the chief reason for including these beautiful plants in our gardens is their spicy-sweet fragrance. Dry the petals for use in sachets, and use the essential oil (purchased) in candles, bath and massage oils, soaps, and as a body oil.

Read more about colonial gardens:

Susan's Nonfiction Books

Click on a book cover to read more about that book.

Work of Her Own
Writing From Life

Story Circle Network Books

Click on a book cover to read more about that book.

What Wildness
With Courage & Common Sense

Who's Susan Albert?

Susan Wittig Albert is the author of two recent memoirs: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days and Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place. Her fiction, which has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, includes A Wilder Rose (a novel about Rose Wilder Lane's collaboration with Laura Ingalls Wilder in the writing of the Little House books); the China Bayles mysteries; the Darling Dahlias mysteries; the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter; and a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries written with her husband, Bill Albert, under the pseudonym of Robin Paige. She is founder and past president of the Story Circle Network, a member of the Texas Institute of Letters, and Honorary President (2012-2014) of the Herb Society of America. More

To find out what's going on in Susan Albert's life in the Texas Hill Country, read Susan's blog.

Follow Susan on Facebook, Twitter, & Pinterest.

Who's China Bayles?

She's the beloved fictional herbalist in Susan Wittig Albert's popular mystery series, set in Pecan Springs TX. For more about her books, visit

For more about herbs and the passing seasons, read China Bayles' Book of Days.

To request permission to reprint all or any portion of one of Susan's e-letters, email, stating which e-letter you'd like to reprint, with full details.

Click on the book covers
for more information

Please forward this feature to anyone interested in mysteries, herbs, and gardening. If a friend has forwarded this to you, click below to get your own subscription.

Subscribe to China Bayles' Weekly Herbal e-letter: "All About Thyme"

To read Susan's most recent e-letter on her website, click here:

This feature is a publication of Susan Wittig Albert and it is provided free, via e-mail, to anyone, worldwide. ©2019 Susan Wittig Albert. Do not quote without specific permission.

You may forward this e-letter to one or more friends, but please send the whole e-letter, rather than excerpts. If you see any portion of our e-letter on another website, please let us know.

This feature is designed, written, and edited by Susan Wittig Albert & Peggy Fountain.