Martha Stewart’s Design Director Shares The Perfect Flower To Practice Growing From Seed

Martha Stewart's Design Director Shares The Perfect Flower To Practice Growing From Seed

Kevin Sharkey, the Executive Director of Design for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, recently shared gardening tips on “The Martha Stewart Podcast” with the gardening guru herself and her head gardener, Ryan McCallister. As a landscape designer, Sharkey suggested sweet William, or Dianthus barbatus, as an ideal flower to practice growing from seed. He recalled that sweet William was the first flower he grew from seed, and he still loves it to this day.

Sweet William is a biennial or short-lived perennial that belongs to the pink family and produces delightful blooms in hues like pink, red, or violet. It is native to Europe and does well in hardiness zones 3 to 9. After being sown, small, fragrant clusters of sweet William bloom about a year later. It is often planted along borders, in pots, or rockeries. Sweet William prefers well-drained soil and requires four to five hours of sun for proper growth. It can grow up to 24 to 36 inches in height.

Sweet William is a timeless flower to grow and display

Colorful variety of sweet William

Matunka/Getty Images

Amid Martha Stewart’s ample flower garden, sweet William is the best flower to routinely sow, according to design director Kevin Sharkey. “I’d always had a garden when I was young. I loved growing things from seed,” he said on “The Martha Stewart Podcast.” The timeless flower can add vibrancy to your garden. In a live chat with The Washington Post, he also recommended planting summer bloomers like zinnias, dahlias, and gladiolus nearby for added color and depth.

For best results, start your seeds indoors in the early spring or plant in the garden in late summer to early fall, avoiding the potential of frost. Scatter them in well-drained soil about ⅛ inch from the surface and approximately 6 inches apart. Keep the soil damp without overwatering or letting it dry out. Depending on when you plant your sweet William seeds, abundant blooms should emerge around the same time the following year.

Sharkey has found that sweet William also makes a great cut flower. In an Instagram post, the design director showcased an abundant pink and red arrangement, commenting that it’s one of his favorites. It is a durable, long-lasting flower to showcase in a beautiful bouquet. When blooms are mostly full, snip the stems at ground level, as they can last up to two weeks in water. However you incorporate sweet William in your garden, practicing growing it from seed will help make the elegant flower even more perfect.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.