Clouds of bloom

This Idaho garden brims with dainty perennials
Suzanne Touchette Kelso

Drifts of flowers in dreamy pastel colors seem to float above the beds in Michele Hampton's backyard in Hailey, Idaho. Among the plants blooming here in early summer are rosy cheddar pinks, red-and-white-flowered 'McKana Giants' columbines, and white snow-in-summer. But the most exquisite jewel is Dianthus x hybrida 'Rainbow Loveliness Mixed', with finely fringed petals in shades of crimson, lilac, and pink. The blooms not only look sublime but also smell heavenly, says Hampton, a professional garden designer.

Initially, she prepared the stone-walled beds by digging sand, manure, and peat moss into the native clay soil. Then she sowed seeds of 'Rainbow Loveliness Mixed' directly in the ground and set out transplants of the other flowers.

During the growing season, Hampton feeds the plants monthly with a granular organic fertilizer. After the first flush of late-spring bloom, she removes the spent blossoms. The plants bloom again in midsummer and continue flowering into fall. Then Hampton cuts them back and scatters seeds from dried dianthus blossoms before mulching the beds with 1 to 2 inches of compost and manure. The next spring, she spreads another inch of compost.

INFO: Dianthus x hybrida 'Rainbow Loveliness Mixed' is sold by Thompson & Morgan ( www.thompson-morgan.com or 800/274-7333).