Thursday, April 26, 2012

In the Pink

To the Old Spring garden... And the wenches gathered pinks.*

Our heirloom pinks, the ones we got from my husband's mother decades ago,
are just beginning to bloom. They are one flower we eagerly anticipate,
not only because they remind us of Mom, but also because they are so fragrant.
Our pinks have a sweet, spicy clove scent that fills the air.
The plant has an unusual mat of bluish-gray foliage that remains year round.
Its roots don't go too deeply into the soil, making it easy to transplant.

I found a very interesting article online
that describes some of the history of our variety of pinks.
According to the article "A Dianthus Primer"
by Rand B. Lee on,
this variety is dianthus plumarius, "Wild Pink."
Lee says wild pinks or "feathery pinks" were brought to Britain before the 16th century,
most likely by Crusaders returning from North Africa. His writing is very informative,
so here's a link to the whole article for those interested:

The origination of "pink" as a color term is no less mysterious.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary,
 the dianthus flower was probably called pink, not because of its color,
but because of its ragged, "pinked" edges. This supports
Lee's suggestion that the color term pink may have come
from the dianthus and not the other way around.

On the other hand, the term "pink" also could have been a lexical borrowing
from the Middle French, oillet pink, meaning small eye.
The dianthus flowers do have a small eye at their center.
 Or perhaps, as the Oxford English Dictionary also says,
the flower is called pink becasue of the Dutch pinck, meaning small.
An interesting Dutch phrase, pinck ooghen,
refers to half-closed eyes,
and may be responsible for the expression "in the wink of an eye,"
which was originally "in the pink of an eye."

Regardless of the etymology of the word, 
we treasure the "baby carnations" in our garden.

But we aren't the only ones.
Affection for this little flower has endured through the centuries.
The pink's sweetly perfumed blooms
 entice passersby, causing them to forget their tasks and linger awhile.
I think Jay Marston said it best in 1601:
I'le lay me downe upon a banke of Pinkes.**
  *1662 S. Pepys Diary 29 May (1970) III. 95, cited in Oxford English Dictionary
**1601 J. Marston et al. Iacke Drums Entertainm. i. sig. B3, cited in Oxford English Dictionary

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