Not long ago, Brad Nixon provided a fascinating etymological exploration into the name of a tool I’ve known for years: pinking shears. Useful for seamstresses and used even by today’s children for craft projects, they provided my mother a useful metaphor, as well. Occasionally she’d give me an appraising look before saying, “Your bangs look like they were cut with pinking shears.”
Eventually, the name “pinks” came to be applied to perennial Dianthus. The common name refers to the frilly edges of the flowers’ petals, which look like they were cut with pinking shears.
But not only the pinks seem pinked. This opening winecup bud has similar edges. While less obviously frilly than the petals of the pinks, they’re also sheer delight.
66 thoughts on “Sheared Pink”
I like the pattern and sheen of the folded petals. Reminds me a bit of the toy plastic windmills that kids hold in their hand so they turn in the wind.
Now that’s a very good observation!
Yes! or the whirligigs people have in their gardens. It took me a while to remember what we called those as kids. As soon as I remembered ‘pinwheels,’ I remembered that we used to make them out of construction paper, with a piece of dowel rod for a handle. It appears kids still do that; instructions are all over the internet. That makes me happy!
Wow, what a photo! The quality of that color is spectacular. I keep scrolling back up to it and staring at it. Beautiful. Thanks, Linda.
You’ve got one of the best eyes for color that I know, Gary, so I’m pleased you like this. I didn’t saturate it at all — the color’s just as it came from the camera. These flowers can really put on a show, especially when the light’s a little softer, as it was here.
I was wondering if you saturated but it felt like you didn’t. You’re right– they really put on a show.
A wonderful, spiralling, image
Depending on where I focus, I can see a starfish, a windmill, or even pinwheel pastries. I love the dynamic feeling of the shape.
I suspect that Miriam does not know the origin of pinking shears so I will be able to impress her with my new found knowledge. I have to say it is not something I have oft pondered! In fact rarely do I contemplate pinking shears at all!
I certainly hadn’t thought of them in some time, but they were an important part of my life when I was younger. I’m delighted as can be to offer you a tidbit for sharing with Miriam. Given her sewing skills, I suspect she wields every kind of scissors quite well, but the source of the name might well surprise her!
Beautiful image. And I now have a new respect for my pinking shears.
The history and names of so many of the tools we use are fascinating, and just as often never are given a second thought. There’s an ironworker’s tool called a ‘spud wrench’. ‘Spud’ originally meant a ‘small or poor knife,’ and the tool name came to us via Danish, Old Norse, and German. I discovered that the first use of the word to describe a potato was recorded in 1845 in New Zealand.
My goodness, I am astonished that New Zealand is the origin of the humble spud!
Isn’t that something? What I couldn’t find is whether there’s any connection to the arrival of Irish immigrants in New Zealand, Their potato famine began in 1845, and I’ve read that many left Ireland for NZ at that time.
There could well be a connection but I find it interesting that the spud was here before the Irish. https://www.tepapa.govt.nz/discover-collections/read-watch-play/maori/maori-potatoes
Oh, my. If our potatoes were that pretty and had such wonderful names, I might eat more of them! I grew up in a household dedicated to potatoes, but they were mostly russets, and mostly baked or mashed. Good, but perhaps less flavorful than these — or so I imagine.
I am quite fond of the purple potatoes but I haven’t tried any of the other Maori potatoes. I would like to.
Pinking is a strange word. I looked it up and saw that the German word “pinken” means to strike or peck. Now I’m trying to remember where I put my Mom’s pinking shears.
Isn’t it funny, how we keep so many things around, but can’t always lay our hands on them right away? I just went looking for my mom’s tracing wheels and sewing gauges. I found them — but it took a while.
As for pinken, anyone who’s watched a bird peck at seed knows how appropriate the word is. They don’t nibble, they strike: at least, ones like doves and chickens do.
There’s something about pink flowers I really love and these are wonderful examples. I think my whole head looks like I cut it with pinking shears these days!
Believe me, I’m glad that I started cutting my own hair years ago. That’s been one issue I haven’t had to deal with; most of the time, I do all right, and the good news is that hair grows out. Mistakes can be repaired — eventually!
If you’re a pink lover, this is a flower for you. What they lack in height and size they make up for in color, and it really does shine.
We were always getting “in Dutch” for swiping the pinking shears, for school projects, etc. and not replacing them in the sewing basket. (Can’t remember what on earth we wanted to use them for!) That’s an amazing flower, like a starfish shape, or those woven-looking stars they used for the Bicentennial symbol.
I knew the flower reminded me of something beyond a pinwheel or starfish, and I think the Bicentennial star is it. That was a great design, and it has some of the same movement as the swirl of these petals.
We sneaked the pinking shears for all kinds of projects. Most involved paper, like Valentines or Christmas cards, and it was using them for paper that got us in trouble. Another phrase from my long-lost past: “Don’t you know cutting paper with those will dull them?” I asked Google whether that was true, and the answer’s “yes.” But in the process of confirming my mom’s opinion, I found some wonderful comments over on StackExchange, including this one:
“I don’t cut paper (or anything else) with her fabric shears and she doesn’t cut up flagstones with my chainsaw.”
Haha! well I’m glad to hear about that chainsaw on the flagstones thing, let the chips fall where they may, and maybe the fingers too, but I have a strong feeling that would not end well!
What’s most amusing (or horrifying) about that is that I’ve known a couple of people who might wield a chainsaw in just that way!
Well, now. That was an interesting history and language lesson!
I certainly was intrigued by it. The way words root, flourish, and fade away is as interesting as the life cycle of plants.
A beautiful image, Linda! A lovely shade of pink, and the edges do look like they were trimmed with pinking shears. I’ve wondered about the origin of the word pinking shears. Thank you for the link!
Dixie’s iris has a fat bud on it now, and I’ll send along a photo of it when it blooms.
Isn’t the etymology interesting? I’m glad to have helped you sort out the mystery! There are so many little details in flowers that can escape attention, but this one’s ‘pinked’ edges were obvious.
I’m thrilled to know Dixie’s iris is nearing a bloom. I certainly have missed her over these past weeks. I’d gotten used to not having her around, but with much more time at home, I’ve been thinking of her a good bit. Of course, after my move I got my bird (and squirrel) feeders up soon enough to attract them, and now I have entertainment galore from them — including lots of hungry, vocal babies.
I was so busy trying to identify this one before I read your description that I completely missed its lovely sheared edges! I love dianthus, and it seems to grow well here for me. And speaking of bangs, I hated when my mom cut my bangs. She always slanted up one way, noticed they were “crooked,” and slanted up the other way — ensuring that I rarely had long, pretty bangs!
I’ve read that dianthus is an easy to grow plant, and it seems it comes in a rainbow of colors now: not just pink. I sure did laugh at your description of that bang-cutting. I went through the same thing. I’m sure part of it was my impatience with the process; I never would keep my head still, and that didn’t help at all!
I wasn’t known for my patience or sitting still either, ha!
Getting a skirt hemmed was the worst!
There is such a beautiful symmetry in your image and how you purposely chose the perspective. It is mesmerising, Linda.
I’m glad it appeals to you, Pete. I did spend a little time finding one that was ‘just so,’ and this one certainly fit the bill. Getting all of the petals in focus was a bit of a trick, but I was happy enough with it in the end.
What perfection! Stunningly beautiful and symmetrical. Nature is such a wonderful artist.xxx
I’ve always enjoyed the early buds of these plants, but rarely was around to see one in this stage of opening. I’d usually find a tighter bud, or fully opened flowers. This was a marvelous discovery, and I’m glad I was able to capture it.
Oh, my! That one’s a framer! Blown up to about 24″, matted and framed. That vivid color is an almost physical pleasure to look at. Молодец!
Did I think about your fondness for this flower when I was preparing to post the photo? Why, yes, I did. It’s a beauty, isn’t it? Catching these while they’re still fresh is the secret, I think. Once they’ve fully opened, they’re still attractive, but they don’t have the glow emanating from this one.
My mother, who lived to be 101, had a pair of pinking shears that she absolutely treasured. My brother and I were fascinated by the precision cuts they would produce, and she never seemed to mind our using them for our youthful imaginative (if primitive) craft projects. The serrated petal edges are truly reminiscent of the shears, but the first thought that came to my mind with your lovely image was of the fine blades of a camera shutter.
Now that you’ve mentioned the shutter blades, I see those, too. This abstract image certainly makes the resemblance clear.
Your mother sounds as though she was easy-going. Maybe that helped her reach such an advanced age!
The linked image is interesting because it shows a hexagon of sorts. I say “of sorts” because by the standard definition of a polygon the sides have to be straight line segments, whereas the ones in the image curve outward between adjacent vertices. Under the normal definition, the smallest number of sides a polygon can have is three, but if you allow for convex sides then a two-sided polygon exists. A biconvex lens is a good example.
I feel like I’m repeating myself but your flower photos are just lovely.
I’m just glad you like them, Ellen. This is one I can imagine in glass, atop one of your boxes. Wouldn’t that be something? Maybe when our current unpleasantness is over and I’ve snagged some high-paying jobs, I’ll commission that! Actually, I probably won’t, but goodness, it would be beautiful.
Nicely done with the winecup. I don’t recall seeing a from-the-top-down view of that species before. Though we shared not sheared yesterday, we did both show a flower in a stage of opening.
I don’t remember seeing many winecups at this stage of life, either. It seems that they go pretty quickly from tightly wrapped bud to fully opened flower; this intermediate stage was a pleasure to find, especially since the color was so rich, and the flower was essentially undamaged.
We have winecups that pop up with regularity in several areas of our property but I’ve never seen one in that stage of opening. I guess I’ll have to pay extra attention and try to catch one in the act. Great photo, as always!
Thank you so much, and thank you for leaving a comment. It led me to your blog, where I found evidence that we’ve roamed a lot of the same territory. One of my best friends lives on her own hilltop, on the old Spicer ranch between Kerrville and Medina. When I saw the photo in your post “Zen on the Medina,” I laughed. I know that crossing, and it is killing me that my friend and I have missed so much of that wonderful hill country spring. The time will come.
That’s a beautiful road from Medina to Kerrville. I usually take 173 to save time when I go to Kerrville but when I have some free time I love to take the twisty turns over Medina mountain on highway 16.
Did you ever see the Van Gogh under the bridge at the Medina crossing? I’ve got a couple of photos of it here. (The photos are about in the middle of the post.) The last time I went that way, it still was there: amazing, really, since they’d had a pretty good flood in the meantime.
I remember pinking shears!! Besides the sort of pinked edges, the flower looks like a pinwheel with this view and the light is very satiny. With flowers or shells there can be a common geometry.
That geometry’s appealing, isn’t it? The flower does look as though it could spin, although I had pinking shears on my mind when I selected it. It was one of those nice, serendipitous comings-together: Brad’s post about the shears, and my memory of the flower. It’s funny — and delightful — how often that happens. This one surely does call to mind a starfish, don’t you think?
Such a lovely image. That reminds me of the flowers you used to see on ladies’ Sunday church hats in the spring – deep rich colors and that texture.
Now that you mention it, I can feel that fabric — or whatever it was those flowers were made of. Now I’m wondering why pastels were the colors of choice for us as young girls, while the ladies got to wear those magentas and such. Maybe it was their version of ‘when I get old, I will wear purple.”
Okay, I’ve known the words pinking shears forever, Linda, but didn’t know how they were used. I’m sure my mother had a pair, which I don’t remember. But I do remember the pinks she grew. Gorgeous flower photo, BTW. –Curt
Fabric edges that are pinked sometimes unravel, but the length of any threads that do so are much, much shorter. It’s a way to finish the edges of fabric. I still have a couple of garments my mother made where the fabric’s pinked along the inside seams. I’ve never paid much attention to pinks-the-flower, but I’ve been told they might do nicely on my shady patio. I might buy a “test pot” just to see.
You might say, pinks on the patio for the sheer joy of it.
I remember my mother’s pinking shears and the various patterns she would use them on. This opening winecup is gorgeous with such rich deep color, and I love the way you’ve photographed it. As you know, I like flowers with frilly or fringed edges such as the fringed gentian.
The color’s beautiful, isn’t it? I have another photo of this flower that’s taken from the side, and while it’s pretty, it’s not as striking as this one. I do remember those frankly frilly and fringed flowers you have. This one’s frilliness is a little more subtle, but we do what we can!
I was certainly non-plussed when I heard this explanation for the common name. Makes sense, though.
So many botanical names seem obscure or just plain weird to me, until I explore a little. I’d always assumed that the-flower-pink was named for the color pink, but it seems the color’s just a bonus. Purple or white pinks are perfectly find, just like white or red bluebonnets.
My sisters all learned how to sew, so I’m familiar with pinking shears and the “don’t be cutting paper!” routine. But I never knew why “pinking” either, interesting stuff.
Beautiful flower. Seems like I’ve seen tulips do that a little, but not so nicely.
It is a gorgeous flower, but catching it at just the right time to get a photo like this probably requires luck — or a lot of time to hang around watching the flowers. I have seen some fringed tulip hybrids, but I can’t remember what their opening looks like. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a tulip!
I really like the bird’s eye view angle (or top-down view) of the shot. It’s really nice to see the detail of the ‘shears’ which are particular to Dianthus. Great link also, thanks. The only one I’ve shot is the ‘Sweet William’ and it’s not even native.
Too many top-down shots can be boring, but sometimes one is just right, as it was here. I just may try growing some dianthus. The Houston gardeners say they like morning sun, but prefer afternoon shade, and I can provide that. If I don’t have too much shade,they should do fine.