Sweet peas

I have a new floral obsession. This is the first year I’ve grown Sweet Peas and I’m officially hooked. My wonderful book, The Origin of Plants, tells me that Lathyrus Odaratus came to Britain in 1699 by way of a Scillian monk. Since then, we’ve taken them to our hearts. They’re easy to grow, come in a staggering range of colours and patterns and, if you get the right ones, have the most incredible scent. Who wouldn’t want them in their garden? To add to that, if you collect your own seed, then there’s also the pleasure of watching each year as you roll the dice to see what you get; something I’m really looking forward to.

Sweet Pea Anniversary.

I ‘helped’ my Mum grow Sweet Peas as a little girl and I’ve used them in flower arrangements – the scent makes for a fantastic addition to a wedding bouquet – but this is the first time I’ve had a chance to have them in my own garden. I don’t think I’ll be going back. They’re planted in a row along the side of the veggie bed and we erected supports using a jute net, tied to two wooden struts (2m tall) that are screwed into the raised bed frame at either end. Plastic netting is another alternative, but I much prefer avoiding plastic if I can and jute works perfectly well. It’s easy to source in most garden centres, or online suppliers like Sarah Raven provide them. The end result is something that looks a little like football net, but it’s fast becoming covered in beautiful pea green tendrils and stunning flowers.

My son, helping to tie the jute netting.
Sweet Peas climbing up a jute net.

This year I went for two mixes from Sarah Raven, who has a wonderful range. I wanted them all, but eventually settled on Opal Mix and Venetian Mix. The former is a gorgeous combination of the gentle white Mrs Collier, the softly pink-tinged Anniversary and the stunning double-toned pink of Painted lady. The latter includes the rich burgundy of Dark knight, the deep velvety blue of Lord Nelson and the beautiful burgundy and blue-purple combination of Matucana. I seem to have got a couple of other things in for the bargain, though that is meant to be par for the course where Sweet Peas are concerned, as they cross so easily and can revert to previous forms from seed.

Sweet Pea Matucana.
Sweet Pea Lord Nelson.
Sweet Pea Anniversary (left) and what looks a little like Whiltshire Ripple (right).

Further fuel for my new-found love of these beautiful flowers came from a visit to the wonderful Easton Walled Gardens in Lincolnshire. It’s well worth a visit and I hope to post more in future, but the main attraction at this time of year is the glorious Sweet Peas.

The Sweet Peas at Easton Gardens.
The stunning red Sweet Pea Winston Churchill (left).

They’ve experimented with around 50 varieties at Easton and the results are spectacular. It certainly makes me wish I had that much space to grow them! Having said that, even with a relatively small number of plants, it’s possible to have a glass or two of these beautiful flowers every week at the moment and the scent makes a wonderful addition to the house. I’m planning to save some seeds for next year to see what I get and I think I may be tempted by a mix or two from Easton as well. The great thing about these plants is, because they climb, they produce a lot for the space they take up in a moderately-sized garden. So, although it may take some planning, I’m pretty sure I’ll be finding room for even more Sweet Peas next year…

Fresh cut Sweet Peas (with a little Scabious) on the kitchen table.

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