Saturday, 27 June 2009

Sweet peas

The scent of sweet peas is spicy and exotic - really heady, especially in the evening. The colour and texture of the petals is like oriental silk. Sweet peas hide under a reputation of belonging to Victorian ladies, but they're a full-on sensual treat.These are from a mixed packet by Thompson and Morgan called 'Elegant Ladies - highly fragrant heirlooms'. Half the plants look to be 'Matucana': bi-coloured flowers with blueish-purple wing petals and reddish-purple flags or standards (the two petals that stand up at the back of the flower).This variety is
particularly fragrant and free-flowering. It's thought to be an old one, close to the species, that was somehow naturalised in Peru (Matucana is a town there) and brought back by a Jesuit monk to Europe. Lathyrus odoratus originates in Italy, including Sicily.
There are many sweet pea cultivars with frilly edges, for instance, in a range of gorgeous colours (whites, pinks, blues, purples). My white ones are in a separate vase - they have a simple elegance that is entrancing.

Growing. Without a green house or a decent coldframe I can't sow sweet peas in October to get early blooms. I sow mine in April indoors and plant out mid-May. If you soak the seeds overnight, they don't take long to germinate. The seedlings get tall and floppy so I put them out, even though it seems to check their growth for a couple of weeks. This year I had some pea-sticks from a Surrey coppicer and placed these against a wigwam of canes. I also put in some climbing French beans which will have lilac flowers. Anyway, they were flowering by mid-summer's eve, which is good enough. They are half way up the wigwam and I am cutting regularly to keep more flowers coming. Once the flowers set seed the plant stops making new flowers. I hope to show you the wigwam in full glory next month.

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