HOW TO GROW SWEET PEAS

Heady fra­grance and colour make these a gar­den favourite

Amateur Gardening - - News -

Ajar of sweet peas car­ries the essence of a sum­mer’s day, and will per­me­ate a room or pa­tio with de­li­cious scent. With a wide range of colours and a giv­ing na­ture, these cot­tage gar­den favourites pro­duce stem after stem of blooms.

They were al­most made for pick­ing, be­cause flow­ers must be re­moved be­fore pods form – oth­er­wise, the plants think their job is done, close the flower shop and set­tle down to form seeds. The more you pick, the more flower buds they will make. Sweet peas don’t have a long vase-life, but by the time one lot has faded, there will be more to gather.

Whether grow­ing from seed or plants, you should plan early, for sweet peas grow best in the cool of spring and early sum­mer. Es­tab­lish­ing young plants dur­ing a heat­wave can be hard work, yet they will take off and per­form well as long as there is plenty of deeply cul­ti­vated, well-con­di­tioned soil un­der their roots, and plants are thor­oughly and reg­u­larly wa­tered.

Many grow­ers will sow their seeds into deep pots or mod­ules dur­ing au­tumn, so young plants set out in March grow away quickly. Sow­ing un­der glass in Fe­bru­ary and March, or mak­ing di­rect out­doors sow­ings in april works well. If pot-grown plants look ‘leggy’, pinch out grow­ing tips on stems longer than 4in (10cm). Plants are avail­able dur­ing spring and best planted promptly against sup­ports.

The largest, frilli­est sweet pea blooms be­long to the Spencer va­ri­eties. Grown well, these have the po­ten­tial to pro­duce long stems of colour­ful and per­fumed flow­ers, good enough to win prizes. You could grow one cul­ti­var for a sim­ple colour scheme, mix two for a blend­ing or con­trast­ing ef­fect, or opt for a mix­ture.

There are also dain­tier, old-fash­ioned and very sweetly fra­grant Gran­di­flora va­ri­eties. Their stems tend to be shorter, and although each bears fewer flow­ers than the Spencer kinds, there are al­ways plenty of them. Low-grow­ing va­ri­eties are use­ful for con­tain­ers, and where height is not re­quired.

Sweet peas are easy to grow from seed, sown one per long mo­d­ule. Ger­mi­nate in an un­heated green­house

Sweet Pea ‘Duo Salmon’ is a frilly, long-stemmed Spencer type

Lathyrus odor­a­tus ‘Matu­cana’, a clas­sic Gran­di­flora sweet pea with dis­tinc­tive ma­roon and vi­o­let blooms

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