Sweet, Sweet Peas
Naming my favourite ever flower isn't easy for me. I find I love whatever is in season at that particular time. Growing seasonally and enjoying things seasonally makes sense to me and I always have something to look forward to. However, the Sweet Pea does have a special place in my heart. There's something of a contradiction with this flower. It's delicate and fragile yet has a scent that can bowl me over. It's pretty small and unassuming on it's own but climbs with a vigour and tenacity that belies it's tiny stature. Yes, the sweet pea knows it's own mind and is comfortable in it's own skin.
It's quite hard to find sweet peas in a high street florist because of their relatively short vase life and they are difficult to transport due to their delicate stature. If you do see some you will probably be disappointed that they have little or no scent. This is because growers tend to grow the varieties with larger heads and thicker stems but at the expense of fragrance. Grow some yourself and choose the old fashioned scented varieties and experience the true sweet pea as it's meant to be.
I have grown the Solstice variety this year for the first time. This variety is quite happy to grow and flower in the shorter days of Autumn and Winter. I'm aiming to have some sweet peas to pick in the green house in July. Can't think of anything more uplifting than a Spring Flower to pick in the cold months of winter! Growing sweet peas is a cinch as long as you remember one thing - keep the seeds away from mice! Mice adore newly germinating sweet peas as much as I adore Turkish Delight. I therefore start my seeds off either inside the house or on the veranda outside. I never use the green house because it's on the mouse map and they often pop in to see what's on the menu.
Once your seeds have germinated you're probably safe but err on the side of caution. Nothing more heart breaking than a freshly germinated tray of seedlings disappearing in the middle of the night because a mouse had an attack of the munchies.
As soon as your sweet peas have four sets of leaves pinch out the top with your fingers. This will encourage them to branch out and produce stocky plants rather than spindly, feeble ones. I then plant my stout little fellows into a well prepared bed in the green house (for winter flowering sweet peas). Make sure you organise a support structure before planting. A net will do nicely. You can grow sweet peas up a wigwam of canes. This works well but I prefer using a vertical net because they are much easier to pick and the stems tend to stay straighter. Sweet peas like lots of organic matter and they like to stretch their roots so dig deep to make sure the soil is nice and loose for those gossamer thin roots to burrow into. Tie the stems to the net as they grow. Once they are established they will wrap their slinky little tendrils to the net and support themselves. Clever little buttons! One other Golden Rule is to keep picking. If you let the plant go to seed and develop seed pods the plant will think it has done it's job and needs to make more seeds. Keep picking and the plant will think it needs to make more in order to make seeds. Plant psychology! Whatever you do and however you grow them enjoy this exquisite little beauty.