The original Sweet Pea ( L . odoratus ) came to Britain from Sicily in 1699, but it was not until the Victorian era that the tall garden varieties in a multitude of colours appeared. The range of colours and heights has continued to increase, but some of the old-fashioned fragrance has been lost. The Sweet Pea is an easy plant to grow, producing several dainty flowers on each stem and armfuls of blooms for indoors. There are a few points to remember – prepare the site properly, soak black – seeded varieties overnight before sowing, pinch out the tops when the plants are about 4 in. high, provide support for the tendrils and water thoroughly in dry weather. Regularly remove dead blooms.
VARIETIES : For tall plants and large flowers choose Spencer varieties. if you are growing for exhibition, as tendrils and side-shoots. For garden display choose a highly fragrant variety and grow the plants over a wigwam of canes or against a frame of trellis or netting. First class Spencer varieties include ‘ Air Warden ‘ ( orange – scarlet ), ‘Winston Churchill ‘( crimson) , ‘ Leamington’ ( lavender ), ‘White Ensign ‘ ( white ) and ‘Mrs R. Bolton’ ( pink ). The Hedge varieties such as ‘knee-hi’ and ‘Jet Set’ are much more compact, growing about 3 ft high and needing little support. The 1 ft high Dwarf varieties need no support at all – look for the name ‘Bijou’, ‘Snoopea’, ‘Patio’ or ‘ little Sweetheats’ on the packet.
SITE & SOIL : Any well-drained garden – choose a sunny, open position. For exhibition blooms, deep digging and the incorporation of bulky organic matter are essential.
PLANT DETAILS :Height 1 – 8 ft. Spacing 6 in. – 1 Flowering period June – October.
PROPAGATION : Sow in pots in October and overwinter in a cold frame – plant out in March or April. Alternatively sow outdoors in March or April.