Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Heaven scent

Bloomin' loverly
There can be no lovelier fragrance than that of the sweet pea. For most gardeners, growing sweet peas is in their top five if not top three list. Although they are not the easiest things to grow, few of us could imagine a summer without their delicious appearance, and June, July and August, possibly even May, depending on the weather, are months where bedrooms like mine are heady with the scent of the sweet pea.

As early as January you are asked to choose between smelly and pretty, a mixture is always good and as they grow in abundance over trellis or bamboo wigwams, you can go for a pick and mix. Getting the timing right is crucial as the seedlings mustn't be allowed to get too leggy, but putting them out before all danger of frost has past is vital. I have long-since adopted the method of putting them in the ground in clumps so as not to disturb the roots and then train them up separate canes.

I had a nasty moment when mine started to flower and for the first two weeks in June all I was getting was white blooms. Had I made a cock of it and only planted Cream Southborne? My fellow allotment neighbours kindly offered me their coloured blooms to cheer me up but no, as it turned out it just took the others a while to get into the groove. As you can see from the shot above they are in full flower now and my house is laced with exquisite bunches that literally, money can't buy.

Cultivated sweet peas are grown to last, to be uniform and not for scent. They are usually offered in single colours and can be lovely but nothing beats a handful of your own spiralling, random blooms all in shades of red through to gentle lime coloured whites, stopping of at every hue of pink and purple along the way.

They will always remind me of my Dad who grew them until the day he died, taking bunches into his surgery for the staff who worked there. After decades of experimentation he had favourite varieties and combinations,  as well as a perfected frame that maximised stem length a degree of sophistication I  have not come close to yet, but then I am new to this game.

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