Sweet Peas: Changing Our Ways

We have been sowing for next year's sweet pea trial. Over the years we have sown our sweet peas in spring but this year has proven we have to change our ways.

Seeds of Italy Sweet Peas 'PISELLO ODOROSO'

The first year we came to Pig Row I sowed a row of sweet peas direct, these were collected seed from Drovers, the name of the variety long lost but the scent remained. It just showed that in 2010 we had a wonderful warm summer, the garden then was truly open to the elements. We had no hedges planted until the winter of that year and the old laurel hedges had been removed in early spring. We gardened in a small section of the garden that now houses the glasshouse and raspberry bed protected by some rather bashed wind breaks. It is never a good idea to tie them to bamboo canes but this was a temporary bed and they did stand up to the elements for one glorious summer. So, in went my peas and sweet peas side by side and they flourished in the new bed, along with the rose willow herb that pushed up that first year too.

Our first growing bed at Pig Row in 2010

Those first sweet peas

When 2011 came around, the hedges were in and we were waiting to see if the hornbeam and hazel had taken. They largely did, we lost only 2 bare rooted plants out of 400. That wasn't a bad average and now with more beds in play for growing in, we wanted to bring in more bees, we wanted to do it quick and we needed to do it with sweet peas as they took up little room. I erected 15 wigwams that summer and I grew several varieties, including Miss Willmott, Winston Churchill, Beaujolais and Noel Sutton. They has been given to me in a mix pack at Christmas and I had been delighted to try new varieties.

Miss Willmott

That year, Miss Willmott won hands down. We sowed 4 huge trays of all the sweet peas and the germination rate for Miss Willmott was phenomenol, each seed that went in, came up and made strong, healthy plants that even then in a wet late spring showed their potential. They romped away and gave us vase after vase of flowers. Over summer we had them in every room in abundance and the more we cut, the more they came back.

Sweet peas in a vase 2011

However, in late 2011 we were hit by what I thought was an early winter. I discovered that year that summer at Pig Row was short due to the altitude (1100ft) we garden at. Summer comes in hot, when it comes, and goes out quickly. We are pulling up the winter drawbridge in August whereas many gardens will still being enjoying warm growing weather in late September or early October. You learn quick here that you have to think fast and be stubborn. What nature decides is your summer can be altered under glass. fleece and plastic. That first frost killed all my sweet peas before I could harvest the seed pods, try as I would; shows the stubborn side of me, those seed pods on Miss Willmott rotted. I was out of seed. I foolishly thought that I could find this wonderful seed in the catalogues, I couldn't. Maybe the mix seed packet had been a fluke. I turned back to seed given to me, and in 2012, one of the worst seasons on record we have had the worst sweet pea show. Therefore, we have now tracked down Miss Willmott to grow alongside our trial sweet peas, including Cupani (the original sweet pea variety) and rather than have only half a summer of sweet pea scent we are starting ours now and over wintering under glass. This is the first time we have done this and we'd love to hear off gardeners who do this regularly. Tell us your tricks, share with us all your wonderful knowledge. Join in our trial and grows yours now.

Sweet Pea Growing: Tales from Andrew in FebruaryWe are so happy that so many of you are emailing us your story of what you are sowing and your hopes for those seedlings. Please keep sending them in.

Sweet Pea Buddy Posts:
Sweet Pea Trial: Tales from Sian
Sweet Pea Trial: Tales from Cally

We ask that if you wish to blog for us about seed sowing that you let our readers know where you bought them and what varieties they are, unless you have saved your seed and no longer have that information. Thanks.

Opinions expressed here are personal. The seed packets from Sarah Raven and Seeds of Italy were received for free to review. Seeds from Dobies were purchased in 2012.