The Climbing Sweet Pea is a beautiful scented old English garden favourite. It is often called the "Queen of Annuals".
The first seeds were introduced into England at the end of the Seventeenth century and it has been popular ever since. The head gardener at Althorp - (the stately house of the Earls of Spencer and the home of Diana, Princess of Wales from 1975.) – developed the Spencer sweet pea in the early part of the twentieth century.
There are many cultivars of sweet peas but the old fashioned ones such as Lord Nelson and Painted Lady for me, are the best, as they retain that marvellous delicate scent.
Though the first sweet peas had quite small flowers, they were incredibly strongly scented. You can still get hold of this old version called “Cupani" or "Cupani Original".
for seeds that are called antique mixed or similar.
Note that some of the newer varieties whilst having lovely big blooms have very little scent.
Sweet Peas are the ideal plant for whooshing up a trellis, a wigwag of sticks or they can be left to scramble through shrubs.
Plant some by your kitchen door or have a special patch just for cutting so you can enjoy that wonderful scent indoors.
Flowers straight from the garden especially sweet peas are supposed to reduce hangover symptoms, increase your feel good factor and even enliven libido.
What are you waiting for? Get some planted straight away!
How to grow
are hardy annuals and can be sown outdoors from March onwards.
They can be planted in pots in October and kept in a cool greenhouse over winter.
The seeds do best if you soak them in tepid (the temperature for a baby's bath) water for a day before you sow them.
If they are going to grow then after they will have germinated after 8 days. (Look out for mice if you have a greenhouse or cold frame as they look upon sweet pea seeds as a delicacy - so be warned!)
Children (or adults) should not eat the seeds as they can be poisonous if quite a number are eaten
I have always found that they are easy to grow as long as you give the roots a good space to grow and plenty of well rotted manure or garden compost. They do not like dry soil.
They like fertile, well drained soil sweet peas and plenty of room for their roots. So if you are planting by a shrub - plant away from the shrub's roots so they have space for their roots to grow.
Sweet Peas will do best in a sunny spot although they will tolerate a few hours of shade.
They grow quite fast and as they are a tendril climber (meaning they like something to cling onto) make sure you give them something to climb up or through.
Put in pea sticks either beside your seeds when you plant them or transplant them.
If you want bigger flowers then nip out the growing tip when they are about 4 inches high as this will encourage them to grow bushier and produce more flowers.
But you can just leave them to their own devices and you will still get a good crop of flowers.
Water well during dry spells.
Climbing sweet peas can grow to 10 foot.
You can grow climbing sweet peas in pots – just make sure the pot has plenty of room for their roots and use good fertile compost. Do not allow them to dry out.
Remember if you want your Sweet peas to keep flowering for longer
that you will need deadhead them(just nip off the dead flower before it develops its seed) throughout the summer.
This is a lovely job as their delicious scent surrounds you - and doesn't take long.
Towards the end of the season leave the flowerheads on and you will get long thin pods which will ripen - so you can gather your own seed for next year.
Look out for Grandiflora (old-fashioned) cultivars as the newer plants with larger blooms often have very little perfume.
Annie B Gilroy
is bright pink
has white flowers
is a light purpley blue
Lady Grisel Hamilton
is a gorgeous lavendar color
is a dark purpley blue
Mrs Walter Wright
is a deep lavendar.
These are just a few of my favorites.
Enjoy your Garden!