When I envision Sweet Peas, a sultry smelling, elegantly draped, visibly delicate, decadent blooms at the tip of a fragile stem. I also think of its reputation and strength to have been around for over 300 years and is still a mainstay in the floral industry. Father Franciscus Cupani is the one who found this in the wild fields of Sicily and sent seed off to various people and places to share. One of the places Father Cupani sent seed off to was England. The Cupani strain is the oldest Sweet Pea documented in history. I have found that there is a bit of controversy about this. Thankfully over time Henry Eckford and his son introduced new cultivars with stronger capabilities for lasting scent, heights/forms and scents. I simply love the flower in its many forms and it’s amazing fragrance.
How and when does one grow these seductively fragrant blooms that make excellent bouquets??? Timing is everything. Depending on where you live, early spring, as soon as the ground can be worked is advisable. Lathyrus odorata can take a bit of light frost. If you soak the seed overnight to soften its outer coating, perhaps the 10 -25+/- day germination time can be shortened…however there will be some that may not sprout until they are ready. The other option is to nick or file the coating to allow moisture to penetrate slowly…some say that this increases the odds on germination. Once the seeds have sprouted, by pinching the central part of the plant, side shoots will form, increasing the amount of bouquets one can make. The average Lathyrus odorata ranges in height from 3 – 6 feet. Support is required allowing the tendrils to wrap and weave, propelling this vine to new heights. It is very important to keep moisture at a consistent level as the native vine/plant was found growing in a marshy but sunny area. To keep sweet peas blooming and growing during the heat of summer, a bit of afternoon shade can help – as well as consistent moisture.
What can ruin your sweet pea crop? Aphids can b a problem and when allowing the vines to lay on the ground, slugs can make these plants a mere memory. Inconsistent watering and lack of fertilizer (every two weeks is recommended) can also make Sweet peas a mere memory early in the garden season. Lathyrus odorata is like a grand dame, without the required attention, she can be merely a figment of your imagination. Treat her right and wow what a treat to have a bouquet of blooms, the fragrance wafting through your rooms on a sunny summer’s day!
Lathyrus odorata, commonly known as the Sweet Pea…YOU CAN GROW THAT!!