“In 1699 a Sicilian monk called Franciscus Cupani sent seeds of the local wild sweet pea to his friend, English schoolmaster Dr Robert Uvedale. This was the beginning of a love affair between gardeners and sweet peas that continues to this day”. (1)
Over the centuries sweet peas have been crossed and hybridised to create a wide range of shapes and colours, yet at a cost to the strong perfume sweet peas exude.
If you want to grow the 'authentic' sweet pea as nature first designed them, look for the 'Original Sweet Pea' seeds by Yates. A small, bi-coloured flower with an intoxicatingly strong scent, this darling sweet pea is truly special and brings back memories of grandma's garden.
WHEN TO PLANT?
Sweet pea seeds should ideally be sown in Australia on St Patrick's Day (March 17). Not law mind you, but a good guide to follow! Essentially February, March and April are the months to plant.
If you live in hotter climates, waiting until April or May when the soil has cooled down may be wise. Seed packets are available at your local nursery or garden centre from late summer. Seedlings are available from mid autumn.
WHERE TO PLANT?
Sweet peas like sunny positions (a good six hours of sun) with good drainage. Most varieties require some support for climbing, and prefer an east-west orientation to get as much sun as possible.
Before sowing, add some complete fertiliser to the garden bed, and in the majority of areas a small amount of dolomite lime (a soil pH test of pH6 is pretty close to ideal, if it is was pH5, you would be adding dolomite). Water the soil well the day before planting and sow in a moist bed, 20cm apart and 2cm deep. Try to avoid watering again until the seedlings have emerged. When young seedlings appear, poke some little sticks int he ground to help guide them to their climbing support.
WHEN TO PICK?
Sweet peas grow and flower during winter and are picked in spring. It is lovely to enjoy the colour and fragrance of sweet peas growing in your garden, but if pods are allowed to form it sends a signal to the plant to stop flowering. So once flowering, pick and enjoy! Picking early in the morning for the best perfume.
Once they have finished flowering, dig the spent plants into the soil where they will add extra goodness.
Note: Sweet peas can suffer from powdering mildew fungus, so use a Rose Gun Advanced to control both fungus, as well as insect pests and mites.
VARIEITIES OF SWEET PEAS
Yates has two new sweet peas – Pink Diana and May Gibbs Sweet Pea Fairy – in its range this autumn. The former is a long-stemmed, fragrant pink and the latter a ground-covering, pink and white bicolour.
The most popular Yates sweet pea is Colourcade, a cheery blend of mixed colours. It blooms early in the season, thus avoiding any late spring hot spells. Bijou is a popular, low-growing (to 60cm) variety that suits smaller gardens. Pixie Princess is a tiny sweet pea that doesn’t need support and looks at its best in an attractive container. There are many other sweet pea varieties available in the Yates range so it’s worth checking out the autumn seed stands.