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  • Debi Holland

Fagus Times Sweet Peas


In July's Fagus Times Issue 17 I discuss sweet peas; plant of the month for Fagus Gardening Club's 'Fagus Times.' Fagus President Mary Payne MBE.


There is nothing more evocative than the smell of freshly cut annual sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) and with so many varieties to choose from, you can feel like a kid in a sweet shop! Spencer types tend to have large frilly flowers and long stems and Grandiflora are highly scented. Many modern varieties are bred to combine both.


So why are Sweet peas called sweet peas? The Latin Lathyrus actually comes from the Greek word for pea, lathyros, and odoratus means fragrant. These brightly coloured annual climbers symbolises kindheartedness; I wonder if this why we all feel compelled to share them with friends?


There is a wide choice of colours and scent, from plain to stripy pictoée edges or flakes, dwarf for containers or if annuals seem too much hard work, grow the prolific scentless perennial sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius).

For intense scent try Lathyrus odoratus 'Matucana' reportedly the strongest scented sweet pea in the world! ‘Hi Scent,’ ‘Lipstick,’ ‘Almost Black’ and ‘Painted Lady’ also pack a punch …and of course who can resist ‘Percy Thrower?’


The key to a long floral display is keep cutting. Sweet peas continue flowering if they are cut and will stop if go to seed. Extend your season by keep filling your vases with sweet peas! But what’s the secret to long straight stems? Cut off clinging tendrils, this will stop stem distortion. Feed with organic liquid seaweed, comfrey or a high-potash tomato feed to boost blooms.


Growing from seed is a cost effective way to fill your garden with blooms, sowing seed October – November or January - April but plugs and established plants are also a great way to get instant colour or see if a kind gardening friend will give you a bunch!



All photos © Debi Holland