Plant This: Sweet Peas

When I ran into a massive wall of sweet peas (Lathyrus) during my first summer in Alaska, I knew I was home and wanted to have sweet peas in the garden. Although they’re not difficult to grow, I had to work at them for a couple of years before succeeding. The problem came from plant-ing the seeds directly into very cold soil; I didn’t get flowers until August. Finally I turned to locally revered gardener Evelyn Bush for help. She told me to sow the pre-soaked seeds, four or five to a four-inch pot, a few weeks ahead of planting out in mid- to late May. That advice made all the difference. Plant performance also improved when I started plumping up the sticky yellow clay soil with compost, but keeping the nitrogen level down.

In January, when it’s time to order seeds from catalogs, I always get stuck in the sweet-pea pages. I want them all, but I try to limit myself to six or seven (or eight) varieties. Two that make the final cut almost every year are maroon and purple ‘Matucana’, with a scent so strong that it can be detected several feet away; and ‘White Supreme’, for its highly fragrant cream-colored flowers that blend so well with all the other colors. ‘Royal Wedding’ is equally good.

For many years I qualified my affection for sweet peas by saying they were my favorite annual, but I can’t think of any other plant that I like more. At the risk of being treated like a pea-riah by plant snob friends, I’m going to go out on a tendril and declare them as my favorite flowers.

Related Posts:

  • No Related Posts

3 thoughts on “Plant This: Sweet Peas

  1. Along some of the highway areas in Ct. are perennial sweetpeas. I can remember them there for at least 40 years, but there is no place to pull over to collect the seeds as they grow along the banks of the road. I can’t find any offered in seed catalogs except for annuals. As a child I remember my grandparents having the perennial ones in pastel colors. Is there a source for them?

  2. I agree, they are one of my very favorite flowers! Just beautiful. I don’t see them all that much here in the New England area. I used to start them from seed but mysister found they already started in pots at some local nurseries, so we’ve been buying them that way and planting them in our garedens in Maine and enjoying them for several summer and fall months. She also came across a perrenial variety which has made in through the last few winters. The flower is slightly different and no scent but still very pretty. I hope to always be able to have them to enjoy.

Leave a Reply