Common name: Sweet pea
Botanical Names: Lathyrus odoratus
Origin: Eastern Mediterranean region from Sicily to Crete
Colours: White, pink, red, blue, cream
Sweet peas are a climbing plant with delicate flowers, they grow up to 2 metres in height. They have a heavenly scent and get their name from the Latin for fragrant ‘odoratus’. In the language of flowers their name represents ‘delicate pleasures’.
They have been cultivated since the 17th century and there are now hundreds of varieties. They are perhaps most well-known for the delicious ice cream sundae shades of pinks and cream. Although there are also stronger colours such as red and deep purple. There are also a number of dwarf bush varieties are that are suitable for pots and hanging baskets.
Sweet peas are easy to grow in your garden; the main thing they require is some form of support to climb up and a sunny position. They can be trained up a wigwam, cane or trellis. A beautiful wall or screen of sweet peas can be achieved by arranging canes in a line and attaching wire or net between them to create a surface for the plants to grow up.
Cutting the flowers encourage further flowers to grow, they will last 2 or three days in a vase. If you prefer to leave the flowers on the plant, remove any faded heads before they set seed, as this encourages a longer flowering period.
Cut flowers are available from March to November, they tend to last longer when grown commercially as they are treated to prolong their life. Commercially grown, cut sweet peas should last up to a week. If you are lucky enough to live near a grower, English sweet peas are beautiful. The pretty ruffled blooms are perfect for wedding work and provide a quintessential English garden feel. The delicate pastel colours also suit vintage wedding themes. As sweet peas have quite short stems they tend to be sold as loose flowers rather than arrangements, even a small vase of them will produce a divine fragrance.