Sweet peas are a favourite of many gardeners for their scent and early colour. I found growing them from seed last year was a surprisingly rewarding experience. So this year I am branching out with some Cupani and Skylark as annual and sowing some of the Everlasting perennial variety which will flower next year.
I started them off from seed on the windowsill in a plastic propagator – they tend to germinate quickly usually 7-10 days and you’ll see a bright green shoot. There are many opinions on whether you should soak the seeds overnight or chip a small cut with a knife into the ‘eye’ on the seed – I’ve tried both and am unconvinced either speed things up! Take off the cover when they are a couple of cm’s tall and just keep them watered. If you are starting them in cells – But sweet peas grow quick, I started this years first batch on Jan 23rd and they are already 15-10cms tall. Last year i just did one sowing, but this year I am doing 2 sowings 4 weeks apart to prolong the flowing season
The trick is to pinch out the stems before they get too tall and leggy, so pinch off the tops with a knife when the second set of leaves appear. This will help them grow side shoots so they produce more flowers. Keep them on a windowsill and acclimatise them to outside temps gradually. Last year I planted mine outside in mid march and they survived fine – so i think half of the battle is luck with the weather!
They need support and ties initially, but they produce little tendrils that twirl and grab onto any support (and each other) and they will support themselves after an initial leg up. We made a frame from bamboo canes and pea netting that worked a treat, although they got so tall we had to extend it! But this year I will space them out more and try them against walls and trellis to intersperse their sent around the garden.
Once they start flowering by May, I found that cutting the flowers and deadheading (feels a bit endless!) continues to encourage the plant to keep producing flowers, rather then letting them grow the seed pods (which do look like peas – the same genus. I often pottered out there on a weekend and filled jam jars, pots and vases in every room with the lovely flowers.
As a rewarding annual flower you can’t get better than sweet peas – but they do need ripping out when they start to die back and stop producing flowers – a sad sight! Let hope it wasn’t just beginners luck and this year the sweet peas are as stunning…