This year I grew sweet peas ‘Heaven scent’ in a large ornamental 12” plastic pot, up a small obelisk. They bloomed throughout the summer providing a constant source of fragrant colourful bouquets. Previously, back in October I had filled the pot with garden soil plus an additional sprinkling of granular fertiliser deep down to give the plants a reserve and liberally sprinkled over the seeds. I wasn’t sure how many would germinate, survive predation of slugs and snails or the cold and damp of winter months. Bravely most emerged and huddled together throughout the worst of the winter weather, in a sheltered corner of my garden.
Being fairly hardy they survived the winter and shot up in the spring, so I brought my obelisk into play. Soon I had to reinforce it with taller bamboo canes as the sweet peas flourished. It is said they don’t like the heat nor drying out, but, my goodness, I was kept busy with the watering can, giving the pot a good soak twice a week. Tying them in was a tedious task at first but they soon got ‘the hang of it’ and twined their tendrils around the canes, each other and anything else within reach!
Soon a glorious fragrance filled the air and I started religiously picking the stems – no great hardship. This regular picking of all the blooms encouraged them to keep on producing. As they are annuals, once they eventually finished flowering in late summer, I put the plants on the compost heap.
So what variety shall I sow this autumn? Well - in 1699 Fransciscus Cupani (a monk in Italy) sent seeds of Lathyrus Odoratus to Dr Uvedale in Enfield, most likely that of the variety now called ‘Cupani’. One of the first sweet peas grown in this country, it is still considered one of the best. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th C when Henry Eckford raised or bred ‘Grandiflora’ sweet peas with larger flowers and a wider range of colours but still with a scent. By 1900 Henry had raised more than a hundred different varieties.
A sport of one of his varieties emerged at the same time more or less in three different gardens – in Henry’s, at Unwin’s nursery and at Althorp, the country seat of Earl Spencer. A cross between Unwin’s wavy sweet pea and the ‘Countess Spencer’ produced the Spencer varieties with their long stems and large flowers. Although beautiful, sadly these have less fragrance. So I think I shall go for the old fashioned mixes and bury my nose in their heavenly scent.