What is the most strongly scented Sweet Pea?
We could write a book on this subject!
There are a number of factors that affect our perception of scent in Sweet Peas
Weather – scent is always stronger on a warm sunny day – the essential oils warm and are released. Dull, cloudy, damp days hamper this process and so we notice scent less.
Age of the bloom – younger blooms release more scent. The flowers appear to produce a finite amount of scent and this is usually available for just two or three days before it is all gone.
Acclimatisation – not the blooms, but people! Our noses become used to the scent after spending a relatively short time in a room with them and the scent becomes less noticeable.
Age of the nose – often, as we age, our sense of smell is dulled or reduced and so we notice scent less!
Type of Sweet Pea – without going into great depth, there are a number of different essential oils available in Sweet Peas. However, not all of these are present in every variety. As a general rule (always dangerous!), Old Fashioned and Grandiflora types usually have a complex, spicy and consequently dominant scent. Whereas, Spencer types have a less complex, citrus type perfume.
In our experience, some of the most powerfully perfumed Sweet Peas include April In Paris, Albutt Blue, Matucana, Kingfisher and Sicilian Pink as well as many of the Old-Fashioned types. This list is far from complete.
A word of caution – we were driving home with a bunch of Kingfisher in the car and after a short time the scent became so overpowering that we had to open the window!
Our advice - grow a range of types and colours and enjoy a blend of scent (that is not too strong!)
Can I grow Sweet Peas in pots?
It is nearly always easier to grow plants in the ground, rather than containers. Reasons for this include, variable levels of moisture and the roots heating up. Both factors can cause erratic growth, reduction in the number pf blooms, short stems, susceptibility to disease.
But, if you need to grow Sweet Peas in containers, choose them to be as large as practicable and no less than 45cm diameter and 60cm deep. Use a good peat free multi-purpose compost to which some loam-based John Innes compost could be added to help with moisture retention and give it some “body”. Water regularly, never allowing the compost to dry out as it is difficult to encourage the plants to start growing again after a setback. Apply a balanced fertiliser weekly according to the packet instructions and remember than tomato fertiliser is good for flowers and fruit, but contains little nitrogen for growth.
Finally choose less vigorous types. Old-fashioned varieties and those in our Passion for Pots section are the easiest to grow in containers.
Obelisks, teepees etc make good supports for pot grown plants and a wide range is available.
Which Sweet Peas are best for cut flowers?
Generally, when asked this question, people tend to think of those with the longest stems. If this is the case, take a look at our selection of mainly Spencer types in the Fabulously Frilly Seeds section.
However, nearly all Sweet Peas are suitable for cut flowers. You can cut a length of the haulm (growing plant stem) and enjoy several flowering stems, one after the other. These are often known as “trails”.
Alternatively (and perhaps a little flippantly), find a slightly smaller vase to accommodate the shorter stems!
When can I sow Sweet Peas?
In most areas of the United Kingdom, you can sow Sweet Pea seeds anytime between early October and late April and grow plants successfully for a good display. By successional sowing, you can have Sweet Peas to enjoy outside from mid-May to late October, depending on the season and where you live in the United Kingdom.
For the enthusiast, we recommend a sowing in late October in a cold greenhouse or frame and another in early March.
How should I sow my Sweet Pea seeds?
There are many suggested ways to sow Sweet Peas. One of the most straightforward is to use two 1 litre (5”) pots for every packet of 10 seeds and sow half in each. Use a good quality, peat free, multi-purpose compost and mix in about 10% Perlite to prevent waterlogging and to encourage a good root system.
Fill your pots, or other containers with the compost mix and then soak thoroughly; allow to drain; then make five or six holes around your pot with a small dibber or pencil, about one to two centimetres deep; pop in the seeds and cover. You will not need to water again until the plants have germinated in usually less than two weeks. Cover the pots with newspaper or an empty compost bag to prevent the compost from drying, but check regularly and remove as soon as the seedlings begin to emerge.
Do I need to soak my Sweet Pea seeds?
To ensure that as many of your seeds as possible germinate and grow up to provide armfuls of flowers, we suggest that a little extra attention at sowing time will pay dividends.
Take a small tray or saucer and place a double piece of kitchen towel on it. Wet to make the towel fully damp, but not swimming in water. Place the seeds on top and put the saucer in a warm place, such as an airing cupboard. Check your seeds after two days. Any that have not swollen, may be ‘nicked’ with a nail file, to allow water to penetrate and begin the germination process. Your seeds may be sown at this stage. By spending time with this ‘chitting’ method, you ensure that all your seeds will grow at the same time and not be delayed, waiting for moisture to penetrate the hard seed coat.
Soaking can cause rotting of some varieties and so we would advise them above method.
What is going to eat my young seedlings?
Be wary of slugs and snails and probably the most troublesome pests are mice in these very early stages. Take steps to exclude them at all costs!
Can I sow my Sweet Pea seeds on a windowsill or conservatory?
The ideal position to place your freshly sown seeds is in a cold frame or cold greenhouse. Indoors, temperatures are too high and light levels too low, which quickly leads to tall, spindly, weak (etiolated) seedlings. From now on ‘treat them mean, to keep them keen!’
By that we suggest that you keep the young plants cool and provide as much light as possible. Sweet Peas are remarkably tough plants, as long as they have been acclimatised to cool conditions from the start. We have known them survive several weeks of temperatures as low as -10C. However, if severe frost is forecast, cover the seedlings with a layer or two or horticultural fleece or similar to be on the safe side.
When should I pinch out my Sweet Peas?
Shrouded in mystery and Sweet Pea folklore, pinching out is NOT essential. However, a rule of thumb will help if you decide to pinch to encourage bushy growth.
If sowing before Christmas, pinch the tips at the end of January. If sowing after this pinch once three pairs of leaves have opened. If you pinch too early, you will still end up with a tangle of overlong growth.
Do I need to wait until frosts are over before planting in the garden?
No. Sweet Peas are classified as hardy annuals, not half hardy like many bedding plants. As long as they have been kept cool in a cold frame or even against a sheltered side of the house, Autumn sown plants can be planted in the garden from mid-March in the South and towards the end of the month further North. Just make sure they are fully hardened off (acclimatised) before planting.
Can I use netting to support my Sweet Pea plants and how tall will they grow?
Sweet Peas can be encouraged to grow on many different supports, as long as their tendrils can twist and grab on. Netting, canes, obelisks, teepees or wigwams are just a selection of suitable supports. If you can find pea sticks, they often look the most natural in a mixed border. But netting may the most practical to grow a row for cut bloom in the cutting garden or veg plot.
Sweet Peas can grow from about 20cm to over 2m in height depending on the type you choose. The shorter types e.g. Cupid will need no support and the tallest, often Spencers, will appreciate a sturdy structure.
How can I ensure my Sweet Pea plants get off to a good start?
Between sowing and planting it is a good idea to prepare the planting position.
Nearly all Sweet Peas enjoy a sunny aspect. However, they also enjoy a rich, moisture retentive root run, so it is advisable to dig in plenty of bulky organic matter and mix in a good handful of Blood, Fish and Bone or similar, prior to planting out.
If growing in pots, make sure they are as large as possible for best results; no smaller than 40cm diameter and deeper still. Use a suitable peat free compost, feeding with a balanced fertiliser, once the plants are in full growth.
If you have used rootrainers, space the plants about 20cm apart. One litre pots, may be knocked out and planted with an intact rootball; two pots are sufficient for the average wigwam or obelisk. Just train the growth to cover the structure. These pots may be spaced around one metre apart in a row as well.
Once planted, water in thoroughly and rake precautions against slugs and snails.
Why do the buds on my flowers drop off before they open?
This phenomenon is usual apparent early in the season. An excess of moisture and widely fluctuating temperatures can cause the young plants to shed their buds; often known as “bud drop”.
Usually as the plants mature and the weather settles this problem will solve itself.
Why are the stems on my Sweet Peas so short?
Usually, the first stems to bloom are the longest. One of the reasons for this is that in early summer, temperatures are comparatively cool and the stems have slightly more time to lengthen before the blooms open. As the weather warms up the blooms try to open more quickly and there is less time for the stems to grow.
Availability of moisture also plays a big part in this phenomenon. Regular, thorough watering undoubtedly helps to keep flower stems long. However, be rather more sparing with water application early in the flowering season, as an excess can easily lead to bud drop.
Applying a mulch around the plants will also help to keep stems long. Drench the soil first before putting down a mulch of garden compost or well-rotted manure.