by Ruth Syron
The sweet pea is a charming cool weather flower that is the April birth flower. It has a wonderful spicy, sweet scent that is delicate, yet substantial enough not to be missed.
The sweet pea symbolizes “thank you for a lovely time.” I think this meaning fits the scent of the sweet pea because experiencing the aroma is a fleeting pleasure, hard to describe, but you feel thankful that you have enjoyed it. The sweet pea also symbolizes blissful pleasure, delicate pleasure, good-bye and departure.
April itself is a month of change. It swings from winter to spring, with an occasional day that feels like summer—it’s also hard to describe. Sweet peas fit the mood of the month.
Growing sweet peas in the Buffalo area
Sweet peas can be planted now if you are able to work your soil. Sweet peas like a rich , well drained soil and full sun. Work the soil until it is easy to work with.
A small trellis or building for the sweet peas to climb up onto as they grow is necessary. The package will indicate how tall the plants will grow. Put in a trellis that will accommodate the sweet peas’ height as indicated on the package back. It is best to put up the trellis before the seeds are planted, so all is ready for the sweet peas when they start to grow.
Packages of seeds can be found almost everywhere now. Choose the color or colors you like and read the back of the package for specific instructions on the variety purchased.
Soak the seeds overnight in water or use a file to nick the hard shell on the sweet pea seed prior to planting outside in the soil. Make a shallow row, put seeds in, cover, and water the seeds. Then prepare to wait.
Do not allow the planted seeds to become dry, but keep soil moist and water as needed. It may be several weeks before the sweet peas make an appearance. If seeds are too heavily sown in the row, the sweet peas will come up too thick.
Then is the time to be ruthless and pull out weaker or smaller plants so the healthier and larger plants will grow better.
For the biggest sweet pea blooms, prune all shoots and tendrils from the plant except one. Start this process when the plant is very young. This will force the plant’s energy into a larger bloom. Because the tendrils are cut off as well, the vine will need to be tied to the trellis or wall to be able to grow upright. The bloom and stem will be larger and longer than if the plant is allowed to grow up naturally.
Store sweet pea seeds away from animals or children who may want to try eating them. If a large quantity is eaten they may be toxic, causing a neurological disorder called neurolathyrism.
Sweet peas make beautiful bouquets by themselves or in a combination with other flowers or greens. Their fragrance will make a whole room delightful, but not overpowered with their unique scent. Try growing a few for your own enjoyment and maybe share some with a neighbor–they will be glad you did.
Sweet Pea Trivia
- Sweet peas are native to Sicily.
- Popular as a decorative element on infants’ clothing and bedding.
- Used in wedding bouquets, past and present.
(Editor’s Note: If the leafy background in Donna Brok’s photos looks odd, it’s because the leaves don’t belong to the sweet pea; her sweet peas are weaving through blue Caryopteris. The sweet peas “were originally volunteers from my 92-year-old neighbor’s planting,” Donna said. “For 25 years they did not show up in my garden, but when she moved to a retirement home last year, there they were. It was like a gift from her. They were not planted, but found their way to my side of the fence. I planted the seeds from the pods to have them bloom at a time before the Caryopteris blooms. They bloom in succession. Since sweet peas are long blooming, they do coincide with the Caryopteris, ‘Blue Mist’.”)
Ruth Syron is a gardening enthusiast and regular contributor to the Medina Journal Register and Albion Advertiser.
Donna Brok writes the blog, “Garden Walk, Garden Talk.”