Vines and Other Climbing Plants

Sweet Peas - Lathyrus


Sweet Peas are not really peas at all, but if they are allowed to seed they produce what look like pea pods, although they must not be eaten. Most Sweet Peas that are grown are very quick growing annuals that are ideal for cut flowers and they are a true climber as they have tendrils with which to cling on. They can easily grow to 6 feet and more and are best grown up some sort of framed support such as a tripod, or wigwam made of canes to give easy access for cutting.

There are several gardeners tales about the best way to germinate Sweet Peas as they are not the easiest of seeds to germinate. Some people suggest nicking the seeds with a sharp knife, while others say soaking them in hot water eases germination. However, it is cheap enough to buy a pot full of seedlings from any garden centre and simply prick them out. Great care should be taken when potting them though, as Sweet Peas do not like their roots disturbed to the extent that it is recommended that special decomposable pots be used, so that they can be planted without removing them from their pots. Sweet Peas are deep rooted, so there are specially made deep, peat, or fibre pots for them. A cheap alternative is to use cardboard toilet rolls that will quickly rot in the ground as well. For best growth they need moist soil with lots of humus in it to retain as much moisture as possible in dry weather.

If flowering plants have their blooms cut regularly, some types will reward you with more flowers and this is true of Sweet Peas. Indeed if you stop cutting them they will quickly go to seed and stop producing any flowers at all.

There are many varieties of Sweet Pea advertised in gardening circles with the oldest being the Spencer variety. Some varieties have lost their scent altogether through breeding for better flowers, but some types are still highly scented. Seed packets will generally produce a mixture of plants with all the colours of the rainbow. However, some strains will be of a single colour and that is true of the uncommon, hardy, perennial, herbaceous variety that is little grown. Lathyrus Latifolius used to be just available in only one colour, a pale mauve, but now can be bought with red, white, or pink flowers. The “Everlasting Sweet Pea,” as it is commonly called, can be bought ready grown as a plant like any other herbaceous plant, or it can be grown from seed to flower the following year.

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