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Sweet Peas: First Bloom of the Year...

    “Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight: With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white, And taper fingers catching at all things, To bind them all about with tiny rings.”

    -John Keats

    Botanical Name: Lathyrus odoratus
    Family: Leguminosae
    Ruled by: The element of Water and the planet Venus
    Magical properties: Friendship, courage & strength

      This morning I awoke to the sound of rain. Along with the rumbling purr of a happy cat, falling rain is one of my favourite sounds. As I pulled back the curtains to look out on the day I was delighted to see my sweet pea is now in bloom.

      This was especially important to me as last year I bought some sweet pea seeds from a local garden centre. I planted them and was shocked when sweet peas actually emerged! Not knowing how the whole propagation thing worked (duh!) I assumed I would have to buy more seeds this year. Imagine my delight when 2 months ago I started seeing the beginnings of a whole new sweet pea poking through the soil.

      It has now shot up to almost 1.2m and is a beautiful sight in my garden. Basically the seeds from some of the late blooming flowers last autumn went into the soil and presto….a whole new life began. Hurrah…….the magic of nature! Not being much of a gardener I am really pleased at how easy it has been to grow sweet peas. They are stunning plants which can bring magic to any garden.

      Here are some important and interesting Sweet Pea facts:

      • It is an annual climbing plant that can reach heights of 1-2 metres. Make sure you have something to support it. I have a stick but it has also wrapped itself around my Kilmarnock Willow Tree
      • Sweet peas come in a wide variety of colours; pink, red, white, purple and lavender
      • They like full sun and good deep, well drained top-soil
      • They benefit from regular deadheading but towards the end of the season keep some of the flowers to seed for the next year (that’s what I unknowingly did and it worked)
      • Sweet peas have been cultivated since the 17th century and the first sweet pea was introduced to England from Sicily in 1699
      • Their sweet fragrance is what gives them their name
      • There are different varieties including;

      Old Fashioned (these should be very fragrant)

      Spencer Cultivars (hardy with bright, bold colours but not necessarily fragrant)

      Bijou Group (Sweet scented variety that are suitable for containers)

      • Many gardeners call Sweet Peas the Queen of Annuals
      • Sweet Peas are long lasting as cut flowers but personally I prefer to leave mine in the garden!
      • They help attract bumblebees and butterflies to your garden

      IMPORTANT NOTE: Unlike most peas, the seeds of the sweet pea are poisonous, and should not be eaten. Sweet pea flowers are also not edible and are poisonous. According to the brilliant book ‘100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names’ by Diana Wells ( Published 1997 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill) , there is a medical term to describe sweet pea poisoning – lathyrism. Symptoms can include convulsions, paralysis in the legs and unconsciousness.

      So best leave the sweet peas to the bumble bees and butterflies!

      If you are interested sweet peas here are some helpful and informative sites: