Salisbury, MD. There are English peas (the shelled kind you buy by the bag at the supermarket) and there are Sugar Peas (by whatever name you call them). Both kinds are delicious and good for you. There is a third kind of pea that the Gardening Grannies universally adore and that is the inedible Sweet Pea. Despite the fact you can't eat them, their unique blossoms and heady scents more than compensate. Many people claim the scent is reminiscent of orange blossoms or honey.
One thing for sure, there are as many types of Sweet Peas as there are personal preferences. Sweet Peas are a wonderful late spring flower that lends itself to large or small bouquets. The larger flowered types generally have less or no fragrance. What you give up in scent, you get in size. Scents of the smaller flowered types range from light to pungent. The colors run the gamut from the whitest of pure whites through pinks, salmons, garnets, lavenders and the deepest of purples. The size and style of the plants are available from two foot tall bush types to the more common three to six foot climbing varieties. Sweet peas are annuals and grown from seed. Descriptions on the seed packets include this key information, so you can purchase with confidence. If your preference is for ruffled, think Spencers and if scent if your thing go for the Old Fashioned series. There are actually hundreds of types of Sweet Peas, so we're absolutely certain that there is one that is perfect for you.
When deciding which Sweet Pea is right for you, think about where you will put the cut flowers. Do you want large bouquets in the center of a table or smaller ones on the nightstand to remind yourself or someone special of the wonders of gardening? What colors will best compliment the colors already in the room? How important is the intensity of the fragrance? Once those issues are decided, the rest is easy.
Because Sweet Peas grow up, no garden is too small. Sweet Peas are indiscriminate in what they will climb up, with tendrils that will cling to most anything. The Gardening Grannies like to use stiff bird netting stretched between garden stakes for them to scramble up and over. Some years, at the end of the season, they clean up the plant debris and re-use the netting but most years they just pull the stakes, roll up the netting and toss it into the trash can.
As with most flowering plants, Sweet Peas prefer lots of sunshine. There is one big "however" that goes along with that: if you get a hot spell in late spring (think the last week and this), the blossoms will fare much better if they get afternoon shade. Granny Griffith's Sweet Peas are planted in full sun this year, so she makes sure she picks them nearly every day. This practice ensures that the blossoms last longer and that the plants will continue blooming later in the season. Sweet Peas are a gardener's favorite because the more you pick, the more you get. Eventually, the heat will win out and they will cease blooming but you can delay that by picking at least every other day and keeping consistent moisture.
If you plan to grow smaller varieties like the ones shown here, you can use a single stem in one of the miniature vases and it will carry it off quite well. The vases shown are a mere 4 or 5" tall and require only a stem or two to present a lovely scent and balanced appearance. Make a note, gardeners. If you didn't grow them this year, start planning for next!
The Gardening Grannies are a group of avid and Master Gardeners who live, love and garden on the Delmarva Peninsula. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.