Saturday, 21 September 2019

Sweet Pea

Flower of the Month - September 2019

High Scent, bred by Dr Keith Hammett
KINGDOM:  Plantae

FAMILY:  Fabaceae

GENUS:  Lathyrus

SPECIES:  L. odoratus

The sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) is a flowering plant in the genus Lathyrus in the family FAbaceae (legumes), native to Sicily, Cyprus, southern Italy and the Aegean Islands.

It is an annual climbing plant, growing to a height of 1-2 metres where suitable support is available. The leaves are pinnate with two leaflets and a terminal tendril, which twines around supporting plants and structures, helping the sweet pea to climb. In the wild plant the flowers are purple.     Wikipedia

Bring your favourite for the competition table on Saturday 21 September 2019.

Cultural Notes

Sweet peas are perhaps one of our most favourite plants to grow from seed in our gardens - usually for their heavenly perfumed flowers. They have been planted for hundreds of years but as gardeners we need to be careful because there are so many modern cultivars that have been bred without fragrance (much like roses), so care should be taken to read the label carefully to ensure you are buying what you really want.

Sweet peas in Australia are planted in Autumn - they grow and flower through the latter part of winter into spring. Select an open sunny aspect, with excellent drainage and an ideal pH of around 6.5, which is fairly close to ideal for them. Two weeks before sowing enrich the soil with a fertiliser that DOES NOT contain copper (it is a fungicide and will kill the rhizobia on the roots).

A trellis is needed to train the sweet peas - strings, wire netting, fencing, trellises and tuteurs. Since their tendrils can't climb on anything more than 30cm in diameter, it is best to wrap twine or netting around thicker poles so that the vines can grip. This support is best constructed before planting.

When sowing seed soak them overnight in warm water. They will swell to around five times their normal size, germination will occur quite quickly, particularly in light soils. 

Plant the seed 20cm apart and 2cm deep to encourage lateral branching and quality cut flowers. If you are growing blooms for exhibition, prune off the laterals and plant closer to encourage a single stem with larger blooms.

For an excellent article on sweet pea breeding and some gorgeous images please visit this GardenDrum article.

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