Friday, 13 December 2013

Sweet Peas

Is anyone else growing Autumn-sown Sweet Peas? The other day I found a pack of Sweet Pea seeds that had come as a freebie with some magazine or other, and I thought I might as well try them. I haven't grown Sweet Peas for many years. I think I probably only tried them once or twice (with seedlings purchased form a Garden Centre), and they weren't particularly successful. But then in those days I was much less knowledgeable about gardening than I am now, so I might do better this time. (Here's hoping...)

The other day, when Sarah Raven sent me some Lettuce seeds to give away on my blog, I also received a booklet with lots of gardening advice in it, one part of which was about growing Sweet Peas, so I am using this as my guide.

The variety in my little packet was "Fragrantissima" (no illustration provided). It only had 14 seeds in it, so I sowed them 3 or 4 to a 3-inch pot, filled with multi-purpose compost, planning to separate them when bigger. I covered each pot with a small plastic bag and left them on a bedroom windowsill to germinate.

Germination took only a week. I was surprised by this. Sweet Peas are supposedly often hard to germinate, and pre-soaking them is often recommended. In fact, to be totally honest, germination may have taken place in less than a week, because when I checked them a week later several seeds had already germinated. I hurriedly removed the plastic bags and put the pots outside in one of my plastic mini-greenhouses. The Sarah Raven book says to put them in a coldframe or unheated greenhouse, with a temperature of 5C being ideal.

If I were to keep the Sweet Peas indoors they would go too leggy - I mean even leggier than they already are, like this one:

They really need to be under cover outdoors to encourage them to put on root-growth instead of stem-growth. When they have made three pairs of leaves I will pinch out their growing tips to force them to put out sideshoots so that I get sturdier plants with more stems.

This one is probably just about right:

How come these ones are so close together? I'm sure I sowed the (big) seeds evenly spaced around the pots. Can they walk?

So far 8 seeds have germinated, so there are theoretically 6 more to come. Even if they all grow, it won't be a lot, so I will probably transplant them in the Spring to a large pot and keep it on my patio. If the name is anything to go by, they should have a nice strong perfume, so hopefully we will be able to bring a few bunches of them into the house so that we can enjoy their fragrance at close quarters. That's still a long way off though!


  1. Hi Mark.
    You look very handsome in a batik shirt.
    Not that easy to grow sweet pea in Malaysia lowland unless it is butterfly pea.
    But I am going to try my best to get the king tut pea to grow and bloom for me :) .

  2. I love the scent of sweet peas. I wait to sow mine in spring now, I've had much better results with them than sowing in autumn. I think it's because I hang on to them too long before planting them out.

  3. I've never grown sweet peas, though I know those who love them. If it has the name pea and it is in my garden I want to be able to eat it. I really ought to get over that though as I love fragrant flowers.

  4. It's lovely to be able to sow something in the dark winter months. I've tried autumn sowing in the past and it worked fine. I haven't sown any this year though, I shall wait for spring I think.

  5. I grow them every year and have for many years now. They are always autumn sown. It gives me something to look forward to; I never tire of them.

  6. I've never overwintered sweet peas but grow lots of them at the plot. This year I am splashing out on named varieties, Well not exactly splashing as they do come as part of a collection but are a bit more expensive than mixed packs,


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