Sweet peas are nostalgic flowers and a cottage garden favourite. I am sure many of you have memories of your grandmother or mother growing sweet peas. The fragrance of these delicate blooms will bring you right back to the garden of your childhood.
I have been growing sweet peas, or Lathyrus as we call them in Holland, for four years now. And it was indeed my mother that got me into growing sweet peas. One day she came to visit me and gave me an egg carton filled with soil and sweet pea seeds. I put the egg carton on the windowsill and didn’t pay much attention to it. When she told me to put the seedlings in the garden, I did. I didn’t get many stems that first summer, but I did get hooked on growing flowers.
I love sweet peas. Their ruffled flowers are exquisite, their colours soft and muted. Pretty much the opposite of my other favourite cut flower: dahlias and their rich and vibrant colours. But then, I have so many favourite flowers.
Sweet pea show
Today was the opening of the sweet pea show and exhibition at Hoeve Ravenstein. This family run farm is part of the estate of Castle Groeneveld. It has a farm shop where they sell their own meat, along with vegetables from their garden.
There is also a cutting garden where you can pick your own flowers, including sweet peas! At the moment, there aren’t any other flowers yet. I discovered one dahlia.
A royal flower
Lathyrus was the favourite flower of late Queen Juliana (the grandmother of our present king). She had a wonderful collection of special varieties. The annual sweet pea show used to take place at the Palace and the palace gardeners won many prizes in exhibitions.
And the winner is…
The Palace Head Gardener now grows sweet peas at Hoeve Ravenstein so it’s no surprise they won first prize three years in a row.
How to grow sweet peas
There are many how-to’s on the internet. Floret Flowers has one, and so does Sarah Raven. Both are my heroines and their advice is valuable. But remember, there is no right way to grow sweet peas.
The Dutch Lathyrus Association has its own how-to-grow Lathyrus. This is the method I use. I will translate it for you.
- Sow in mid-February. You can soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before sowing but it’s not necessary.
- A week after sowing, seeds will germinate.
- Two weeks after sowing, seedlings are ready to be transplanted.
- A few days after potting on, seedlings can be hardened off.
- Plant them out somewhere in the beginning of May.
- Remove the growing tip
- Sweet peas need support. I grow them up a teepee.
- Tie them to the teepee regularly.
- Removing side shoots will encourage long stems and large flowers.
- You don’t want your plants forming seed so cut off any seed pods.
- For the longest vase life, pick when all flowers have opened.
- Put them in a glass vase with a little bit of water.