Summer favourites – sweet peas

sweet-pea-garden

I have to admit that I’ve never picked sweet peas for the house before and I’ve only been growing them for a couple of years. I used to think the sweet candy coloured varieties that were popular years ago were sickly and a little kitsch but after buying a willow planter full of them two years back, I’ve changed my mind! So much so, I even started sowing the seeds for this summer back in November.

sweet-pea-close-up

My experiments with sweet peas:

A) November: Sowed a batch indoors, they germinated quickly and survived the whole winter on a windowsill. In the new year they went soft and leggy. Potted them on in February and moved them to the cold greenhouse, heating it at night. Mixed them into the willow planter with my next batch (experiment ‘B’ below) and I’m not entirely sure what happened to them?!

B) November: Sowed a batch straight into my willow planter inside the (very) cold greenhouse. Waited… At the end of January they started to come through, it took until March for them to look established but they were far tougher than the floppy things that had been inside the house. They flourished and flowered in May and they continued to flower until July when we went on holiday and they didn’t get watered. Being in a planter, with room for only shallow roots, the basket quickly dried out in the heatwave and expired.

C) April: Sowed tons of sweet peas in pots in the greenhouse. A very slow start and I vowed never to sow them again as they also grew leggy and soft. Planted them out not expecting too much….. boom! They grew and grew and are still growing. They’re very healthy plants and gorgeous colours.

Conclusion: I’ll sow again in November but I wont bother bringing them on early in the house. I’ll just leave them to their own devices in the cold greenhouse (B) because that did produce a very healthy crop in spring. I’ll also sow again in April (C),  the more the merrier in my opinion and I’ll get them outside a lot quicker to avoid them going soft and leggy, even though they recovered well once I’d planted them out. I’ll avoid the planter next year too because sweet peas do put down long roots if allowed and will spread and grow a lot bigger if they are planted into the ground.

collecting-sweet-peas

I do believe the continued success of the sweet peas has been my cutting. I’ve been cutting all the flowers off and by about 4 days later they are back and ready to cut again.

cut-sweet-peas

They attract a lot of greenflies, so I give my picked bunches a good shake. This seems to knock most of them off quite easily.

growing-sweet-peas

cutting-sweet-peas

I just love having freshly cut sweet peas in the house and I also just love cutting bunches. It’s such a nice, quiet and relaxing job to do in the garden and walking home with my bag full of flowers or a bunch in my hand feels wonderful!

sweet-pea-vase

sweet-peas

Do you grow sweet peas? Do you enjoy the ‘cut and comeback’ flowers they produce? When do you sow or plant yours out?

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59 Responses to “Summer favourites – sweet peas”

  1. Cathy September 7, 2013 at 8:21 am #

    I haven’t grown any for several years now, but do love their scent. I tried again last year, but mice ate the seedlings. :(

    • Anna B September 7, 2013 at 8:26 am #

      Oh no! Pesky mice! That’s such a shame. I’ve had mice in my shed but they don’t tend to eat my seedlings however, they’ve eaten other peoples peas so why they avoid me I do not know? The people who are ‘targeted’ by the mice try putting fleece down until the seedlings are really established and that seems to help. Thanks so much for dropping by Cathy! Hope you have a wonderful weekend :)

      • Cathy September 7, 2013 at 8:29 am #

        You too Anna! :D

  2. Jo September 7, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    You do have to keep cutting sweet peas for them to go on producting. I went on holiday and came back to a mass of seed pods, I thought that was the end of them, but I removed all the pods and they’ve gone on to produce more flowers. I love your purple and white varieties.

    • Anna B September 7, 2013 at 8:42 am #

      Hi Jo! Yes, you’re right, removing all seed pods is vital for them to continue flowering. You were lucky you came back to seed pods, mine were brown, frazzled and brittle stalks and were definitely very dead! I loved my holiday but I do tend to go away when we have the best weather here? Typical!! Thanks so much for your comment :) Hope you have a good weekend!

  3. home, garden, life September 7, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    Lucky you! I have never had any success growing these beauties. Kudos!

    • Anna B September 7, 2013 at 9:31 am #

      Hello there! I hope next year proves to be as successful as this one and then maybe I can inspire you to give it another go! Thanks so much for your comment :)

  4. Christina September 7, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    Sweet peas are my favourite cut flowers, I love their perfume. Many people use root trainer pots for sweet peas to allow the roots to grow properly.

    • Anna B September 7, 2013 at 9:33 am #

      Hi Christina! They are now my favourite too, so easy and when my vase is done I just go pick some more! Cutting them has been my favourite ‘job’ this year. I’ve seen those root trainer pots, maybe I’ll try some in those next year and do another experiment?! Thanks so much for your comment and I hope you have a good weekend :)

  5. croftgarden September 7, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    The scent of sweet peas takes me back to my childhood. I keep promising myself a packet of seeds, so I’d better get on with it and try to find a suitable planting spot, although I fear that my windy garden will be too hostile. So thanks for the nudge, I’ll have a go.

    • Anna B September 7, 2013 at 11:11 am #

      I found growing them from seed very easy and to be honest they are tough little things! They prefer a bit of cold wind to a warm spot – well at least that’s what I found anyway. Stake them up with canes to stop them blowing about. Really hope it works out for you if you do give it a go :) Thanks so much for dropping by! Hope you have a good weekend.

      • croftgarden September 7, 2013 at 11:15 am #

        Thanks, I’ll definitely have a try although I may have to cement the canes into the ground first!

  6. Caro September 7, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    Anna!!! Wonderful purple sweet peas! Gosh I wish I’d grown some – had the seeds but no time! I have a few weedy specimens on my balcony but I want SWATHES of sweet peas. Honestly, I need a bigger garden!! Are your plants in the sun all day? I may try putting a few wigwams between the fruit trees – at least they’ll have nice deep soil there! So lovely to see what you’ve grown and to hear about the growing trial … this is how we learn! Love it!! Hope you’re having a good weekend (getting dark in the evenings, isn’t it!) Caro xx

    • Anna B September 7, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

      Hi Caro, it is getting dark now yes and it rained all day yesterday and was dark in the morning…urhg! I did not want to get up!! I did have my planter in the shade and it’s when it got moved into the full sun (not naming any names but Adam moved it!!!) it dried out and died, plus no watering didn’t help. Like other peas I think they survive in a cool spot but like plenty of water and the flowers cutting off as soon as they bloom. The ones I planted out are at each end of a raised bed and one end is being completely swamped by my unbelievably wild and overgrown apple tree so I don’t think full sun is a requirement. Go for it! Shame about them not doing so well on your balcony, my next door neighbours used to grow them in a deep trough, but no bigger than 1M wide with canes along the back, they grew brilliantly but that’s when I didn’t like them. How foolish I was!!!! Hope you’re having a good weekend too, I’m off out into the garden right now :) xx

      • Caro September 12, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

        Thanks for this good advice, Anna – I always thought sweet peas needed sun but, thinking about it, yes, related to eating peas so enjoying a bit of shade. Right, wigwams between the fruit trees it is then! Hopefully, sweet peas will work to keep the weeds down, or maybe I’ll just have a carpet of chamomile! Enjoy your gardening – have you done the big autumnal tidy up yet? Cxx

  7. Charlie@Seattle Trekker September 7, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    They are pretty and they are interesting. I love having them in the garden. Your photos are very enjoyable.

    • Anna B September 7, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

      Hi Charlie! I’m glad you enjoy them in your garden too :-) thanks for your comment and I hope you’re having a great weekend!

  8. rusty duck September 7, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    I have to confess I’ve never grown sweet peas.. mainly because time is at such a premium. I love the idea of having a wigwam or two in the veggie garden though, specifically for cutting.

    • Anna B September 7, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

      Hi Rusty Duck! I’ve enjoyed it very much and have found it less time consuming than many other things in the garden. Especially the ones I set off in November, I just left them to their own devices for months! You really don’t need to sow that many seeds either for a good crop if you’re planting them into your veggie patch, in the ground they grow really quite big. When you have tons of other things to do in the garden though I know all too well that time can just run out. There’s loads of things I never got round to doing this summer! Thanks so much for dropping by :) I hope you’re enjoying your weekend.

  9. nataliescarberry September 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    Oh I love sweet peas. They used to grow all over southern California where I grew up. I tried some for a couple of years here in Texas and they bloomed for a while and then the summer’s heat did them in. Finally about 3 years ago I sowed some seeds and they bloomed and bloomed even into summer. After the vines fried and turned brown, I pulled them off the trellis they were climbing on and now for the second year they are coming back. They made it through last winter here but it was a fairly mild winter so we’ll see what this year brings. I am going to follow your lead and sow some in a planter and pt them in the greenhouse over the winter and see what happens. I love the colors of yours and could almost smell their luscious scent. Thanks for the lovely treat. Blessings, Natalie

    • Anna B September 7, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

      Hi Natalie! That’s interesting to hear about your encounters with sweet peas! So I guess the Texan heat confirms that they can survive it but possibly prefer things a bit cooler, like the wonderful temperatures in southern California. Thanks so much for your lovely comment :)

  10. nataliescarberry September 7, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    When you have a moment, would you explain to me what an allotment is? I’ve heard several of my readers in the UK talk about them, and I’m not sure I understand what they are and how that works.
    Natalie

    • Anna B September 7, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

      Hi Natalie, an allotment is basically a plot of land that you rent from your city / town / village council or private owner. Your plot will be one of a number of other plots on the same piece of land and they’re used predominantly for growing vegetables. They’ve become really popular in the UK over the past few years, gardening, self sustainability and living ‘the good life’ is something a lot of people now aspire to. I’ve not seen allotments in the states but I’ve seen similar setups in Vancouver in Canada, where they’re usually called community gardens. Hope this helps!

  11. Cathy September 7, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    I had almost decided not to bother trying again, Anna, as I have probably had only 3 or 4 plants surviving from the 2 packets I sowed, but perhaps I will give them a go and over winter them this year… I also grew knee high ones in pots – they grew well but did not flower well, possibly because they were in pots and not always watered regularly

    • Anna B September 7, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

      Hi Cathy, sorry to hear you’ve had a bit of a poor show. I’m not going to bother sowing in planters again and I do think they love water. Hope you get some better results if you do try them again. Thanks so much for dropping by :)

  12. CJ September 7, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

    I love sweet peas, but mine haven’t done well for the past couple of years. I sowed them in spring this year because I didn’t find any advantage in sowing the previous year. They seem to grow fairly quickly anyway. I love having them in the house too, wonderful.

    • Anna B September 7, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

      Hi CJ, sorry to hear yours haven’t done well recently. Funny how plants decide to behave differently each year. Last year some of the crops I’ve always considered totally reliable just failed completely?! I just think, oh well, there’s always next year! Thanks so much for dropping by :)

  13. Samantha Fernley (@Happyhomebird) September 8, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    I love sweet peas and have tried year after year to get the same standard that I see from one of the old timers on the plot who has a whole screen of them. I didn’t do too badly this year and that was from sowing in April. I’m looking for better varieties for next year as a cut flower as this year they were quite short/thin stemmed.

    • Anna B September 8, 2013 at 9:11 am #

      Hi Samantha! Try white supreme and kingsize navy blue from Thompson & Morgan. I also grew the mixed packets from seed parade. I’m glad you enjoy growing them too. Those allotment old timers have a few tricks up their sleeves don’t they. One at my plot grows amazing onions and another has the vest peppers ever. Sowing / planting early seems to be their secret. Thanks so much for your comment :)

  14. Linda September 8, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    This is the first year of growing sweetpeas in a home made wigwam of branches and like you we were away when they were at their best. However, once the seed pods were cut off they produced a good display of beautiful purple and white flowers like yours. (It was our daughter who showed us the secret of
    getting a second flowering by removing the pods).

    • Anna B September 8, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

      Hi Linda! Oh yes, I’ve had and still having 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th…. flowerings because I cut them continuously. Unfortunately when I returned from my holiday the ones in the planter weren’t seed pots, the plant was completely dried up and dead :( Luckily the ones I had planted out were in the line of the sprinkler system Adam had set up so they were just fine and still going strong now :) I’m glad you’re enjoying yours too! Hope you get a good crop next year as well. Thanks so much for your comment!

  15. Holleygarden September 8, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    I have to admit I’ve never grown these, but I’ve always admired photos. I’ve thought about growing them. Maybe one day I’ll actually do it! Yours are gorgeous. Love that deep purple!

    • Anna B September 8, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

      Hi there! Ah thanks so much! I’ve really enjoyed growing them and cutting them and bringing them inside! Very relaxing and so easy! Thanks so much for your comment :)

  16. Ricki Grady September 8, 2013 at 8:04 pm #

    I always intend to sow them in place in February, but seldom do. I let a few go to seed for the next year’s planting, but cutting bunches for the house is just as you describe it…and the scent is heavenly. The cutting prolongs the life of the plant. A few of my vines are still producing.

    • Anna B September 8, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

      Hi Ricki! I’ve absolutely loved cutting the bunches. I think my new aspiration could be as a flower farmer! What a way to spend the days hey. Glad to hear a few of your vines are still producing. Good idea about saving some pods! Hope you’ve had a great weekend! Thanks for dropping by :)

  17. Denise September 9, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

    I need to do this. I LOVE their fragrance but need to get myself into gear. Feel so overwhelmed by the amount of land we have and what I can do – or should do – or need to do.

    • Anna B September 10, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

      Hi Denise! It’s very easy to feel like that when you have lots of land! So many exciting things you can do but in reality doing them all can be impossible! I’ve found sweet peas enjoyable and easy and they’re always there if you fancy having a go at some point :) Have fun and thanks so much for dropping by!

  18. Anna September 10, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    Would not be without sweet peas Anna but only highly scented ones :) You have some beauties there. Which varieties did you grow or was it a mix? I think that this year has been particularly bad for aphids and sadly there seem to be few ladybirds about this summer. I have tried both autumn sowing and spring sowing but sometimes the autumn ones become rather leggy and forlorn. This year I used roottrainers for the first time when I sowed in spring and was really impressed as the roots can really establish themselves and they were so easy to plant out. I also used them for all my pea and bean seeds too.

    • Anna B September 10, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

      Hi Anna! Some are a mix from seedparade – http://www.seedparade.co.uk/products/Sweet_Pea_Parfumiere_Mix_30_seeds-71-15.html they have a nice scent too! Also, Thompson & Morgan white supreme and kingsize navy. Root trainers sound great. Now I am well and truly in love with sweet peas I think I’ll go all out and get root trainers for my autumn sowing this year and spring sowing next year! Thanks for the tip and for dropping by :)

      • Anna September 19, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

        Thanks Anna. Will check the Seedparade link out :)

  19. wellywoman September 10, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

    I love sweet peas. Yours look gorgeous. I can never be bothered with doing them in November and have found if I sow some in early February indoors and then move them into the greenhouse once they’ve germinated I get a really good crop.

    • Anna B September 11, 2013 at 7:21 am #

      Hello wellywoman! I can totally get your method of sowing, I think that’s essentially what happens to the ones I sow in November and leave in the cold greenhouse, they don’t emerge till Jan and get going till Feb anyway and like yours they seem to love the cold greenhouse. If for any reason I forget to sow this November then I will sow end of Jan/Feb too instead and as planned in April too. Thanks so much for your comment and for dropping by!

  20. notjustgreenfingers September 13, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

    I love sweetpeas but you are right the greenfly love them too. I read a tip once which said to put something yellow underneath them for 10-20 mins before you bring them indoors, as the greenfly like the colour yellow better and jump off the flowers onto it. It works a treat when you want to bring them indoors.

    • Anna B September 25, 2013 at 10:42 am #

      Hello there! My friend used to hate wearing yellow in the summer because she said it attracted greenflies! Interesting theory and I would love to try it out! Thanks for the tip :)

  21. Hannah September 16, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    Ooh, they look so pretty! I planted some inside in February but they just grew to be weak and leggy. I’ll have to try planting them in the greenhouse in November. Hopefully next year I’ll get a decent crop. Thanks for the advice!

    • Anna B September 25, 2013 at 10:44 am #

      Hi Hannah! Hope it works out for you too! I found the weak/leggy symptom seemed to come from warmth. The seedlings really don’t seem to mind the cold although I’m sure frost is best avoided! Will be interesting to see how the sweet pea crops get on next year! Thanks for dropping by!

  22. Allotment adventures with Jean September 17, 2013 at 1:09 am #

    Beautiful sweet peas. Such a pretty variety of colours.

    • Anna B September 25, 2013 at 10:44 am #

      Thank you Jean! It’s been a pleasure to grow them. Hope all is good with you in your Australian garden!

  23. gardeninacity September 17, 2013 at 11:25 pm #

    I have never grown sweet peas but I love them when I see and smell them. Good trial and error approach.

    • Anna B September 25, 2013 at 10:46 am #

      I find trial and error is the best way to learn! A great thing about gardening is all the learning and something surprising me every year! Thanks so much for dropping by!

  24. Mrs V September 18, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    Hi Anna, I’ve been planning to grow these next year, so thank you for sharing your hints and tips!

    • Anna B September 25, 2013 at 10:46 am #

      Hello Mrs V! I hope they turn out well for you next year too! Interested to know how you get on :)

  25. Charlie@Seattle Trekker September 21, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    I had to go back and look at the photos multiple times, they are so beautiful, thank you so much for taking time to make them special and then to share them.

    • Anna B September 25, 2013 at 10:47 am #

      Thanks for such a lovely comment Charlie! I’m so pleased you enjoyed my post :)

  26. Of Gardens September 26, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    I love sweet peas, but don’t plant them, I don’t know why!Thanks to your tips I’ll try next year. Your photos remind me of how beautiful sweet peas are and I want them in my garden!

    • Anna B September 26, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

      Ah thanks for your lovely comment! I hope you have success growing them next year :)

  27. thesneakymagpie September 30, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    They look amazing! I had such a poor show this year, the start was terrible, mice ate all the seeds then I germinated second batch at home and moved the seedlings into the green house and the pesky mice ate whatever was left of the seeds, I blame the late spring and lack of food. I always sow in spring, maybe I should do it in autumn.

    • Anna B October 1, 2013 at 6:41 am #

      Such a shame about the mice, they really do love peas don’t they. I’m not sure that sowing them in autumn will help with that problem? I had a mouse in my old shed for years, it ate all my bird food but as a result it stayed off my plot! I know other people have their seedlings eaten by them though. Such a shame because mice are cute!! Thanks so much for dropping by :)

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  1. Setting the scene for the autumn garden - dig the outside - October 2, 2013

    [...] battling on are my absolute summer favourites – the sweet peas. I’m still cutting them and they continue to come back. Their stems are a little unruly but I [...]

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