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The Sweet Peas Botanical name is Lathyrus Odoratus. The Sweet Peas history goes back to at least 1450 when it was know to be grown by the Moors. The cultivating of this flower was first mentioned in print in 1695 by the Franciscan monk Cupani. He observed seedlings growing in the monastery gardens of Palmermo (Italy) which were much larger than the wild variety. He collected the seeds and sent some to friends in other monasteries in England and Amsterdam. It is still possible to obtain seeds from some suppliers described as Cupani which are thought to originate from our monk.

The Sweet Peas grown at that time, although it would have been very fragrant, would have had much smaller flowers than those available today. By 1800 only 5 different distinct colours would have been available to from seedsmen, to buy and grow. But by 1900 as many as 264 varieties were exhibited at the Crystal Palace in London. The Sweet Pea obsession was clearly well under way. Indeed during the 19th century a great many private individuals as well as prominent Head Gardeners were absorbed in the growing and breeding of Sweet Peas. The most prominent of these was Silas Cole. He was the Head Gardener to Earl Spencer , an ancestor of the late Lady Diana. Silas Cole who lived and worked on the Althorp estate in Northamptonshire (in England) and was responsible for the Spencer type of Sweet Pea. This is described as a wavy delicate, large flowered, and not only extremely valuable for those who show Sweet Pea, but is also an essential part on modern english gardening.

Two valuable properties the Sweet Pea has, for any potential grower, or breeder, are that the seed remains viable for at least 5 years, and it can be cross fertilised easily and produces hybrid seedlings without too much bother.

Planting and care of this wonderful plant.

The best time to plant in the glasshouse is about now , January or early February. First carefully chip the outer seed case with a small knife and next soak the seed in water over night . Plant in pots or deep trays of good compost and keep in the dark until germination takes place. Prick out when first pair of leaves show. Continue to grow in either a cold glasshouse, not heated, or a poly tunnel . If you intend to produce blooms for showing or cutting, by late March or early April they should be transplanted into a well prepared trench previously filled with well rotted manure or good garden compost. Carefully train, on a single stem (for showing) , either up canes or pea sticks , which allows the peas own tendrils to climb.

Possible bugs and disease Sweet Peas can suffer from.


  1. Greenfly, can be controlled with beneficial insects or systemic pesticides. Not only do aphids, such as greenfly, cause direct problems to Sweet Peas, but they can also introduce viruses, the only control of which is to pull up and destroy the plant.
  2. Thrips cause damage to leaves white spots on the flowers (as for aphids.)
  3. Pollen Beetle , eat pollen and disfigure flowers. Small shinney black beetles, shake the bloom to dislodge.
  4. Red Spider Mite, cause speckling on leaves, treat as for aphids.
  5. Caterpillars eat leaves and shoots- pick off and encourage beneficial insects and birds.

Diseases/virus/ other problems

  1. Mosaic Virus- spread by greenfly turns leaves yellow distorts new shoots and stops flowering. Control the greenfly who spread it.
  2. Mildew, causes powdery white fungus, covering leaves slowing down growth. Becomes worse during hot humid conditions. So ensure good ventilation and use systemic fungicide.
  3. Poor flowering , regularly dead head is required
  4. Bud drop, watch that you do not over water.
  5. Blindness on single stem show peas. Solution train a replacement strong side shoot , to replace the defective one







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