Sweet Peas

Growing Sweet Peas for Bouquets – Tips and Choices

In Fierce Cutting Garden, Fierce Influences by Fierceblooms0 Comments

WORDS: Kathryn Cronin PHOTOS: Ricky Bache
Everyone adores sweet peas. No exception. Even though the size of their flowers is small relative to other blooms, I am growing sweet peas for bouquets again just for their scent alone. Everyone lifts their bouquet to smell its perfume, and sweet peas provide the most memorable and evocative scent of summer in spades.

I had seriously underestimated the impact of these relatively small sweet smelling flowers in terms of what they bring to a wild garden style floral arrangement. Without fail the sight and the smell of these little gems was capable of piercing even the most hardened of armours. That sweet peas provoked such an emotional reaction took me quite by surprise at first. Perhaps I ought to have anticipated the response as the scent alone of these wee darlings, virtually impossible to buy, was able to transport the recipients to a time and a memory almost forgotten but none the less treasured. Everyone has a story.

It will come as no surprise that I have employed the same research method to identify my choices for sweet peas for bouquets as I did in my article on dahlias. Well, quite honestly, the bewildering choice of varieties is enough to send even the most dedicated florist back for more Christmas cake. So why not learn from the great and the good of the flower farming world who have already grown and tested them?

Green and Gorgeous have written a number of really useful articles on their experience of growing sweet peas for bouquets and list their favourite sweet peas for bouquets including:

Limelight – a lovely creamy green that I grew last year too
Oban Bay – ice blue
Gwendoline – rose pink
Our Harry – bid blue
Dark Passion – a lovely deep purple that grew well for me in the open cheshire countryside
White Frills – pure white and very frilly – for me to was too white if you know what I mean
Valerie Harrod – coral
Anniversary – pink

Of course, I had to have a look at how and what sweet peas Floret was growing. Her advice is detailed and her list of sweet peas extensive. It includes Nimbus, Mollie Rilstone, Restormel, Windsor, Dynasty, Ethel Grace, Valerie Harrod, Happy birthday, Eclipse, Oban Bay, Our Harry, Jilly, Anniversary, Gwendoline and White Supreme. Some but not all of these are available for purchase in the UK and if desperate you can always order them for import albeit at a cost.

Like Floret, I can recommend adding rich soil with regular feeding and watering. Pick them like there is no tomorrow and in a day or two you’ll be snipping again.

A word on mice…

Last year when I dipped a toe into growing sweet peas for bouquets, I decided on the path of least upset and germinated my sweet peas inside the house. Far more experienced flower farmers than I have come to grief, and frankly, I didn’t stand a chance with the extensive mouse population that lives by our shed. I don’t hear the cry of a little owl hunting most nights for nothing. With root trainers purchased from Haxnicks and seeds from Owl Acre Seeds, I ventured tentatively into the world of flower farming.

This year, I’ve ordered mainly modern grandiflora from Sarah Raven. She was very kind and sent me a discount code so it seemed almost impolite not to use it. The choice of this variety seemed to tick the three key requirements flower growers always highlight, namely colour, stem length and of course scent.

My choices include:

  • Almost Black – a modern grandiflora which Sarah tells me has long stems, large flowers and fantastic scent, what’s not to like
  • Anniversary – pale pink and long flowering
  • Prince Edward of York – a blend of deep and pale pink and long flowering
  • Mrs Collier – fragrant cream grandiflora

This will give me a nice choice of shades of pink and a contrasting cream. Although I wasn’t looking to, I did manage to save seed from a few pods last year. I was surprised by how easy it was to produce good sweet pea seed. This year I’m going to be much more systematic about saving seed.

Pick them like there is no tomorrow and in a day or two you’ll be snipping again.

I suspect that each year growing sweet peas will require a close eye to the weather to ensure they get sufficient water. We also need to watch out for our ever ingenious bunnies.

My one sowing of sweet peas kept me going all summer and even into Autumn. I picked them like there was no tomorrow, picking everything that had colour in the flower and even on the next day I was rewarded with more.

In the past I would never have even considered deciding on let alone ordering my sweet pea seed this early. However,in the world of flower farming it is all about succession planting and ensuring supply (as well the right varieties). This then enables the most robust crop of in-demand blooms to be available.

Read more from Fierceblooms on the floristry blog.

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