In 1699 a Sicilian monk called Franciscus Cupani sent seeds of the local wild sweet pea to his friend, English schoolmaster Dr Robert Uvedale. This was the beginning of a love affair between gardeners and sweet peas that continues to this day.
If, however, you want to grow the authentic sweet pea as nature first made it, look for the Original Sweet Pea in the Yates seed range. This small, bicoloured flower, with its incredibly strong scent, is something truly special. Its subtle charm is very endearing.
St Patrick’s Day, March 17, is the traditional date for sowing sweet peas in many parts of Australia, but this date should be regarded as a guide, not a law. In cooler areas sweet peas are often better sown in spring. Some varieties are recommended for spring sowing because they‘re late (i.e. summer) blooming.
In warmer areas it’s safer to wait until April or May to sow sweet peas. Once the soil’s cooled down, there’s far less risk of the seeds rotting away before they germinate.
Grow sweet peas in a sunny spot with good drainage. Make sure there’s some support for climbing varieties and choose an east-west orientation so they get as much sun as possible. Before you sow, add some complete fertiliser such as Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver & Plant Fertiliser to the bed and, in most areas, a small amount of lime. Water the soil well the day before planting and sow into a moist bed. Try to avoid watering again until after the seedlings have emerged. As the young seedlings appear, poke in some small twigs that will help guide them to the climbing support.
Once the sweet peas begin flowering, pick them as much as you like. If any pods are allowed to form, this sends a signal to the plant that stops it flowering.
Yates has two new sweet peas – Pink Diana and May Gibbs Sweet Pea Fairy – in its range this autumn. The former is a long-stemmed, fragrant pink and the latter a ground-covering, pink and white bicolour.
The most popular Yates sweet pea is Colourcade, a cheery blend of mixed colours. It blooms early in the season, thus avoiding any late spring hot spells. Bijou is a popular, low-growing (to 60cm) variety that suits smaller gardens. Pixie Princess is a tiny sweet pea that doesn’t need support and looks at its best in an attractive container. There are many other sweet pea varieties available in the Yates range so it’s worth checking out the autumn seed stands.
One of the sweet pea’s great advantages is that it’s a member of the legume family so the plants are able to feed themselves by making use of the nitrogen in the atmosphere. This means that, once the flowering’s finished, it’s good to dig the plants into the soil where they’ll add extra goodness.
Sweet peas can suffer from powdery mildew fungus, so always have a Yates Rose Shield Insect & Disease Spray in the garden shed. As well as controlling fungus, Yates Rose Shield Insect & Disease Spray will help take care of insect pests and mites.