Garden Journal

Entries in sweet peas (4)


The sweetness of community gardening

Lathyrus odoratus 'Cupani's Original' growing in the plot beside mine

Ah, sweet peas. They always delight me. But these ones also surprised me.  You see, I thought ordinary, edible, green peas were twining up the trellis in the neighbouring plot. So I paid little attention to them the past couple of months because I was growing my own 'Little Marvel' shelling peas.

That is, until a week ago Sunday: while I was bending over my tomatoes and peppers, a breeze carried a familiar scent to my nose. I turned around to see my favourite heirloom sweet peas beginning to bloom.  I did a happy dance, clapped my hands and squeeeeed. Though I think this spontaneous, enthusiastic response was completely internal, I can't recall for sure.  Anyway, I know I put down the pruners, picked up the Nikon and spent several minutes capturing prettiness.

Originally this post was going to be about all the inedible yet nourishing features of community gardening. But if you look at these sweet peas, know that school children and their parents sowed the seeds and tend the plants, and appreciate there are no fences between neighbouring plots, you can probably write this post yourself.

And now, after I press "publish", I'm off the garden, to see and smell the sweet peas (yes, they're still blooming) and inspect the tomatoes, chard and beet (the last one).

But one question before I go: what pleasant surprises are sweetening your garden this summer?


The last sweet pea

The last sweet pea

'Heirloom Cupid' (I think). Photo taken August 1st.

This sweet pea tolerated the heat wave better than I did, with less drooping and wilting. It's the last summer flower from my balcony garden and I'm determined to keep it fresh and pink as long as possible so I've been storing it in the fridge. This evening I've placed it on my desk while I work on the computer. Delicate, elegant, graceful -- if this beautiful sweet pea didn't already have a name I would call it Audrey Hepburn.


Sweet Peas for the Balcony Garden

I spent a little more time with my sweet peas & this post today so I've republished it with some minor changes.

 Sweet Pea, 'Color Palette Cupid'_4167

Anticipation -- The sweet peas are blooming

Sweet pea appreciation -- a necessary respite today yesterday after spending my lunch hour running errands on foot in the urban milieu of heat, dust, rush, noise, exhaust fumes and traffic congestion. When I got home, I dropped the groceries and mail on the hallway floor, kissed the top of Piper's head, and then headed out to the balcony for sweet {pea} relief.

I have an embarrassing confession to make, though. Two weeks ago I considered pulling out the still unblooming sweet peas. In a brief, insane moment when I thought I was being practical and rational, I deemed them dispensable luxury plants taking up valuable real estate that could be used for tomatoes and cucumbers. (I did not get a community garden plot so I'm even more space-challenged than usual.) Thankfully, my sober second thought was to remind myself the garden is also for the "eye and heart" (1).

Maybe planting sweet peas hasn't been the most practical gardening decision I've made this season, but I have no regrets. And I mentally cringe to think what I'd have missed if I'd pulled them out.

In the rest of this post I'm going to share my gardening notes and favourite sweet pea resources.

Sweet Pea, 'Heirloom Cupid'_4183

Growing notes

  1. Why grow sweet peas?
    #1. For beauty (the eye reason) -- I love the colours, scent and butterfly-like shape (2) of Lathyrus odoratus blooms.
    #2. To connect with the past (the heart reason) --  My mom grew glorious sweet peas along the east side of our Manitoba home and they were the background for many Kodak moments.
  2. Seeds: Renee's Garden Seeds, two varieties: 'Heirloom Cupid' & 'Color Palette Cupid'.
  3. Indoor sowing date: April 1st after overnight soaking in room-temperature water.
  4. Germination: First seedlings appeared on April 11th.
  5. Transplanted outdoors to 25cm (10-inch) glazed ceramic pots (3) in late April. Spacing: 4 plants per container at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o-clock positions. Here's a seedling 33 days after sowing.
  6. Soil: the usual organic potting soil mix amended generously with vermicompost.
  7. Location: balcony's south-west side, front corner. The walls on the east and sides and the overhanging roof limit the amount of direct sunlight to about 4 to 5 hours from April through early July. I've been putting the pots in partial shade at mid-day this past week as it's been very hot.
  8. First blossom: the first flower, a pink 'Heirloom Cupid', bloomed on June 29th. I see plenty of buds this afternoon so I'm hoping for a cascading display of pink flowers.
  9. Scent: Well, this has to be experienced first-hand and nose-first. I simply don't have words to convey the fragrance -- think soft, sweet, fresh. If the colour pink had an aroma, this would be it.

Sweet Pea, 'Color Palette Cupid'_4176


The Sweet Pea Book by Graham Rice. The Google Books preview includes excerpts on dwarf sweet peas (page 27) and growing sweet peas in containers (page 31).

Renee's Garden Seeds articles:


If you aren't too busy in your own gardens, I'd love to hear about your sweet pea memories and experiences. Which varieties are you growing this year, either in the ground or containers? Which ones have you found to be most heat-tolerant?



(1) "Flower treasures for the eye & heart" is the phrase on Renee's Garden flower seed packages.

(2) See Brian's Johnston's excellent online article "A Close-up View of the Wildflower Sweet Pea" (Lathyrus latifolia) for photos and a description of the perennial sweet pea's structure. It is cousin to the annual sweet pea, Lathyrus odoratus.



Sweet Peas,'Heirloom Cupid'_4029

There's so much I could say about sweet peas and none of it practical or edible. I grow sweet peas for beauty, scent and memories. With perfect timing the first 'Heirloom Cupid' blossom began opening today, when I needed a sign to keep trying, hoping and trusting, to be patiently persistent but not blindly stubborn, to accept my balcony garden's sunlight and size limitations, and to follow nature's schedule rather than impose my own.

Sweet Peas,'Heirloom Cupid'_4042

More words to follow in a later post. For now, I'm just going to enjoy the shades of pink that emerged from the little brown seed I buried in April.