New, old and my favourite fragrant varieties
Sweet peas cross the divide from the cottage garden to make it into most people’s lists of favourite plants.
Why? They’re easy to grow, adaptable, most of them have a fabulous scent and great colour range. They’re the one flower I grow without fail every year.
Here, I’ve picked out new varieties, a reintroduction and some old and recent types that I’d like to grow. There’s also a list of my tried-and-tested recommendations at the end.
Night Sky: (NEW AND EXCLUSIVE) This year’s introduction, bred by David Matthewman in Yorkshire. Highly scented, almost shimmering mauve flake florets set on long stems, 10 seeds, £3, www.sweetpeasonline.co.uk.
Sandi Jones: From Eagle Sweet Peas, this flower is a reintroduction. It has large dark pink blooms, named after the well-known radio presenter. Bred by the late Harvey Albutt. Excellent for cutting and exhibition, 15 seeds, £2, www.eaglesweetpeas.co.uk.
Scarlet Tunic: (NEW AND EXCLUSIVE) The Royal Hospital Chelsea will gain 25p from every packet sold. It’s a mix of large red blooms, ideal for garden displays and as a cut flower, 20 seeds, £2.19, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk.
Greenfingers: (NEW AND EXCLUSIVE) Mr Fothergill’s has pledged 25p to Greenfingers from every packet sold. it is incredibly scented, with delicately coloured blooms. Greenfingers is a national charity dedicated to creating magical gardens for children and their families who spend time in hospices. For more information, visit www.greenfingerscharity.org.uk or call 01494 674749, 20 seeds, £2.45, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk.
Burlesque: A modern Spencer type with large white flowers marked with a stunning blue flake amid contrasting lime green buds, on long stems, 20 seeds, £2.45, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk.
Heathcliff: A mauve-blue modern Grandiflora with large, highly scented flowers on long stems, 20 seeds, £2.15, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk.
Maloy: Unusual apricot and orange pink reverse bicolour with large open, rounded blooms. Up to seven florets on each long stem, perfect for cutting, 20 seeds, £2.45, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk.
Queen of the Isles: Old-fashioned Grandiflora sweet pea has an intense perfume with raspberry ripple flowers. First introduced in 1885 by Henry Eckford, 20 seeds, £2.15, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk.
Showbench 8: Eight exhibition winning, large-flowered, classic Spencer showbench varieties. Lightly scented, perfect for cut flowers, 25 seeds, £2.60, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk.
Blissfully Blue Collection: From Unwins, colours of the coolest blues, this collection is sweetly scented and make fantastic cut flowers. Contains seeds of Oxford Blue, Blue Danube, Charlie’s Angel, Royal Wedding, £4.99 for the set, www.unwins.co.uk.
Kingfisher: From Suttons, large, waved, delicately coloured blooms over a long period, with a strong scent, £2.99, www.suttons.co.uk.
Long Stem Mixed: A mixture of scented sweet peas that are renowned for their long stems – the perfect choice for cutting, 50 seeds, £3.99, www.suttons.co.uk.
Rob’s Perfect Summer (Part of the Rob Smith Cut Flower Range from Dobies): Rob says: “The ultimate sweet pea mix to grow every year. I’ve selected early, mid and late season varieties to keep you in beautiful blooms all summer long. Ranging from 1.5-2m (5-6’6”), in solo and bi-colours, with stripes and flecks, plus a stunning bright red, ‘Rob’s Perfect Summer’ is highly scented,” £3.50, www.dobies.co.uk.
Turquoise Lagoon: Flowers open pink/lavender but change to turquoise/blue as they age, with a fabulous fragrance, 20 seeds, £2.99, www.dobies.co.uk.
Eclipse: From Chiltern Seeds, this modern Grandiflora is often cited as the best purple for exhibition, with large blooms on strong stems, rich, deep purple colour with a strong fragrance, £1.95, www.chilternseeds.co.uk.
Erewhon: A breeding breakthrough from Thompson and Morgan – a reverse bicolour sweet pea, with darker lower petals than its upper pale pink standards. Bred in New Zealand, it’s a cross between L. odoratus and L. belinensisand is highly fragrant, 25 seeds, £2.29, www.thompson-morgan.com.
My tried-and-tested favourites: Cupani (traditional crimson/violet bicolour); Robert Uvedale (pink); Fragrantissima and Old Spice (highly scented mixes); Harrogate Gem (red); Hi-Scent (cream/picotee lavender edge); White Supreme; Singing the Blues (blue mix).