Sweet peas: heritage v new varieties

Old or new flowers – which are best?

Sweet peas Night Sky and Prince of Orange
Sweet peas Night Sky and Prince of Orange (background)

This summer’s sweet peas are just starting to bloom and I was intrigued to see whether heritage types or a new variety would come out on top.

I’ll judge again at the end of the season but here are my findings so far. First, the contenders:

Night Sky (Matthewmans, www.sweetpeasonline.co.uk, £3)

A new introduction, an unusual mauve flake colour (speckled white/blue), bred by David Matthewman in Yorkshire. Described in the catalogue as ‘highly scented, almost shimmering florets set on long stems’.

Prince of Orange
Pinky-orange Prince of Orange

The reality: good germination, strong plants unchecked after planting out. Large flowers carried on long stems makes them perfect for cutting. They look far better in the flesh than in pictures – really intense colouration. Perfume is strong, though not enough flowers out yet to judge if it wafts over and grabs you by the throat.

Prince of Orange (Plant World Seeds, www.plant-world-seeds.com, £1.70)

Chosen to go in my new tropical bed to contrast with Night Sky. A recent heritage re-introduction, originally bred by famous breeder Morse in 1928. Colour described as: ‘striking orange, always a rare colour, with a touch of clashing pink’.

Parfumiere Mix white
Parfumiere Mix white

The reality: The colour really is striking, although it’s more pink than orange – maybe it darkens with age. As with Night Sky, good germination, strong plants and a really sweet scent. Still, very happy with such an intense colour.

Parfumiere Mix (Plant World Seeds, www.plant-world-seeds.com, £1.70)

Chosen purely for its perfume – a mix of heirloom grandiflora varieties, some old and some new. Described as having ‘the ability to fill a room with that heady sweet pea perfume’.

Parfumiere Mix deep burgundy
Parfumiere Mix deep burgundy

The reality: First to flower by 10 days over the other two, good germination, strong plants, unchecked growth after planting out. Only two colours have flowered yet – deep burgundy and white but their perfume lives up to the name. When they get going, the perfume will be unbeatable – even better than my long-time favourite, Fragrantissima.

No plants have been affected by any nasties yet – I’ll report back in due course. Don’t forget – keep deadheading and/or cutting for the house, add some high potash fertiliser now and again and they’ll keep flowering until the frosts.

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