Saturday, 16 November 2013

Sweet peas for the windowsill

Hold on a minute you say, its November, why are you talking about windowsill flowers now?  Its not a 'how to sow sweet peas' lesson is it?

No its not really, its more a celebration of the long sweet pea season I have had this year.  I have grown sweet peas for many years now.  I adore the scent and they are so easy to grow.  The main problems I have when growing them is preventing them from getting eaten by mice, otherwise it is quite straightforward.
Some people like to sow them in Autumn, others wait until the Spring.  I have tried both and in general I have had most success from Spring sowings.  I do have a batch germinated in the greenhouse at the moment which is not my usual practise.  I thought I would give it a try for an early show of flowers, but what I really want are sweet peas for as along as possible.
Sweet peas enjoy being picked regularly, it keeps them flowering, it is not a good idea to let them go to seed as they think they have done their job for the year and pretty much give up flowering much after that.  I love to have them on the kitchen window sill, the scent makes me happy and whilst doing those kitchen-sink based jobs they sit there, smiling scentily at me.  I should probably add I do not bother growing any that do not have scent, it seems a waste of time to me.
So it starts quite slowly, builds to a crescendo and then usually peters out around about September sometime, the placing of the sweet peas on the kitchen window sill.  This year it seemed to start a little later, but I think I have just picked my last (very few now).
How do I ensure I have them late into the year, well I successional sow, usually two or three batches in the Spring and this year I was given the best sweet pea tip ever.  Sweet peas benefit from having their tops pinched off when they have been growing a while, this keeps them from getting leggy and makes a sturdy climber.  A gardening friend said that they treat these discarded top bits as cuttings and sure enough, I stuck some in a pot and they rooted really quickly, making yet another batch.  I shall definitely make this part of my standard sweet pea routine.  

I am not saying I always have sweet peas in November, this is a very late flowering and down to sheer chance not fantastic gardening prowess.
If you are interested (actually even if you are not), my current favourite sweet peas are:

Matucana -I always grow this, always always, the scent is just phenomenal
King Edward VII - a superb red and again incredible scent
Dorothy Eckford - a really good white and good scent

I then just choose what ever else takes my fancy!
The last bunch - picked 16 November

11 comments :

  1. Lovely post about one of my favourites the sweet pea. Beautiful pictures, I could imagine the fragrance for I have no sweet peas anymore in November. It is all very recognizable I have better results with spring sowing too. But thank you for some new information, I pinch the tops too, but I did not know you could use them as cuttings, great I will do that next time. I sow every spring different varieties but I don't know Matucana, so this one goes on my list for next spring.

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  2. That's some very useful tips there Alison - thanks. I'm going to try that with their tops next year. My favouite is Matucana too - amazing colour and fragrance.

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  3. That is amazing, sweet peas in November! I shall certainly follow your advice to use the tips as cuttings, many thanks, I look forward to lots more sweet peas next year!

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  4. Those were good value sweet peas for you to be still picking them, do you have them in the ground or in pots...? And thanks for the info on using the tips as cuttings, I'll give that a try. I want to sow a few adds now, but it's too dark...

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    1. This year I only grew them in the ground, some in the front garden some in the back. These ones are from the back garden, they flowered longer, must be better soil. I do grow in pots some years, usually works well.

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  5. Do you give yours fertilizer at all? They are difficult to grow in my climate as the spring/summer is far too hot. I will try your tip on cutting the tips to make them fuller--if I can actually grow mine more than a few inches high.

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    1. I use liquid seaweed in the main growing season, it seems to work well.

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  6. What a cheery post Alison, this is great! They did last a while this year didn't they? You've beaten me by a few weeks though, I must admit. I too am a big fan of Matucana and have been looking for a reliable deep red with a good scent, so I'm making a note of King Edward VII now, thanks!

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  7. Haven't had much success with sweet peas in the past, determined to try harder next year! Your 3 recommendations are the first 3 on my list. Thanks for sharing the joy :-)

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  8. Great tip, succession sowing, I'll try to remember that one. That and the regular picking, which I was dismal at this year, somehow I kept forgetting in the chaos of the kitchen refit and mine finished in August! Shameful. I also really like the idea of sweet pea cuttings, which could then be crammed in elsewhere. Excellent post!

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  9. Ooh I shall remember what you said in this post ! I do take out growing tips to make bushier plants, but had no idea that these could be treated as cuttings.I tried to experiment a bit this year and grew Cupani, but sadly they gave me little pleasure. back to the big bad boys again next season

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