About a dozen Beech Gardeners visited Anna’s garden which was ablaze with snowdrops. The day was grey and showery and the poor little snowdrops were tucking their heads under their arms – so the photographer went back the next day and took more SUNNY photos which are in the gallery below. The BGs wandered around the garden admiring not only the snowdrops but the primroses and some daffodils out already. Anna provided us with the most gorgeous hot soup and warm bread and butter which we drank standing around in the dining room chatting. It was a lovely calm, peaceful meeting of the BGs and outside it rained quite heavily.
At the end of January we had a meeting in Sarah’s house where Roger Parson, who holds the National Collection of Sweet Peas and other Lathyrus species, gave us a talk and slideshow on some the of the 1300 different species of sweet pea. The photo, left, is a bit blurred, sorry. He sows 7000 seeds of 270 varieties each year and enters 12 different vases with 15 stems of sweet peas into the National competition and holds the National trophy. He grows his sweet peas up large netting. The long stemmed ones are native to Sicily – the wild ones are smaller with shorter stems. In the late Victorian period they were hybridized to have longer stems and more heads. The old fashioned ones are more fragrant.
The growers in the US are not selective whereas Roger selects the best and destroys the ones that are reverting back. Using dwarf sweet peas or trailing varieties are good for pots and containers. The semi-dwarf ones are 2-3 ft high and have good fragrance but short stems. Winter flowering plants are grown under heat ready for the early market. In Japan they sow in the summer and flower in the winter. The non-tendril varieies are better for cordon growing – it saves cutting off the tendrils. They are best sown from October to February and kept warm in the cold. No need to soak the seeds, let them germinate on their own. Protect the seedlings from mice and give them a good manure mulch. On chalky soil build up raised beds. Sow in October in a cold greenhouse, don’t pinch out the tops, by January they should be 4 inches tall. Plant out in mid-March. They should start flowering in mid-May.