The scent of the Sweet Pea is legendary. As the Reverend W.T.Hutchins said at the 1900 Sweet Pea Exhibition: ‘The sweet pea has a keel that was meant to seek all shores; it has wings that were meant to fly across all continents . . . it has a fragrance like the universal gospel . . . ‘. The first Sweet Peas came from Sicily and were highly scented but just one colour. One of the key breeders to introduce different colours and varieties, was Henry Eckford (1823-1905), who was responsible for 115 of the 264 varieties on show at the Sweet Pea Exhibition - though a yellow variety has so far eluded everyone.
Sweet Peas benefit from some well-decayed manure in their trench and being kept well watered and fed throughout flowering. They are an annual plant and as they grow up to six feet, they need to be grown against a fence or wall, or allowed to scramble up wigwams or rows of sticks in the open sun. The most common pests affecting the Sweet Pea, are greenfly and mildew which covers the plant with a white powdery coating. When they flower, cut them frequently to encourage more growth. The National Sweet Pea Society can be contacted at www.sweetpeas.org.uk as can lists of specialist seed suppliers.