Sweet Peas for the Balcony Garden

I spent a little more time with my sweet peas & this post today so I've republished it with some minor changes.

 Sweet Pea, 'Color Palette Cupid'_4167

Anticipation -- The sweet peas are blooming one...at...a...time.


Sweet pea appreciation -- a necessary respite today yesterday after spending my lunch hour running errands on foot in the urban milieu of heat, dust, rush, noise, exhaust fumes and traffic congestion. When I got home, I dropped the groceries and mail on the hallway floor, kissed the top of Piper's head, and then headed out to the balcony for sweet {pea} relief.

I have an embarrassing confession to make, though. Two weeks ago I considered pulling out the still unblooming sweet peas. In a brief, insane moment when I thought I was being practical and rational, I deemed them dispensable luxury plants taking up valuable real estate that could be used for tomatoes and cucumbers. (I did not get a community garden plot so I'm even more space-challenged than usual.) Thankfully, my sober second thought was to remind myself the garden is also for the "eye and heart" (1).

Maybe planting sweet peas hasn't been the most practical gardening decision I've made this season, but I have no regrets. And I mentally cringe to think what I'd have missed if I'd pulled them out.

In the rest of this post I'm going to share my gardening notes and favourite sweet pea resources.

Sweet Pea, 'Heirloom Cupid'_4183

Growing notes

  1. Why grow sweet peas?
    #1. For beauty (the eye reason) -- I love the colours, scent and butterfly-like shape (2) of Lathyrus odoratus blooms.
    #2. To connect with the past (the heart reason) --  My mom grew glorious sweet peas along the east side of our Manitoba home and they were the background for many Kodak moments.
  2. Seeds: Renee's Garden Seeds, two varieties: 'Heirloom Cupid' & 'Color Palette Cupid'.
  3. Indoor sowing date: April 1st after overnight soaking in room-temperature water.
  4. Germination: First seedlings appeared on April 11th.
  5. Transplanted outdoors to 25cm (10-inch) glazed ceramic pots (3) in late April. Spacing: 4 plants per container at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o-clock positions. Here's a seedling 33 days after sowing.
  6. Soil: the usual organic potting soil mix amended generously with vermicompost.
  7. Location: balcony's south-west side, front corner. The walls on the east and sides and the overhanging roof limit the amount of direct sunlight to about 4 to 5 hours from April through early July. I've been putting the pots in partial shade at mid-day this past week as it's been very hot.
  8. First blossom: the first flower, a pink 'Heirloom Cupid', bloomed on June 29th. I see plenty of buds this afternoon so I'm hoping for a cascading display of pink flowers.
  9. Scent: Well, this has to be experienced first-hand and nose-first. I simply don't have words to convey the fragrance -- think soft, sweet, fresh. If the colour pink had an aroma, this would be it.

Sweet Pea, 'Color Palette Cupid'_4176

Resources:

The Sweet Pea Book by Graham Rice. The Google Books preview includes excerpts on dwarf sweet peas (page 27) and growing sweet peas in containers (page 31).

Renee's Garden Seeds articles:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you aren't too busy in your own gardens, I'd love to hear about your sweet pea memories and experiences. Which varieties are you growing this year, either in the ground or containers? Which ones have you found to be most heat-tolerant?

 

Notes:

(1) "Flower treasures for the eye & heart" is the phrase on Renee's Garden flower seed packages.

(2) See Brian's Johnston's excellent online article "A Close-up View of the Wildflower Sweet Pea" (Lathyrus latifolia) for photos and a description of the perennial sweet pea's structure. It is cousin to the annual sweet pea, Lathyrus odoratus.