Persian Everlasting Pea

The Persian Everlasting Pea.

Lathyrus rotundifolius or persian everlasting pea on the fence at Easton Walled Gardens

Lathyrus rotundifolius

‘You’ll never sell it’ said nurseryman Tim as he delivered plants for our visitors back in the day. Sure enough, by September, when all the gifted 1 litre container plants had gone to kind homes; two scraggy looking pots were left. Lathyrus rotundifolius, also called the Persian everlasting pea, doesn’t take kindly to being restricted so we released them into the border along the pickery fence and rather forgot about them.

Next summer something remarkable happened. Beautiful twining stems rose from the ground and romped over the fence (politely leaving space for other climbers.) By July, the plant was smothered in pink flowers that contrasted beautifully with the foliage. It has been one of the most asked about plants in the garden ever since.

Lathyrus rotundifolius or persian everlasting pea at Easton Walled Gardens

Habit and provenance:

Hailing from the countries around the Black Sea and into Iran, the Persian everlasting pea grows in meadows with other leguminous plants. A member of the prettily named sub-family Papilionaceae (meaning ‘butterfly–like’), it uses tendrils to climb and support itself and growth is prolific between April and June.

The flowering stems form racemes of 3+ flowers, cream in bud and darkening as the flowers open. The flower colour is often described as brick-red, although in our experience that is the colour the camera lens sees. On our plants, the petals are a deep pink with increasing blue tones as the flower ages. There is no discernable scent but that doesn’t stop insects including bees foraging in the flower heads.

Lathyrus rotundifolius or persian everlasting pea flowering stages copyright Easton Walled Gardens

How to grow:

Lathyrus rotundifolius plants are hardy (H7 on the new RHS ratings system), herbaceous perennials. They grow best in reasonable soil in full sun or dappled shade. They need something sturdy to climb and our Im fence is the perfect vehicle. If trained the plant may make 1.5m.

Despite its aversion to small pots, Lathryus rotundifolius makes a well behaved addition to large permanently planted containers. We have some outside the shop door and they climb and flop over the edge with great charm.

persian everlasting pea in container at Easton Walled Gardens

As the top growth dies back in autumn the stems can be cut back to ground level and used on the compost heap. In the spring, bulbs such as tulips, crocuses and snowdrops fit snugly around the roots and will give you lots of colour until the pea starts to grow again.

Mary Keen describes the roots as ‘wandering’, which is about right. Propagate from Irishman’s cuttings (a piece of stem with roots on) in late spring. The seed tends not to set in northern areas and germination can be slow.

We offer pots of this pea for sale in June and early July, if you would like to reserve one please contact the office.

Something new in the Gardens

Our new sculpture is unveiled!

Every year our lovely Friends of Easton Walled Gardens sign up for a season ticket and other benefits. Although the funds raised from these memberships are a part of the garden’s income, we like to ring-fence some of this money to spend directly enhancing the visitor’s experience.

So far the Friends have helped buy the green oak for the vegetable garden, repair the old greenhouses and buy local trees for the orchard. We thought you might like to know that Continue reading “Something new in the Gardens”

Rare Find in The Rose Meadow

We’ve finally struck gold.. or maybe purple!

No species has come to represent the destruction of the UK’s native meadows more than the orchid. Since the second world war, when permanent pasture was dug up for crops and then sprayed into sterility with herbicides, this beautiful plant has vanished from great swathes of our countryside.

So, when we started our meadows from scratch over 10 years ago, native orchids became key target plants. They were unlikely to occur until we had all the ingredients of a flourishing meadow in place. If we could introduce orchids we would know that we had increased plant biodiversity significantly.

EWG 28.5.15.-23 Meadow

Orchids can’t be persuaded to grow where it doesn’t suit them naturally. You can’t raise them from seed in John Innes compost. They need the right soil and the right fungi to be present to germinate.

For the last 10 years we have been begging seed from wildlife sites. We have been given masses of advice and generous amounts of hay from old meadows. The seed has fallen from the hay, been blown from our hands or pressed into the soil. But it is still a guessing game – the orchids will decide for themselves whether or not they deign to make a meadow their home.

Rare Orchid Blog Triptic Easton Walled Gardens

So you can imagine the thrill of seeing not just one rosette of possible orchid leaves appear but seven beautiful, deep purple/pink flowering spikes appear in the Rose Meadow about a fortnight ago.

And, astonishingly, it’s not just orchids that are appearing in the developing meadows. Rare sulphur clover has been found on the terraces, the most northerly known location of this species. Vetches are straggling through establishing crops of yellow rattle and the blue butterflies are growing in number.

Easton Walled Gardens Meadow

Over the next few months our terrace meadows are growing, flowering and providing homes and nectar for a great diversity of insects. The swallows and other insect feeding birds swoop down on this abundance.

We mow paths through the long flowering grasses, knapweed and blue scabious so that you can see the miniature details of life that make an English meadow so precious.

To learn more about meadows and wild flowers, see our guide: Top Five Wild Garden Heroes