For gardeners, October marks the end of a season and the beginning of new plans. The daffodils now have their roots well established in the ground, the autumn crocuses are saying their final farewells and there is a chance to catch up with maintenance. For us this means indoor painting, washing plastic pots and clearing down the greenhouse again.
It is also an excellent time of year to sow sweet peas.
At Easton, we grow over 75 varieties of sweet peas every year and we sow them in succession. In October, the first batch goes into the longest pots we can find. Sweet peas love a good deep soil so any pots that can encourage the roots to point firmly downwards and not curled up like a sleeping cat is good. Then, we treat them rough. The best flowering sweet peas like a hard life over the winter. Put them in a cold frame and they will stay focussed on root production rather than masses of green topgrowth. If they do get carried away during a warm spell we pinch the stems back to a pair of leaves to stop them wandering off.
While we are sowing seed we still need to think about the position of other autumn sown hardy annuals like Ammi majus. Sown before winter they will make six foot of frothy white flowers next year. Depending on the number of plants that make it through to spring we may use it alone or mix it with Consolia regalis ‘Blue Cloud’. They are both tall airy plants that look good in any part of the border. Like the sweet peas we can sow more in the spring for a later crop.
The weeding doesn’t let up while it’s still mild and damp. Late germinating weeds are enjoying having bare patches of ground all to themselves. Weeding in the rain on a calm day is very satisfying. The ground is so damp that the weeds slide out if you put a fork under them. If you are very organised you could put crocus or tulip bulbs in the hole and get two jobs done in one.
Originally published on www.alantitchmarsh.com (01.10.10)
Six of the Best.
Our favourite sweet peas (this week anyway)
Lathyrus odoratus ‘Linda Carole’ launched by Derek Heathcote who has produced some fine varieties since he started his business in 1992. This striking flower is similar to ‘Mars’ but seems to come better from seed. It has a carmine stripe and a delicate line outlining the white background (called a ‘picotee’ in sweet pea speak). Very good scent for a new variety.
Lathyrus odoratus ‘Matucana’ an old fashioned variety that has been around for 100s of years. The flower is smaller than the modern varieties but what it lacks in size it makes up for with an amazing scent. 10/10 on the smellometer!
Lathyrus odoratus ‘Our Harry.’ When we started growing sweet peas, we raised well known blue varieties such as ‘Noel Sutton’. One year at Chelsea I saw this pea across a crowded floral marquee and was immediately smitten. A very reliable, scented form with big flowers, this is the very beautiful ‘Our Harry’
Sweet Pea ‘Evening Glow’ is a notable addition to any sweet pea collection as it has a peachy tone in its soft pink flowers that is absent from most other peas. This is a connoisseurs sweet pea, it has some scent and grows vigorously. Sweet Pea ‘Valerie Harrod’ is similar in colour. This is looking very healthy and full of flower on our sweet pea canes.
Grandiflora Sweet Peas are sometimes called Antique or Heritage Sweet Peas. This picture shows ‘The Major’ in the foreground with red ‘Queen Alexandra’ behind. They are smaller than their newer cousins but make very gardenworthy plants because of they produce masses of flowers and have a very strong scent.
75 varieties of sweet pea are on show in the gardens now and you can find seed available for sale in the gardens or through our online shop.
(Please note all photographs are Copyright Fred Cholmeley.)