Early Sweet Peas
Updated: Sep 26, 2021
This year I'll grow some early sweet peas because I finally learned about day-length rules for sweet peas. If that confuses you - read on.
I love sweet peas, and our customers love them too, so I’d like to grow as many as I can. But our space is limited – that’s why we named our business Tiny Footprint Flowers. We only have space for a few varieties, so I have to choose carefully.
My hairdresser always grew wonderful sweet peas, and she planted hers much earlier than I ever did. She grew ‘Winter Elegance’ mix of seeds, and sometimes hers were blooming in January. I always stuck to individually named varieties, usually Spencer types, and they flowered in April or May. This year I did more research, including reading Roger Parson’s informative website on sweet peas, and now I can choose varieties more intelligently.
Sweet peas varieties can be divided into short-day flowering, long-day flowering and day-length neutral types. The Spencer varieties are long-day flowering, and that’s why my favorite varieties, like April in Paris, didn’t bloom in winter. ‘Winter Elegance’ and ‘Velvet Elegance’ seed mixes are short-day types.
For a while it was hard to get seed for individual varieties of sweet peas here in the US. The US growers gradually retired, nurseries sold only seed mixtures and individual varieties were hard to find. Now sweet peas are coming back and it’s wonderful. But even so, the early-flowering winter types aren’t easy to find. This year I ordered some from Roger Parsons in England (where sweet peas have always been available, and gardeners know all about different varieties). But unfortunately, the seeds I ordered were confiscated and destroyed at US customs. When I emailed Mr. Parsons about this, he was very helpful – explaining the options and how costly it was to provide the documents US customs wanted – but he also recommended a US supplier, Ardelia Farm. I was able to get seeds from Ardelia and now I’ll be able to try growing both short-day and long-day sweet peas.
So here’s my plan for 2022 sweet peas - the first two are early, the rest are mostly Spencers.
Sunshine Opal - a short-day type that should bloom early
Sunshine Light Blue - ditto, a short-day type
April in Paris - I always grow this one because it’s the most fragrant sweet pea of all. It’s not colorful – it’s white with lavender edges – but it’s prolific and oh my what fragrance!
Restormel - I like this one because it’s vigorous, colorful, and seems to be more snail-resistant.
I’ll keep you posted on the results – wish me luck!