Updated: Nov 24
In the last post I told you how to get started. The next step is tying the little plants to the trellis. There are lots of methods, most of which I’ve tried. I’m the kind of gardener who’s very, very concerned about the way my garden looks, and I hate untidy things, but even I have to lower my standards when it comes to sweet peas. I used to tie them to their trellis using green tape or twist ties, securing one vine at a time and keeping the ties neat and camouflaged. But it took so long! And once the flowers started blooming, I didn’t notice or care about the ties. So now I just stretch twine across the whole row, tighten it gently and then tie the end to the trellis. I repeat that process as the vines grow, and sometimes I still have to add bits of twine here and there to bring in stragglers. My sweet pea bed is near the back of my back yard, with an evergreen boxwood hedge in front of it, so I can still sit on my patio and see only blooms, not wonky bits of twine.
When your sweet peas start to bloom (oh, happy day!) you need to pick them. Pick in the morning when it’s cool, and immediately place them in water. Flower food containing some sugar will make a big difference in how long the blooms last. Using Floralife brand solution, I can count on a week of vase life. The fragrance in your home will be wonderful!
As I wrote this post I began to realize that sweet peas are quite a bit of work! Try growing them once and if you find it’s too much, you can plant some easy cosmos next year and buy bouquets of sweet peas from Tiny Footprint Flowers. But you may get hooked on sweet peas, so if you’re still reading this, I’ll tell you about seed sources.
In England sweet peas have always been available and they're serious business! I recommend visiting the Roger Parsons site for information and photos of different varieties. In the US, sweet pea seed growers were decreasing until about 2015, when Erin Benzakein of Floret began to grow and sell sweet peas. If you want the best selection of individual varieties, visit the Floret site. I love that Benzakein is expanding what’s available in the US, but Floret is in Washington, where the climate is different from California, and it can be tricky to get her sweet pea seeds at the right time. I order in early fall, the first time Floret seeds are available, and they’re sold out in one day. The next offering is in January, which is too late for me.
When the sweet peas are finished (you’ll know by the yellowing of the lower leaves) remove the vines. You now have a blank garden space and an empty trellis. My solution is to plant pole beans (aka green beans; Blue Lake is my favorite variety). Nothing grows faster than a green bean, and we eat those all summer and fall, then in November it’s time to start over with new sweet peas. What a wonderful life!