I absolutely love sweet peas! Their heady scent permeates our house and garden from June to September – sometimes longer, depending on the weather – and an increasingly wonderful array of beautiful colours delights our eye each year as we grow different cultivars. They’re one of the quintessential English cottage garden blooms; for some “the queen of annuals”.
But wait… Lathyrus odoratus hail from the Mediterranean, where they originally grew wild in Southern Italy, smouldering Sicily and cultured Crete! And they only became such an icon of Englishness after they were cultivated by a certain Henry Eckford (who was Scottish) in the 1870s. Thank you so much, Henry!
Not that British at all, then! But it does seems fitting that sweet peas come from where they do. Perhaps Apollo, Artemis and Zeus delighted at their captivating fragrance. It seems only right that they should. I can just see Pascal, and I, sitting on a wonderful terrace together on Crete, in a shady spot, surrounded by their lovely, fragrant blooms, eating peaches fresh from the trees. It would be easy to believe that they are a gift from the gods.
Sweet peas flower in abundance once they start and, the more you cut the stems, the more flowers they will give you, but the stems will get shorter as the season goes on. The act of selecting and arranging the colours is as much a joy for me as looking at them and smelling them on my tables. And it pleases me that they were grown totally organically – like everything else in our garden – as part of a natural ecosystem where birds and insects are all free to safely enjoy and share its beauty with us.