The Society welcomed the return of Jill Hazell, who previously spoke about Gladiolus. Tonight it was the turn of sweet peas. Jill started her talk telling us how she came to grow sweet peas by taking over from someone else and then becoming hooked. There are many grown just for ornamental purposes and their scent. Some of these are perennial and can take over your garden, sweet pea Belinensis also comes in yellow and orange. Jill then went on to talk about growing for showing. She recommended digging a trench and putting in well rotted manure, add some fertilizer, Vitax Q4 is long acting, and then rake soil over the trench. Plant canes 9” apart with 18” between the rows, as they are liable to wind damage a stake at each end is needed to support them. For showing in June/ July sow in the Autumn, Jill germinates her seeds on damp kitchen towel and then transfers them to pots. They need to be protected from mice, and labelled. Grow the plants on hard and mix compost with perlite for good drainage, they are frost hardy.
When planting out keep the side shoots then find the strongest stem, removing the others. Grow up straight on a single stem removing all side shoots and tendrils, tying in with soft string or tape (max tapener, from Labels & Things etc) and keep cutting the flowers and do not allow to set seed. Sweet peas are self pollinating so come true to the mother plant but best seeds are the early flowers. Jill gets her seed from Roger Parsons who hold the national collection, or Phil Kerton, these are British growers, many of the other seed suppliers obtain their seed from New Zealand.
Sweet peas can be beset with aphids which will distort the growing tip and spread virus’ so these need to be dealt with at first sight. The other problem although not serious is the pollen beetle. Difficult to remove from the plants without damaging the blooms. Cutting the night before and putting in a dark place with an open window does help. For showing, the flowers need to have 4 florets, compact flowers with long stems and shown according to their alignment (left or Right). Transportation can be a problem, use buckets or chicken wire. If layering when the plants get to the top of the sticks do it at least 2 weeks before the show. Scent is graded by numbers 1-5, 5 being the strongest.
Jill finished her talk by showing us different arrangements , Basket, table and a Candlestick. A very enjoyable and informative talk.