A highly scented heirloom sweet pea introduced by Henry Eckford in 1905 and named in honour of Queen Alexandria, wife of King Edward VII. Lathyrus odoratus 'Queen Alexandria' has bright scarlet-pink blooms with three flowers per stem. Taller and stronger growing that most grandifloras and impressive to behold, it is strongly scented too.
A Grandiflora variety, they thoroughly justify a place alongside the modern varieties. Although the flowers are smaller, they are more dainty and are borne in profusion. Once flowering starts, some can be picked every day, sometimes until October (provided you don’t let them go to seed). Their colours are more intense and glowing, and their scent, strong and heady is in a different league.
Germination of sweet pea seed is often quicker and more uniform if the seeds are soaked in water for 24 hours prior to sowing. This also enables you to identify any seeds with hard coats, which fail to swell during this period. These should have the seedcoat nicked with a small file to enable them to take up water. A temperature of 18 - 20°c will give rapid, even germination. As soon as the seedlings have emerged, they need to be grown as cool, and with as much light, as possible.
If you have a reliable source of John Innes seed compost, or for spring sowing John Innes No 1 potting compost, these will be eminently satisfactory for sweet peas. J.I. Nos 2 & 3 are too strong for seed sowing and should be avoided. We use a good quality peat based seed compost which has given consistently good results.
Sow in Autumn to Early Winter into rootrainers or long thin pots.
Push 2 well spaced seeds about 2.5cm below the compost surface. When roots fill rootrainers, pot on two seedlings into a 2 litre pot. Pinch out the tips when plants have 3 or 4 pairs of leaves. Over-winter undercover in a light, cool place.
Plant out - 2 plants to a vertical - in a mild spell in March. Tie them in every week to encourage straight stems. Can also be sown in Mar/April and planted out in April/May
Sweet peas can also be sown direct into the open ground where they are to flower. The best time for this in the UK is mid March to early April, depending on the weather and the locality. Sow 2 - 3" apart, about 1 - 2" deep and thin the resulting plants to an average of 6-8" apart. Slugs and mice can be a real problem on a direct sown crop, so take suitable precautions before you sow.
Sites for Sweet Peas:
Choose an open site which gets plenty of direct sunlight, but which has some shelter from the worst winds. Avoid planting close to an established hedge or where there will be competition from tree roots.
Young seedlings can be prone to disease if over watered, but once the crop is in full growth, a copious supply of water is needed. A well prepared site will pay dividends by having considerable reserves of available moisture. It is essential to encourage early establishment and a strong root system if high quality flowers are to be achieved.
Balanced fertilisers are safest, particularly tomato feed. Never apply heavy dressings of fertiliser to weakly growing plants - invalids need gentle coaxing back to health. Foliar feeding can be useful for plants with root problems, but frequent sprays of very dilute fertiliser will be needed to have a significant effect.
Flowering: Autumn sown in late May. Spring sown in early summer. Keep picking as often as you can. Flower production: 2-3 months Vase life: 4-5 days
If you are interested in the growing of sweet peas, why not join “The Eckford Sweet Pea Society of Wem” Named after Henry Eckford of Wem who began work on the flower in about 1876. it is dedicated to the conservation and promotion of these varieties. For details, send an s.a.e. to the Membership Secretary, Lyndale Nook Farm, Weston-under-Redcastle, Nr. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY4 5LP.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 16 Seeds Family Leguminosae Genus Lathyrus Species odoratus Cultivar Grandiflora 'King Edward' Synonym Heritage / Heirloom Sweet Pea Common Name Sweet Pea Other Common Names sweetpea Hardiness Hardy Annual Hardy Scarlet-pink Flowers June through September Height 200cm (6ft) Spread 30cm (12in) Position Full sun, Partial shade Soil Well-drained/light, Clay/heavy, Chalky/alkaline, Dry Notes Time to plant seeds: September to May