What could be more elegant than a vase of cream-colored Sweet Peas? and with its especially strong scent this is one of the essential antique varieties.
Lathyrus odoratus 'Mrs Collier' holds an elevated position among the old grandiflora sweet peas, long being the mainstay of exhibitors and serious gardeners alike
It is a most valuable colour among sweet peas, blending well with most other colours. A splendid rich cream with three flowers to a stem and a particularly highly scented grandiflora sweet pea.
This heirloom variety was bred by Dobbie & Son of Edinburgh in 1906 and introduced in 1907. It was given an Award of Merit in the same year.
It was sold under many different names and fortunately seems to have survived the passage of time unchanged before modern breeding for larger flowers sadly eliminated most of the delicious fragrance.
Lathyrus odoratus 'Mrs Collier' was awarded the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1907.
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.
Feeding: 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 2.5 grams Average Seed Count 30 Seeds Family Leguminosae Genus Lathyrus Species odoratus Cultivar Mrs Collier Synonym Heritage / Heirloom Sweet Pea Common Name Sweet Pea Other Common Names sweetpea Hardiness Hardy Annual Flowers June through September Height 200 -250cm (6-8ft) 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