sweet peas at the community garden

Seems all I bring home from my little 10 X 10 plot lately is sweet peas and fava beans. Not exactly a practical daily diet, but nourishing enough each in their own way.
More on the mysteries of fava beans later.


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Record-keeping is not my strongest suit. That’s a paragraph on its own in the as-yet unwritten post “Why I Blog.’ But I dashed off an email to myself with the date I planted these sweet peas, 11/29/12, noting only one of the names of the three varieties I planted, ‘Nimbus.’ White petals flushed and veined in indigo.

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They were bought as small plants of named varieties. Stormy ‘Nimbus’ is quite the change-up from the loads of deep wine-colored sweet peas that have been filling Mason jars and vases since late March from a seed mix by Renee Shepherd that I direct-sowed in November. It’s called ‘Velvet Elegance,’ an early-blooming, day-length neutral strain. I like this mix for fall planting, when the plants can take advantage of a long, cool growing season and the winter rains. And ‘Velvet Elegance’ does bloom extra early in the short days of spring. It’s all about getting as long a season of cut flowers as possible before the heat of summer kicks in. I’m using “cattle panel” as trellis to support the vines.

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Much as I love the ‘Velvet Elegance’ mix as a sure-fire source of flowers, I’m really glad I took a chance on a few named varieties to shake things up in April. I wasn’t sure the soil in my garden plot could grow decent sweet peas at all yet, after construction equipment from a municipal drain project left it in such a compacted mess. Splurging on a few fancier kinds seemed a bit reckless at the time. If gambling away 10 dollars can be considered reckless.

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The gamble paid off. The moral: Sow sweet peas, lots of them. You will probably be tired of cutting them for vases before they are bloomed out. Starting plants from seeds is best, but don’t ignore an opportunity to bring in some exciting new kinds even as small plants. There must be a window in just about every climate where sweet peas can grow and bloom, however small that window may be. In Southern California fall sowing might be best, so they grow strong in cool temperatures, taking advantage of whatever winter rain we get to bloom early before the heat of summer.


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I left the bucket of sweet peas in the car yesterday while I did a few errands. When I opened the door again, the unexpected fragrance that poured out stunned me for a moment, until I remembered leaving the flowers soaking in a bucket on the floor of the car. Along with finding the smallest parking spaces in Los Angeles, now I know a Mini Cooper on a warm spring day holds scent quite well.


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9 Responses to sweet peas at the community garden

  1. How lovely. I adore sweet peas and yet once again I don’t have them. I sowed some but they are puny things and I don’t think they will flower. Must try harder next year. Funny thing is I have lots of snap peas right now.

  2. Denise says:

    Jenny, my snap peas were the failure! Go figure.

  3. kathy says:

    My SweetPeas are on the verge, and I am pondering how I am going to resolve the planting mistake I made this year. All Cupanis from Renees.They are my particular favorites. But you Nimbus-es (Nimbusi?) are pretty cool looking.

  4. Hoov says:

    Yours look wonderful. Mine were a disaster, but at least I tried. Better luck next year…

  5. So nice you’re here to bring us good things! Thanks Denise!

  6. You wild gambler, you! I’m quite knocked out by ‘Nimbus'(but where’s the Smellovision when you need it?) I grew a sweet pea mix two springs ago purely for the fragrance. The soft watercolor of pinks and creams on the packet misrepresented their color, as they almost all bloomed white. A bit disappointing as a bouquet, but the scent was magnificent.

  7. Bob says:

    My grandmother here in Denver used to make me plant her sweet peas on St. Patrick’s Day. Never before, never after.
    The National Sweet Pea Society in the U.K. allows its members to become vice-presidents of the society for a slightly larger contribution. Not sure what powers are conferred upon a vice-president, but what a way to get extra members ….

  8. Denise says:

    Kathy, there’s some cupanis growing in an adjacent plot. I should go have a sniff to find out what the hubbub is all about.
    Hoov, yes, next year!
    Dustin, nice words coming from someone whose garden and brain I pillage constantly. You’re most welcome!
    Jane, isn’t that a weird economics gardeners practice? Makes no sense at all.
    Bob, I imagine Denver’s planting date would be very different from SoCal’s.

  9. Pam/Digging says:

    They smell heavenly. I got my first sniff in Seattle a couple of years ago. Just encountered more sweet peas in an Austin garden last Sunday and pressed my nose in for a nice long sniff.

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