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Connecticut Garden Journal: Despite what poems say, sweet peas are the most romantic flower

A still life study of Sweet Pea flowers (lathyrus odoratus).
William Turner / Getty Images
Roses are red, and violets are blue, but there is no more romantic and fragrant annual flower than the sweet pea.

There is no more romantic and fragrant annual flower than the sweet pea. While this delightful, vining flower needs to grow and bloom in cool weather, ironically modern sweet pea varieties begin with a monk in Sicily, Italy in the 1600's named 'Cupani.' In fact, you can still purchase this variety to grow in your garden.

The best fragrant varieties of sweet peas have sensuous names such as ‘Old Spice Mix,’ ‘April in Paris’ and ‘Perfume Delight’. A vase of these varieties as cut flowers will perfume the whole house.

Sweet peas grow and flower best with cool temperatures so plant them in the garden after all danger of a hard freeze is past, around the same time you'd plant edible garden peas. Most varieties climb, so erect a sturdy trellis or use a garden fence to hold them up. There are some dwarf varieties as well such as 'Color Palette Cupid' and 'Electric Blue'. These are great in containers and you can plant container varieties earlier since you can protect them during cold spring weather.

When sowing sweet pea seeds, to quicken germination, nick the seed coat with a nail file and soak peas overnight before planting the next morning. You can even start seeds indoors, under lights, a month before planting to really get a jump start on the season.

Sweet peas grow quickly on well-drained, fertile soil. Enjoy the flowers in the garden or as cut blooms indoors. Cut flowers when there are at least 2 unopened blooms on a stem. They should last 4 to 5 days in a vase of warm water.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.
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