The First Sweet Peas

Sweet peas are the first plants I ever grew. I bought ten packets of sweet pea seeds for our first garden. Yes TEN!
I thought growing them would be difficult and I’d be lucky to cultivate a few plants. To my surprise every seed germinated.

Our new garden was crammed to the brim with beautiful scented Sweet Peas that first summer. Looking back I’m guessing there must have been 200 – 300 plants in all. The boundaries were a riot of colour. I’d say that’s what got me hooked on gardening. I thought I had such a talent for growing!  Pretty soon I realised that most seeds are very easy to grow… they just need someone to plant them.
Actually anyone can do it!



Sweet Peas are well known as classic English Country Garden plants and yet they are a fairly recent introduction. Seeds were originally sent here from Italy just three centuries ago. This one Lathyrus odoratus ‘Cupani’ is named after the monk Francis Cupani who sent it from his monastery home in Sicily to a teacher friend in the UK in 1699. Our Grandiflora/Old Fashioned Sweet Peas are descended from this one. Cupani is thought to be the closest we have to the original plants which still  grow wild in hedgerows in Italy and Sicily.

This is the first time I’ve grown Cupani, it’s robust and quite lovely.  My plants have done very well this year climbing to more than 2 metres/6 feet already this summer. What’s more they are growing in partial shade under mature trees so I’m very impressed so far.


Cupani is supposed to flower well into October as it’s quite hardy throughout the UK. I can’t comment on that yet but we’ll see..


Comparing-Sweet-PeasThe stems are short and the flowers of Cupani are much more petite than modern hybrids.

Here you can see the bi-coloured purple and violet flowers of Cupani (left) with a pale pink perennial Sweet Pea (middle) and a typical annual lilac Sweet Pea. (right)

Today Sweet Peas are selected for size and colour. But if it’s perfume you’re after then a tiny vase full of Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ is all you need to scent a room. They are not overpowering just… Heavenly!


All Sweet Peas need picking regularly… daily if possible. If you let them go to seed they will stop flowering. You’ll know you need to step up your picking if they start producing fat pods full of seeds like these in the photo below.

When you go on holiday ask a friend or neighbour to pick as many flowers as they like as often as they like. You’ll have happy neighbours and plenty of fresh young flowers to come home to.

I’ve got a lot to thank Sweet Peas for. It’s because of them that I developed green fingers and each summer they provide me with buckets of beautiful flowers. Are you growing Sweet Peas this year? Which is your favourite?

Happy Gardening              Gillian 🙂

13 thoughts on “The First Sweet Peas

  1. I love Sweet peas too and always try to grow them somewhere. I was a bit late putting mine out this year, but they are just getting buds now so won’t be long. Sorry, can’t tell you the variety as I have mislaid the packet for now, but they will be old fashioned and scented for sure and hopefully not too tall for the wigwam I have built this year.

    1. That’s the amazing thing about scent isn’t it Judy? As soon as you smell those Sweet Peas… Woosh… you’re right back to happy times in your childhood.

  2. I have to have Sweet Peas in the garden each year. It’s my only non negotiable plant. When I was ill and couldn’t garden I went two years without them and I really missed them.
    I’m growing a mixed bunch seeded from my father in law’s flowers and also Turquoise Lagoon which were free with Garden News magazine. They start a pale pink and turn turquoise as they age. Definitely one I’ll be growing again next year

      1. Ooooh they look lovely Gina. Thanks for the link. Seed catalogue photos don’t often show the true flower colours do they? I bet yours are gorgeous.

  3. I love your Sweet Peas and your enthusiasm is infectious! I am sure that your passion for what you do will spread and help many others to plant their first seeds. My problem is that I can’t stop! Thank you for following my blog. I look forward to seeing all your posts too.

  4. This is our first year without growing sweet peas in nearly a decade … I miss am missing them! Thanks for bringing the joys of these simple but beautiful flowers to life!

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