FARM AND GARDEN: Sweet Peas Are Not Your Garden Pea Variety | Home & Garden

Is there a flower that reminds you of someone special? As I prepare my beds in the spring, I think of each of my grandmothers. They had flowers in their gardens that were both magical to me and totally different, just like my grandmothers.

My maternal grandmother had sugar snap peas growing along her base. She didn’t appreciate them as much as I did. She told me to drag them all and take them with me! They always withered when I got home, so I left some to enjoy when I came back to visit. As a kid I thought they were the most beautiful pink magical flower and plant in the world.

As the light pink flower began to fade, it turned purple. I really enjoyed looking for them every spring and was drawn to them every time I visited them. Not only did they have beautiful flowers, but they also had interesting tendrils that would cling to a neighboring plant or trellis for climbing.

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Sweet peas are known as romantic flowers because of their enchanting fragrance. They usually bloom around June 21st – the longest day of the year. If you’ve never had the pleasure of growing sweet peas, they are climbing plants with beautiful clusters of flowers resembling fringed butterflies.

Their stalks appear to be folded and are sturdy enough to support stalks up to two meters tall and plenty of blooms. The varieties come in a variety of many colors including red, pink, blue, white, and lavender. They should be planted in early spring or late winter, and soaking the seeds will help them germinate faster.

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They were discovered in 1696 by a Franciscan friar, Father Cupani, who found them on the hills of Sicily. He was so fascinated by its beauty and fragrance that he collected the plant and planted sweet pea seeds in his monastery garden. He also sent the seeds to breeders around the world.

Don’t confuse sweet peas with the garden pea variety. Lathyrus odoratus (annual) and Lathyrus latifolius (perennial) are legumes, but are not edible. All plants, flowers and seeds of the “sweet pea” are poisonous and should not be eaten.

The garden pea family members, Pisum sativum, English peas, snow peas, snow peas, and pea pods are edible and delicious. Their flowers and plants resemble the non-edible variety.

Commonly found in cottage gardens or informal gardens, sweet peas make good cut flowers. They work well for climbing up a trellis or fence, or can also “flow” out of a planter.

Does gardening bring back childhood memories of someone’s garden, arrangement, or special meal?

If you have questions about your garden or landscape, contact a master gardener at the University of Illinois Extension Office in Mattoon at 217-345-7034. Be sure to visit the U of I Extension Horticultural website and like the Master Gardeners Facebook page

Illinois Extension leads public affairs for the University of Illinois, turning research findings into action plans that enable Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to change and opportunity.


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