sweet peas

It was  difficult to choose what to write about this week.  Looking through our photos, there are so many lovely things to share, but by their nature the flowers are fleeting, and what we can pick in all its prime of perfection this week may well be going over by the time I next come to write, and something else be growing up to take its place.  I've made three bouquets that I am very proud of this week: one spillling and wild (my favourite style), one decadently dense and with some ripe raspberries and deep ginger-coloured roses, and one neat and delicate and posy-like; but I decided not to share those.  We've caught some beautiful images of the larkspur, which has been excpetionally lovely this year; but I decided not to share those, gambling that they will still be doing lovely things next week.  The garden generally is looking its best, neat and organised and heaving with flowers; but I decided not to share those images, as an incentive not to let it all get away from us...

The sweet peas are just so pretty.  On Saturday evening Barney and I were picking the last of the flowers for a customer in London, to be delivered first thing the next day.  The evening light had been changing as we picked, and as I brought a little bucket of sweet peas down to the bothy the soft golden glow that lit them was so lovely that while Barney picked the last few stems of rambling rose, I picked up my camera.  Massed together in the little zinc bucket the flowers looked fresh and satiny.  As I singled out the different varieties with my lense, I began to appreciate their differences so much more than when I am hurriedly picking them for an order.  I am sorry to say that in the hurry to get the young plants into the ground before they outgrew their pots this year, the plant labels did not find their way into the ground to mark the different varieties, so those new ones which we're trialling this year remain mysteries to us.  Among them are this delicate and delectable pink and white flower, with small round petals faintly veined.  The very dark blue flower looks almost like a violet here, crisp and intense and defined.  The flaked varieties, such as this mauve and white sweet pea, always seem to be weaker than the other kinds, and with shorter stems, but they are delightful for their markings.  Mixed in with these new kinds are three old favourites which we always grow, every year: Cream Southborne, with subtle faint pink smears - like strawberries stirred briskly into a bowl of thick cream - and Jilly, a tall ruffly white, and High Scent, with its delicate blue picotee rim.  All three of these varieties respond well to the general treatment we give our sweet peas: starting in pots as early as possible (usually October but I didn't manage to sow them until January this year); sowing ten or more to a fairly large round pot, so that the young plants can develop good roots; digging a trench and tipping in lots of good well-rotted muck; pinching out when the plants have five pairs of leaves; planting the young plants a foot apart in double rows, about two weeks later; watering copiously and then mulching thickly with well rotted manure; supporting with a strong structure involving canes and twine mesh.  These three favourite varieties will grow well under these conditions, with the added bonus of long stems, rich fragrance, and prolific, generous quantities of flowers.