Learn About The History Of Sweet Peas

By Mary H. Dyer | May 19, 2016
Image by amymreisman
by Mary H. Dyer
May 19, 2016

Dainty, ruffled blooms and a sweet fragrance make sweet pea plants some of the sweetest flowers in the garden. This old-fashioned favorite is incredibly easy to grow, and planting the seeds directly in the garden is about as simple as it gets.

Sweet Pea Information

If you’re thinking about growing sweet peas, you have an option of bush types, sturdy plants that top out at no more than 3 feet and need very little support, or vining varieties, which scramble happily up a fence or trellis. You can also choose from varieties that bloom in early spring, or summer.

Heirloom varieties are those that have been around for at least 40 to 50 years and some as long as a century. The blooms tend to be smaller than newer hybrids, but many growers prefer heirloom sweet peas over hybrids because the blooms have a sweeter, more powerful aroma.

You can even plant perennial sweet peas, but pass on perennials if you grow sweet peas for their sweet fragrance, as perennials have very little aroma, if any. No matter what type you decide to plant, you’re bound to enjoy weeks of enjoyment. The blooms come in incredible shades that include nearly every color, except for true yellow.

History of Sweet Peas

Sweet pea history has been traced to southern Italy and Sicily, where the plant grew wild. The sweet aroma and simple but beautiful blooms apparently delighted a Sicilian monk so much that he sent seeds to plant collectors and botanical institutions around the world, including a number of English growers.

Henry Eckford, a Scottish nurseryman, gets most of the credit for developing and hybridizing the plants, thus turning the sweet pea from a relatively unknown wildflower to one of the most popular flowers of the Victorian era. As reward for his hard work, Eckford was granted a Victoria Medal of Honor by the Royal Horticultural Society. As they say, the rest is history.

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