Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Perfumed Garden

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Perfumed Garden

Article excerpt

Byline: Pattie Barron

MMG/MARIANNE MAJERUS [bar] WEET PEA enthusiasts sow the seed in early winter or early spring, in root trainers or cardboard tubes that can accommodate their long roots, before planting them out. This way they can be sure of choosing the precise varieties they want, such as highly perfumed crimson and purple Matucana, sumptuous Scarlet or the coveted grandiflora, lavender Flora Norton.

The great thing about growing sweet peas though -- aside from the fact that you can pick the flowers for weeks on end -- is that every single variety is gorgeous; there are no duds. A jug of simple sweet peas in a jumble of colours is about the most exquisite of summer bouquets, deliciously fragrant.

All you have to do to achieve this, for every day through summer, is to run out to the garden centre this weekend and buy a six-pack of any mixed bunch you happen to see, then plant them. Several weeks on, the colours and the perfume are guaranteed to knock you sideways.

You will, however, need to give them the support they deserve. Provide sweet peas with any kind of climbing frame and they will clamber tenaciously, their tendrils twirling around whatever they come across. The key is to give them an adequate framework: anything less than two metres high and the topmost stems will be flailing around with nowhere to go, vulnerable to the next passing summer gale. A panel of sturdy trellis or wire mesh, sweet peas planted along its base just about now, will give you a fabulous flowery screen come summer; an arch with sweet peas on either side will form a bower of blooms. Both will make for easy pickings, too.

The cottage-garden method of growing sweet peas on a teepee, however, suits any kind of plot and adds a stunning vertical feature to a flat bed or border. Most shop-bought teepees, though attractive, aren't tall enough; the best option is to make your own from six bamboo poles tied at the top, or better yet, hazel poles that will give your plot country-garden status. …

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