Growing Sweet Peas: Summer Blooms, Seeds for Spring, and Stories

Growing Sweet Peas: Summer Blooms, Seeds for Spring, and Stories

When you ask me about sweet peas, I’ll tell you two stories.  (You may be wondering, ‘Why would I ask Rebecca about sweet peas?’ Just go with it.)

I discovered sweet peas through my lovely friend Tricia, a woman at my childhood church in Oregon who lived with her husband, two kids, and her “girls,” chickens that roamed about and roosted in a coop at their house just outside Oregon City. Tricia would bring us eggs from the girls, a feather tucked inside each carton that identified them as farm-fresh.  She grew food and flowers in their yard, and when I house-sat one summer, I received my first lesson in caring for the climbing, delicate sweet peas growing along her fence. I love flowers that grow best when picked often — bringing in the beautiful blooms to add color to your house also allows the annual to put its energy into new blooms.  They’re a gorgeous addition to an outdoor table setting: check out a few suggestions on how to make the most of your summer outdoor space over at the Enjoy Blog!

I fell in love with sweet peas, and the stories they’ve told me: memories of Tricia and her abundance of love and care, seen in her family, friendships, and garden, and of Jonathan, one of my closest friends, whose green thumb changes whatever corner of L.A. he lives in into a greenhouse.  One spring morning he dropped off a bunch of sweet peas at my apartment, the bright riot of reds, purples, yellows and stark whites off-set in a dark blue tea pot. Car-free, I walked through the streets of West Hollywood on my way to work, balancing a laptop bag on one shoulder and spilling water from my teapot o’ flowers, proudly flying my floral freak flag.

If you want to plant sweet peas for your summer and you don’t have a fence or trellis to train them up on, Jonathan suggests a tomato cage, which you can buy in a variety of sizes to suit your space. When your seeds sprout into tendrils, use ribbon or twist ties to train as many as possible to grow up the inside of the cage, so that they will spill out as they flourish. They just need a little guidance, and overnight the tendrils will latch on, even to each other. Some plants grow 6 or 8 feet tall.

Though it’s an annual plant, sweet peas keep on giving for years to come.  That’s what is especially great about the flower, says Jonathan.  While cutting them makes gorgeous, fragrant bouquets, if you leave some of the blooms on the vine, they will turn into green pea pods.  Once the pods are brown, snap them off, save them in a brown paper bag, and next spring, open the pods to find between 2 to 8 seeds to replant.

Mark your calendar to plant your sweet pea seeds in the spring!  Originating in Sicily, they love full sun and well-drained soil.  Check out The Old Farmer’s Almanac for more tips on growing, and Austin Wildflower’s post on the romantic history of the flower, and how to grow winter-flowering sweet peas, if your climate is right.

Does a certain flower remind you of a friend or a story?  Share it here in our comment sections, or over on Twitter @RebeccaSnavely & @TheCityFarm.

(Photo Credit: