Connecticut Garden Journal: Sweet Peas | Connecticut Public Radio

Connecticut Garden Journal: Sweet Peas

Apr 18, 2019

One of the best smells of spring are sweet peas. The flowers look like colorful butterflies and many have a heavenly scent. 

The sensuous fragrance has been described as a captivating blend of honey and orange with subtle layers. The flowers invoke love, romance and passion. Ahhh, amoree, but I get carried away.

Sweet peas were first discovered in Sicily in the 1600s by a monk name Francisco Cupani. In fact, you can still buy this original Cupani variety to grow. They quickly became popular. A Scotsman named Henry Eckford bred more than 150 varieties. By the 1800s, California was producing sweet peas for cut flowers and trainloads were shipped across country.

While many varieties of sweet peas are tall, others, such as Windowbox Cupid, can grow in small containers. I like the tall, fragrant varieties such as Old Spice, April in Paris, and Perfume Delight. Don’t get discouraged if your sweet peas aren’t very fragrant. Sweet peas need sunny days and cool temperatures to smell their best and they don't like air pollution. Sweet peas will self-sow and there's even a perennial type. But perennial sweet peas are not fragrant.

Sow sweet pea seeds once the ground has dried and frost has passed. Nick the seeds with a nail file and soak them in warm water overnight to hasten germination. Plant sweet peas near a window or door to enjoy the scent. Support tall varieties with a trellis or fence and in 50 days you’ll be snipping fresh blossoms for indoor bouquets. But don’t be tempted to eat them. The flowers and pods are poisonous.