Paradise Garden

Gardening Articles written by Experts

Sweet Peas as Garden Flowers

by Mark Rowland

Sweet peas are among the most popular garden flowers; their sweet scent, soft colours and elegant form are irresistible. But not everyone realises the number of types of sweet pea that are suitable for the garden. Why not be adventurous and try out something new this year? Every garden has room for sweet peas; the main types available are listed below.

Spencer sweet pea 'Jill Walton'

These are what everybody thinks of when sweet peas are mentioned. Arising from a chance mutation over 100 years ago, they have been assiduously improved and offer large frilly flowers in a huge range of colours. Particularly popular in UK gardens, seeds of these varieties are widely available.

heirloom sweet pea 'Fire & Ice'
Grandiflora Sweet Peas

The enduring popularity of sweet peas stems from the development of this strain in the late C19th. The flowers were very large for those days - hence the name - but are fairly small by today's standards. For this reason they are often referred to as 'Antique' or 'heirloom' varieties. These are easily grown plants for the informal garden, producing masses of flower over a long season. Colours are often more intense than the modern varieties, but it is for their wonderful fragrance that they are again becoming popular cottage garden flowers. Check out the variety of grandiflora sweet peas available.

fancy sweet pea 'Maroon Stripe'
Fancy Sweet Peas

Both Spencer and Grandiflora sweet peas are available with these unusual and attractive flowers. Stripes, flakes and picotees each have their distinctive pattern and offer a fascinating change from the more familiar solid colours. The picotees in particular tend to be very strongly scented. Great in the garden and for flower arrangers. View a selection of fancy sweet peas.

the original sweet pea 'Cupani'

This is the name given to the original wild form of the sweet pea, and named after the Sicilian monk who first sent seed to England in 1699. It is characterised by more compact bushy growth, and intensely coloured small flowers with an overwhelming scent. Sometimes confused with 'Matucana', a much later grandiflora sweet pea dating from the 1930s (some catalogues give Matucana an erroneous date of 1543).

dwarf sweet pea 'Mauve Cherub'
Dwarf Sweet Peas

You do not have to have a large garden to grow sweet peas, these little fellows - known as cupids, cherubs, or a host of other terms - are ideal for tubs or hanging baskets. Spreading plants growing only a few inches high are smothered in small scented flowers of the typical sweet pea shape. They can also be used to edge borders, or to underplant the tall varieties. They prefer a sunny, well drained situation in the garden. See a range of dwarf sweet peas.

winter flowering sweet pea 'Winter Sunshine Pink'
Winter Flowering Sweet Peas

More the province of the professional cut flower grower, these varieties will flower for Christmas in a more salubrious climate such as California, but in Europe are normally grown under cover. In England flowering will start about mid March in frost protected glasshouses and even earlier with a bit more heat. A limited range of colours is available, but the flowers have the true sweet pea scent. They can also be used to provide early sweet pea flowers in the garden. See a range of winter flowering sweet peas.


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© 2005 - 2012 Mark Rowland

Owl's Acre Sweet Peas offer seed of a wide range of sweet pea varieties for both amateur gardeners and professional growers.

More information on sweet peas can be found at, the sweet pea and Lathyrus species information site.

A selection of sweet pea books is available for further reading.