Monthly Archives: March 2016

Sweet peas are, surprisingly not members of the pea family at all.. Lathyrus odoratus, the botanical name, is Greek for ” pulse or pea” fragrant peas as they are sometimes called.


Most peas are edible, including the wild or [sea] peas but sweet peas are poisonous and there is a medical term, Lathyrism, to describe sweet pea poising which can lead to serious consequences like convulsions, paralysis in the legs and unconsciousness.

Sweet Peas are really latecomer’s to our gardens, becoming more popular in the 1890’s. They were discovered in 1515 by a Franciscan Monk in the fields of Sicily and cultivated for their sweet scent. Thought to have magical healing powers. Just as in the story of Oliver Twist who recovers his health in a garden of sweet peas that ” perfumed the air with delicious odours.”

Growing up in the rural country sides of New England it wasn’t uncommon to have a rather large vegetable garden and Dad lovingly planed and planted ours starting just as he would say ” you could put a shovel to the ground.” I remember the many early crops he would plant and the further end of the garden was for the row of sweet peas he would plant for Moms bouquets. He would have me cut pea sticks for them to grow up on to from the fields edge, it was my job to stick them in the soil along the seed planted row. He had prepped the bed with lots of manure and peat as sweet peas are heavy feeders and love an early cool start. Dad always said if you plant them on or around St Patrick’s Day the flowers are bigger and more fragrant.

There are two types of them the bush and the climbers and you should soak the seeds in warm water over night for better germination. they like humus well draining soil in a sunny location. Some are annual and or perennial and the climbers can be used to climb up on trellises and through shrubs for a different look.

For me, sweet peas are easy to grow and make a great cut flower. However if you are going to grow some, the older varieties have more fragrance, the newer more ruffled bigger flowers are beautiful but less fragrant and in my book its the fragrance of them that I enjoy and the memories that evokes.


When I think of sweet peas I think of old fashion tussie mussie’s and gramma’s back porch with lemon aid and warm thoughts.

So the next time some one might call you their little ” sweet pea ” think how special that must be.

A thought; Sometimes new things can conjure up old memories.