Sow sweet peas in October or November and you’ll have flowers from May to August next year. You can sow them in spring for a later start and finish to flowering, but autumn sown sweet peas are little trouble and one thing less to do at the start of the growing year. Sweet peas first came to the U.K in 1699 when Father Francis Cuppani sent seed from Sicily and you can still buy a variety called Cuppani, which is closely related to the original wild flowers and is strongly scented with small flowers. The Victorians loved sweet peas and selective breeding resulted in the vast array of colours and forms available today. Most notably were sweet peas known as ‘Spencer’ varieties, which were bred by the head gardener of the Spencer family at Althorp. These are characterised by being highly scented, with long stems, frilly edged petals and large flowers. There are now hundreds of varieties in nearly every colour you can think of, except for the as yet elusive, yellow sweet pea.
Sowing sweet peas is easy and although old gardening books suggest you need to pre-