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The Sweet Pea Book

The Sweet Pea Book
by Graham Rice
Timber Press, 2003

Although there are sweet peas growing all over the world, this cultivation manual covers varieties and conditions generally available to gardeners in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Wild sweet peas have been traced back to Sicily, China, Malta, Sri Lanka and elsewhere, but the true origins of the species are lost to history. The first printed reference, though, is attributed to Francisco Cupani in 1695 in Sicily, where he was in charge of a botanical garden. Cupani published a written description of the plant and sent seed to other European botanists and its cultivation was begun. Sweet peas would eventually become the most widely grown of garden flowers worldwide.

This manual, written for amateur gardeners who grow sweet peas in their flower beds and borders and hanging pots, explains how to "grow better sweet peas and use them more widely and more imaginatively in gardens." In addition to a directory of hundreds of varieties, there's advice on selecting, breeding and exhibiting sweet peas.

Serious exhibitors and gardeners wanting high-quality cut flowers often grow their sweet peas on cordons, restricting the growth of each plant to a single shoot, which results in larger flowers on very much larger stems. With access to more light and less entanglement with other plants, the sweet peas produce individual flowers with better placement.

Detailed instructions for growing on cordons is included in the book along with advice on feeding, watering and dead-heading. There are chapters on choosing sweet pea seeds and growing them from seed as well as one on problem-solving and appendix listings of awards and seed sources.

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The Sweet Pea Book

The Sweet Peas: Descriptions
Varieties on the cover photo above in the following formation:
                      A  D  F
                      B  E
                      C     G

A. Charlie. The earliest dark purple. Buds colour early, but the effect is slightly messy-looking. 

B.  Remembrance. Deep maroon scarlet.

C. Blaze. Dazzling deep orange with overtones of scarlet. Sun-proof. Well scented.

D. Oxford Blue. Large flowered rich blue with lavender and occasional reddish tints.

E. Eclipse. Large-flowered purple with a very ruffled look.

F. Ruby Anniversary. Large-flowered pale reddish-purple.

G. Robert Uvedale. Large flowers, very bright and bold. 

(Note: Abbreviated descriptions above do not include standards, category, raiser and year of introduction.)


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