Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Sweet Peas, Gin and The Perils of Gardening Clubs

November is a month for harvesting leaves for magical leafmould, planting bulbs, and preparing ground for new hedges, yet I am always overcome by the urge to sow seeds at this time of year. I suppose it is because it seems like forever until the next sowing frenzy.
I usually start sweet peas in November or spring. A few weeks ago I was told that October is the optimum time to sow them and it was music to my ears. My desire to pop some seeds into compost is at its height in October. I carefully selected the varieties I wished to grow and was all ready to sow, then life being life, did its thing and got in the way of my plans so I shall be sowing them this month as usual. 
My sweet peas grow haphazardly up hazel poles with strings woven round onto which they can cling. I pick them all the way through summer and autumn (there are a few in a vase on my desk right now). These blooms might not be atop the longest, straightest stems you will ever see, but they smell divine and at the height of the season I pick them by the bucketful.
I remember many moons ago watching a television programme featuring an exhibitor who explained all the rigmarole of cutting off sweet pea tendrils, tying the peas in, and then laying them down and training them up a cane further along the line. I thought at the time that the poor man should get a life. Now I rather envy him. 
The Royal Norfolk Show 2016
The person from whom I learnt about October sowing exhibits sweet peas. He has won awards for the quality of his blooms. I have never had any urge to grow show standard flowers and arrange them in a bikini vase, or nurture a giant onion and enter it in a show. It would be like stuffing one of my kids into a pretty frock and shoving them into a beauty pageant. I realise that a lot of people do this, it’s just that I’m not one of them. Yet suddenly, after decades of gardening, I am inspired to grow exhibition quality sweet peas. 
The Royal Norfolk Show 2016
This whole sweet pea obsession has caused me to start a cutting garden. I am landscaping it at the moment and pride of place will be given to my sweet peas (if I ever get around to sowing them). Such is the danger of going to a gardening club talk given by a passionate sweet pea grower. Needless to say, I was mightily relieved that last week's talk was about gin. I've never been particularly partial to gin, but guess what? I'm converted! At this rate, summer 2017 will be spent flouncing around horticultural shows, polishing my straight-stemmed sweet peas, gin in my hand. I daren't even ask what next month's talk will be about. 
The local gardening clubs I attend are: