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:
https://www.facebook.com/nofeargardening/?fref=ts
http://www.forncett.info/index.php/activities/diggers-and-dibblers/diggers-and-dibblers-events



30 comments:

  1. Gardening is all about dreaming. Sweet pea prizes and gin with the judges. Heaven!
    PS A keen gardener I knew who won lots of prizes swore by waiting until January to sow.

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    1. That's worth knowing - thanks for the tip. Now I'm wondering if a little gin might go a long way towards straightening those stems in the eyes of the judges. ;-)

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  2. Sweet peas are the balm of my soul. I looked up Diggers and Dibbers. What a fun bunch-I'm fortunate enough to belong to a great club myself. Is there anyway I can contact the person organising the upcoming quiz? I'd like to suggest something similar for our club in beautiful Powell River, British Columbia.

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    1. Hi Susan, I have sent an email to you regarding getting in touch with the chair of Diggers & Dibblers. She would be delighted to hear from you.

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  3. Oh dear. I have bought Sweet Peas and not sown them yet ! I think they don't need heat to germinate ? I will sow them and hope they survive the winter

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    1. There's still time (and you always have spring!) I keep my sweet peas in my office which is quite cold.

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  4. The colors of those sweet peas are so vivid. For some reason, I've never tried them but I think I need to. Happy Bloom Day!

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    1. There are some excellent cultivars. I grew some last year which changed colour, from pale blue to pink, as the flower matured. I rather liked them, but I prefer the stronger coloured varieties.

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  5. They are lovely. I have never grown sweet peas.

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    1. You ought to give them a whirl... the scent is divine!

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  6. I have learned to sow them in November. I am looking forward to see your flowers next year. Groetjes Hetty

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    1. They are wonderful, aren't they? Fingers crossed for a flower-filled summer.

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  7. I hope your sweet peas germinate and prosper, whenever you get around to planting them. Here in Southern California, the conventional wisdom is to plant them by our Labor Day holiday in early September but that pre-dates our drought and increasingly warmer fall/winter temperatures. In my case, the process is further complicated by the pesky raccoons who enjoy digging in newly prepared seed beds. But I persevere with repeated sowings and resort to plant plugs if defeated on all fronts.

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    1. Typical gardener refusing to be beaten! I have the same trouble with beans... I always sow under cover and plant out once they are a few centimetres high.

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    1. They are my second-favourite flower after snowdrops :)

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  9. I'm afraid that I will never grow show flowers. To me just picking them for a vase is enough. '

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    1. That was my view entirely... until I was converted!

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  10. I usually make two showings of sweet peas, October and April to have some continuity of flowers in the garden.
    You will have to go careful on the gin or your sweet pea will be straight enough for the show bench 🍸

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    1. I have never sown as late as April, but I think I'll give that a try. The ones which last until autumn here, do so because I check them by not planting them out until later. Hardly acceptable behaviour for the show bench!

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  11. Sweet peas are very pretty. I grew some this year by the front door and the smell was fabulous, even hubby noticed. Yes I'd keep away from talks for a while!

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    1. How lovely to have them by the front door. Next month's talk involves mulled wine and wreath-making. What could possibly go wrong?!

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  12. The colour of the sweetpeas in your first photo is amazing Sarah! Can you remember what variety they are please? As obsessions go, I think a sweetpea one would be healthier than most!
    I will be following your cutting garden with interest, as I fancy making one myself, as I can never bring myself to cut flowers from the garden itself!

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    1. There is a mixture in the first photo, but the strong purple/blue is Blue Velvet.
      I have always regarded cutting gardens as a bit of an indulgence, but I share your qualms about cutting from the borders so I thought I'd give a little space over to a cutting garden next year. What are the chances that I'll still not want to cut from it?!

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  13. Sweetpeas are the best! I've had spotty success. Some years they flourish while other years they are duds. I'll keep trying.

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    1. A true gardener. We don't let the bad years get us down!

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  14. This is just too funny a post. I enjoy them tremendously. Any chance you are a comdedian by profession? I love sweet peas but have failed so far to grow them nicely. I will give another try. Hmmm..why plants seeds so early in October? You can't plant them outside until May, right? Beautiful pictures of sweet-pea, by the way.

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    1. We sow early to get them establishing well before we plant out. They don't need much protection to get them through the winter and then when May comes, the plants are raring to go and with any luck, we'll be picking flowers earlier in the season than had we sown in late winter/early spring. Also, there is a huge local flower show in June, so the race is on! So pleased you enjoyed the post.

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  15. I love sweet peas, but I have never tried to grow them because of our hot, hot summer. But with a little gin to encourage me onward, I think I could try growing them along with collard greens in my winter garden!

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    1. Gin is the missing link. A little gin can go a long way in convincing us to try plants we might never dream of growing.

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