Sarah's Weekly Blog: Sweet Peas for the future

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I’ve just returned from a visit to a sweet pea breeder near Colchester. I went with Gary, our horticultural buyer, to look for and plan new sweet peas for the future. There were some interesting things — a variety which opens purple and fades to turquoise (Turquoise Lagoon) which I love and hate at the same time. With the right things – maybe rich pinks and silvers – this could be marvelous, but it could look terrible too, like those weird carnations dipped in ink. It needs to be combined with care.

We also found a replacement for ‘Painted Lady’. I’ve got fed-up with this old-fashioned variety. Particularly in a sodden year like this one, it does not do well and I would love to find a stronger-growing replacement. We came back with ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ which does not smell quite as strong as ‘Painted Lady’ but is twice as floriferous and makes vigorous plants.

Then there was ‘Balcony Purple’ which grows to about three foot. Trained over a nest of pea sticks in a large pot, this solves the container-grown sweet pea issue. These are covered in flower for a bit longer than the average variety and it’s vase life seems good too, so you can grow it in a pot and pick from it for inside and it will still look good. There was a vast glasshouse of this variety, whose seed will be harvested and sent to New Zealand to grow it on a field scale to create sufficient quantities to offer in two or three years time.

We’re also working on a long-stemmed Modern Grandiflora replacement for ‘Matucana’ — one where you get the scent and the beauty, but a decent stem length. That’s early in the pipeline, but it would be such a good one to add. I’m not known for my patience, but these are all exciting new sweet peas, so it’s worth planning two or even five years ahead.

Thanks for reading!