sweet peas | why sarah loves them and how to cut them

If you’re going to grow one plant for picking, or one family, it probably has to be the sweet pea, they are just the most luscious, lovely, scented, pretty, easy, just sort of quintessentially British cut flower and I completely love them.

This year there are 3 that I’ve really fallen for which are quite new varieties, some of them, and one really old, and the first one that I just adore this year is this slightly strange kind of mauvey purple and it’s called 'Erewhon' and I just love it, it’s got really sturdy stems, it’s got good scent and it’s been flowering for ages which is what you want because sometimes they can be a little bit fleeting

The second one is behind me here, now that’s Matucana that’s the most strongly scented sweet pea in the world. Now that doesn’t have particularly strong stems it doesn’t have huge heads it’s just really delicate and really pretty, but the perfume is ten out of ten it wins the scent trial every single time.

And the final one is 'Blue Velvet' which is also growing with Matucana on the tee pea there. And that is really long flowering, I’ve sometimes picked that in October and it’s this luscious blue velvet colour and it has a slightly better vase life and the other thing I want to show you is just how I pick them, I have three tips for picking as well as these three current favourite varieties.

There are three things with sweet peas that really make a difference to how long you get out of them. And the first is, I’m sure you all know this, I’m teaching your grandmother to suck eggs, but you must dead head as you pick. So, when you move to a new plant just sort of look all the way over it and remove all the dead ones before you move on to the live ones and I tend to always do it first, it just makes it quicker and I just shove those in a bucket that’s going to go on the compost heap.

And then the second thing is, you’ll see I’ve got these rather ugly elastic bands on my wrist, what I do is I always pick and then make a bunch like this, one, two, three, like that. And then once when I’ve got a decent bunch in my hand get a rubber band, and I band them and plop them in the water and done like that when I get them into the house I can have them in a big shallow bowl and I can just go plop plop plop plop plop all the bunches, and then when they’re in the water, I cut the rubber bands if I want to, with my scissors. Sort of just like hair and it just cuts so much time out of making sweet pea arrangements.

And then the final thing, if I got something like that, with quite a short stem I actually go sometimes really quite deep in the plant like that, because then what I’ve got, is even though I’ve picked the leader already from this, it gives me a really lovely tall stem, and of course I’m cutting back into the plant so I then get these things called auxiliary buds forming, like there and there, but lower in the plant obviously below this which will then be next week’s flower or flowers the week after and it really prolongs their season. So, and as the stems go on, they get shorter and so look at these little ones here I mean they are not fully developed but they will develop in the vase so I’ll cut right down for that and those will continue to develop.

So, best sweet peas and the best ways to pick them.

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