The Sweet Pea man of Hurstpierpoint

I haven’t managed to interview my own resident sweet pea expert, Ron, yet, but my recent visit to the Hurstpierpoint allowed me to meet another sweet pea man – another genius with these gorgeous, highly-scented flowers. As you can see, his sweet peas are second to none (except, maybe, Ron’s!) and he agreed to share some of his secrets. The key to producing huge blooms like this is cordon growing. And it is quite a lot of work – but the evidence suggests that if you like sweet peas as much as I do, it’s well worth it.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Choose a sunny spot and hammer two stakes into the ground to make a row.

  2. Attach parallel wires between the posts, one at the bottom and one further up. Push canes into the soil every nine inches or so and secure them to the wires.

  3. Plant one sweet pea in front of each cane – the Sweet Pea man of Hurstpierpoint has actually colour-coordinated his along the rows, but you might choose to mix the really highly scented varieties like the grandifloras amongst the others (the Spencer varieties usually have bigger flowers but less scent) to encourage the pollinators who will be drawn by the fragrance and then travel around the rest of your plot.

  4. Let the plants grow to a foot tall and then select the strongest shoot and remove the rest – painful, but necessary if you want really strong flowers.

  5. Tie this shoot to the cane and regularly pinch off side shoots and tendrils – this step means the plant gives all its strength to the flowers rather than dissipating it in side shoots and climbing growth. You will need pea rings or horticultural tape to keep tying the primary shoot to the cane.

  6. When the plants have reached the top of the canes, untie them and lay the stems on the ground, parallel to the row.

  7. Now re-tie stems to a cane further along the row, so the tip of the plant reaches about a foot up its new cane.

This is why so many people grow sweet peas on the allotment rather than in the garden at home - it's just too much to be expected give up so much garden space for a single plant, but on your plot you can extend the cane row as far as you like without losing much in terms of space.

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Saturday, July 7, 2007


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