Sweet Pea Trial 2017

Contents

I love growing sweet peas!  I hope to inspire and encourage you to grow your own sweet pea plants, so that you can experience these wonderful plants for yourself.

Sweet peas, also known by their botanical name of Lathyrus odoratus, are beautifully fragrant, hardy annuals.  Throughout my ongoing Sweet Pea Trials, I work to provide my readers with a wealth of information to help you to learn how to grow the healthiest, most floriferous sweet pea plants, that will produce the earliest flowers, with the tallest flowering stems over the longest flowering period!

For my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial I have compared seed sowing times, I have studied the effects of using two different seed trays, and I’ve also compared methods of growing and training sweet peas, as part of my continuing quest to discover the optimum method of growing sweet pea plants, to harvest the greatest number of flowers with the tallest flowering stems.  I hope this information will help you to grow sweet pea plants that will charm and delight you.

Firstly, let me introduce you to the sweet pea cultivars that I grew for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Sweet Pea seeds

I selected the following sweet pea cultivars for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial:

  • Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’
  • Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’
  • Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’
  • Lathyrus odoratus ‘Joyce Stanton’
  • Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’
  • Lathyrus odoratus ‘Naomi Nazareth’
  • Lathyrus odoratus ‘Queen of Hearts’
  • Lathyrus odoratus ‘White Frills’

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ is a crimson flowered, Non-Tendril Sweet Pea type.  Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ was introduced by Robert Place.

Non-Tendril Sweet Pea cultivars

Non-Tendril Sweet Pea cultivars produce pinnate leaves with a greater number of leaflets than other sweet pea cultivars, but no tendrils.  Plants of Non-Tendril Sweet Pea cultivars are unable to anchor themselves strongly, so consequently these plants need to be secured in place at regular intervals as they grow.  These Non-Tendril Sweet Pea types have been bred to be grown as cordons, where the plants are tied in at regular intervals.  The absence of tendrils on these plants saves time and energy when the plants are grown en masse, and the flowers are harvested for the cut flower industry.  


This cordon trained Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ plant is pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial. In this picture you can see the additional leaflets that these Non-Tendril Sweet Pea cultivars produce instead of the clinging tendrils that are a feature of regular sweet pea plants.

Cordon trained Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ plants, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

 

Naturally grown Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ plants pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

For my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, all of the sweet pea plants were grown in the same conditions, the plants were all given the same level of care.  The Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ plants were grown alongside regular, tendril producing sweet pea plants for this trial.  These non-tendril sweet pea plants did not receive any additional support or any tying in. 

The wigwam trained Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ plants grew strongly.  They were grown alongside regular, tendril producing sweet pea plants, which had a tendency to almost gather up the Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ plants, and provided all of the extra support that these plants required.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’ pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’ is a Spencer Sweet Pea.  This sweet pea flower’s particular colouration is known as a blue stripe on a white ground – this sweet pea’s ivory coloured petals feature mauve-blue veining and a mauve-blue picotee edge, the mauve-blue colouring deepens and becomes a more striking, almost iridescent tone of blue as the flowers age.  Of the two pictures of Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’ that are listed below, the photograph on the right hand side is of a younger bloom, while the photograph on the left hand side is of an older bloom.

The blooms of Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’ produce a surprisingly powerful, delightfully sweet fragrance.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’ was raised by Andrew Beane; this cultivar was introduced by Matthewman in 2008.


Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’ pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’ pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’ is a Spencer Sweet Pea, which produces large, deep rose pink flowers.  Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’ was raised by Andrew Beane.  Roger Parsons introduced this sweet pea cultivar in 2006.


Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Joyce Stanton’

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Joyce Stanton’, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Joyce Stanton’ is a Spencer Sweet Pea, which produces large, dark purple-navy blue flowers.  This sweet pea cultivar’s standard petals are a darker tone of blue, while the wing petals are a slightly paler shade, their combination gives a subtle two toned effect to the flowers.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Joyce Stanton’ was bred by Dave Manston and introduced by Manston in 2009.


Lathyrus odoratus ‘Joyce Stanton’, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A cordon trained Lathyrus odoratus ‘Joyce Stanton’ plant, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

 

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’ is a Spencer Sweet Pea, which produces large, coral-pink coloured flowers, with petals which are rather straight at first, becoming more undulating and wavy as the flower ages.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’ was raised by Roger Parsons.


A Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’ flowering stem, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A cordon grown Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’ plant, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Naomi Nazareth’

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Naomi Nazareth’ pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Naomi Nazareth’ is a Spencer Sweet Pea, which produces large, pale lilac-blue coloured flowers.  Lathyrus odoratus ‘Naomi Nazareth’ has featured in many of my Sweet Pea Trials, this is an excellent sweet pea cultivar, which reliably produces sweetly scented flowers.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Naomi Nazareth’ was raised by Roger Parsons, this sweet pea cultivar was introduced by Roger Parsons in 2009.


Lathyrus odoratus ‘Naomi Nazareth’ blooms that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, pictured in the rain.

A cordon trained Lathyrus odoratus ‘Naomi Nazareth’ plant, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Queen of Hearts’

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Queen of Hearts’ pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Queen of Hearts’ is a Spencer Sweet Pea.  Its particular colouration is known as a pink stripe on a white ground – this sweet pea’s ivory coloured petals feature a pretty pink picotee edge and pink coloured veins.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Queen of Hearts’ produces very pretty, ruffled flowers, which have a sweet and very pleasing fragrance.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Queen of Hearts’ was raised by Roy Tullett, this sweet pea cultivar was first introduced by Unwins in 2004.


Lathyrus odoratus ‘Queen of Hearts’ pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Queen of Hearts’ pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘White Frills’

Lathyrus odoratus ‘White Frills’ pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘White Frills’ is a Spencer Sweet Pea cultivar, which produces large, ivory coloured, frilly flowers.  Newly opened Lathyrus odoratus ‘White Frills’ flowers have a faint green edging, which fades to white as the blooms age.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘White Frills’ was raised by Bill Truslove.


Lathyrus odoratus ‘White Frills’ pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘White Frills’ pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

 

I purchased all of the seeds sown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial from Roger Parsons.

Sweet Pea seed sowing

Sweet peas are very accommodating.  Here in the UK, you can sow Lathyrus odoratus seeds from September right through until April.  So there’s absolutely no reason not to try growing this pretty annual, you have plenty of opportunity to sow the seeds!

Eight months is of course plenty of time to sow your sweet pea seeds, or even to buy plants from your local nursery if you prefer.  If you’ve ever wondered what difference the month you choose to sow your sweet pea seeds in will make, or if you’ve wondered if there’s a perfect time to sow your sweet pea seeds, I hope that this report, with the results of my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, will help you.

Sweet Pea Trial seed sowing dates

I selected the seed sowing dates for the 2017 Sweet Pea Trial after evaluating data from my 2015 Sweet Pea Trial, my 2016 Sweet Pea Trial, and other Sweet Pea Trials I have previously undertaken.

For the 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, the same number of seeds of each chosen sweet pea cultivar were sown on each of the following dates:

  • 29th October 2016
  • 12th November 2016
  • 11th February 2017
  • 12th March 2017

Half of the sweet pea seeds at each sowing were sown in Deep Rootrainers, while the other half of the seeds were sown in Maxi Rootrainers.  All of the seeds sown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were sown in the same compost mix.  All of the Sweet Pea seeds for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were sown outdoors, with no protection whatsoever from the elements.

Sweet pea seedlings pictured growing in Deep Rootrainers and Maxi Rootrainers for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial. All of the sweet pea seeds and plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were grown in Dalefoot Composts. Pictured on the 26th February 2017.

Dalefoot Peat free Composts

All of the sweet pea seeds and plants for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were sown and grown in the same peat free composts.  All of the composts I chose to use for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were produced by Dalefoot Composts.  I have used Dalefoot Compost in many of my trials over the past few years, where I have been impressed with the quality of the composts that Dalefoot have produced – Dalefoot Composts were the clear winners of my 2016 Compost Trial.  Dalefoot Composts use natural ingredients, such as bracken and sheep’s wool, to create a nutrient rich compost with an increased water holding capacity.

Dalefoot Composts Wool Potting Compost.

I sowed all of my sweet pea seeds for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial in my own compost mix which was predominantly composed of Dalefoot Composts Wool Compost, a peat free potting compost, made from natural ingredients including bracken and sheep’s wool.  In addition to Dalefoot Composts Wool Compost, my sweet pea compost blend features horticultural grit, sharp sand, vermiculite and perlite.

Once the sweet pea seedlings were planted out in the  ground, the soil they were grown in was enriched with a mulch of Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost, a highly concentrated compost which can be used in a number of different ways.  For my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, I used the Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost as a mulch to enrich the soil, providing extra nutrients for my sweet pea plants, and increasing the water holding capacity of the soil.

Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Wool Compost.

Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Wool Compost, is a highly concentrated compost that is rich in nutrients.  As I used this Double Strength Compost as a mulch, I did not need to apply any feed or fertiliser to my sweet pea plants at any stage of the trial, which saved time, thought, and energy.  I enjoyed the abundance of flowers produced by my healthy and well nourished sweet pea plants, that were still flowering as they were lifted in October.

Dalefoot Composts came top of my 2016 Compost Trial.  I have enjoyed absolutely fantastic results using Dalefoot Composts during this 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

I cannot recommend Dalefoot Composts more highly, their composts are of great quality, and they produce superb plants!

Sweet Pea potting compost mix

Dalefoot Composts Wool Potting Compost.

This year for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, I mixed Dalefoot Wool Potting Compost with sharp sand, horticultural grit, vermiculite, and perlite, to create an open potting mix.  I chose to combine these additional ingredients and add them to a quantity of Dalefoot Potting Compost to ensure that even during prolonged periods of inclement weather, where the compost would have no chance whatsoever to dry out, that this compost blend would remain open; so that I could be certain that the sweet pea seeds, and seedlings wouldn’t be sitting in saturated compost.

I was delighted with how well this compost mix performed, my sweet pea plants were healthy and grew strongly at every stage of my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

 

Pictured on the 30th December 2016, these sweet pea seedlings were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial. All of the sweet pea seeds sown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were sown in Rootrainers. Half of the seeds were sown in Deep Rootrainers, and the other half were sown in Maxi Rootrainers. Throughout my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial I compared how all of the sweet pea plants grew, flowered, and performed, to see if I could establish any differences between the sweet pea plants grown in the two types of Rootrainers. All of the sweet pea seedlings grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were grown in Dalefoot Composts.

Sowing the Sweet Pea seeds

To deter mice from eating my sweet pea seeds, I soaked all of the sweet pea seeds sown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, just for a moment in liquid paraffin prior to sowing.  This was the only precaution I took to prevent pest damage to my sweet pea seeds grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

I didn’t undertake any other measures or precautions to protect my sweet pea seedlings or plants from any pests during any stage of my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Rootrainers

For my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, I have trialled growing sweet pea seeds in Deep Rootrainers and in Maxi Rootrainers (both products are available from Haxnicks).  I have compared the sweet pea plants, all of which were grown from the same seeds, sourced from the same seed producer, of the same sweet pea cultivars, and all sown at the same time into each of these two different seed trays.  The same Dalefoot Compost mix was used in both the Deep Rootrainers and the Maxi Rootrainers, and the same number of seeds, of the same sweet pea cultivars were sown in both types of Rootrainers at each sowing.

Deep Rootrainers and Maxi Rootrainers are both of the same design, the difference is with the sizes – Maxi Rootrainers are deeper and wider, they hold a greater amount of compost than Deep Rootrainers.  You can read more of Rootrainers’ design here.

These sweet pea seedlings were grown in Deep Rootrainers, which are held and supported by the Rootrainers Racking Station. All of the sweet pea plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were grown in Dalefoot Composts.

These sweet pea seedlings were grown in Maxi Rootrainers for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, they’re pictured here on the 30th December 2016. As there isn’t a purpose built Racking Station that is able to accommodate the larger Maxi Rootrainers, I placed these Maxi Rootrainers on a table, to lift these Rootrainers off the ground and make them easier to tend to. The Rootrainers Racking Station works so well for the Deep Rootrainers. The Rootrainers Racking Station is also a great space saver, neatly holding Deep Rootrainers seed trays over two levels. During my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, I missed having a Racking Station for the Maxi Rootrainers.

All of the Deep Rootrainers sown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were stationed in my Rootrainers Racking Station.

Sadly, the Maxi Rootrainers are too large to fit into the Rootrainers Racking Station.  There isn’t a dedicated Racking Station for these larger seed trays, so I placed the Maxi Rootrainers on garden tables to raise the Maxi Rootrainers up and make the seedlings easier to tend.  The sweet pea plants grown in the Maxi Rootrainers and in the Deep Rootrainers grew alongside each other, they experienced the same weather and climatic conditions at every stage of the trial.

These sweet pea seedlings were grown in Deep Rootrainers, which are held in the Rootrainers Racking Station. Pictured on the 30th December 2016. All of the sweet pea plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were grown in Dalefoot Composts.

Sweet pea seedlings pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial. All of the Sweet Pea seeds that were sown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were sown in Dalefoot Composts and grown in Rootrainers. Pictured on the 26th February 2017.

Weather

These sweet pea seedlings were grown in Maxi Rootrainers, which are supported by a garden table. These sweet pea seedlings were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, they are pictured here in the snow, on the 12th January 2017.

Snow

On the 12th January 2017 and the 13th January 2017 it snowed!   Neither the sweet pea seeds that had been sown, or the seedlings that had germinated and were growing away, received any protection whatsoever from any of the adverse weather conditions experienced during any stage of my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Sweet peas are hardy annuals, but if sweet pea seedlings are cosseted, or moved to warmer conditions, a heated greenhouse for example, they will lose their hardiness and some of their resilience.  In previous years I have grown my sweet pea plants outdoors in Scotland, without any protection, with great success.

These sweet pea seedlings were grown in Deep Rootrainers, which are supported by the Rootrainers Racking Station. These sweet pea seedlings were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, the sweet pea plants are pictured here in the snow, on the 12th January 2017.

These sweet pea seedlings were grown in Deep Rootrainers for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial. They’re pictured here in the snow, on the 12th January 2017.

These sweet pea seedlings were grown in Deep Rootrainers, which are raised up and supported by the Rootrainers Racking Station. These sweet pea seedlings were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, they are pictured here in the snow, on the 12th January 2017.

Rain

A raindrop with an aphid inside, pictured on a sweet pea plant’s leaf on the 25th June 2017. Pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea trial.

Once the sweet pea seeds were sown, the sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were mostly reliant on being watered by the rain during the time they were young plants, while they were still growing in their Rootrainer seed trays.

Apart from the fact that all of the seed trays were all placed alongside the same wall, the sweet pea seedlings received no protection whatsoever from the elements during any periods of prolonged inclement weather prior to being planted out in the trials bed.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’ blooms that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, pictured in the rain.

Irrigation

As I have just mentioned, the young sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were mostly watered by the rain, while they were growing in their respective Rootrainers.  During this early stage of their lives, the sweet pea plants were at a greater risk of experiencing drought; although thankfully the water holding qualities of the Dalefoot Potting Compost helped to mitigate this risk.

Once the the sweet pea plants were planted out in the trial beds, an automated irrigation system was set up to provide water for the plants.  Both the cordon trained plants and the naturally grown, wigwam trained plants received the same quantity of water, administered at the same regular intervals.  The automated irrigation system ensured that all of the sweet pea plants’ roots had access to sufficient water at all times.

The sweet pea plants were all mulched with a layer of Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Wool Compost, which provided nutrients, and increased the water holding capacity of the soil.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Naomi Nazareth’ blooms that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, pictured in the rain.

Sweet Pea Growing Methods

For my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, as well as trialling sweet pea plants that were grown in two different seed trays, and sown at different sowing times, I also trialled two distinct sweet pea growing methods: growing sweet pea plants as wigwams, and as cordons.  All of the sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were trained using one of these two distinct growing methods: half of the plants from each sowing were trained as cordons, while the other half were grown naturally, and trained up wigwams.

Both the sweet pea plants that were grown as wigwams, and the sweet pea plants that were grown as cordons received the same level of irrigation, which was administered at the same time.  All of the sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were raised in the same composts and soils, the plants experienced the same weather conditions.  I monitored the sweet pea plants and recorded my observations.

Sweet Pea wigwams

Wigwams of sweet pea plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

There are so many advantages available for gardeners who choose to grow their sweet pea plants naturally, using wigwams as supports.  The greatest benefit is the enormous amount of time that the gardener saves – cordon grown sweet pea plants require a lot of dedication throughout the summer months.  Each plant needs to be regularly tended to: every plant needs to be tied into its support system as it grows, and the sweet pea plants’ tendrils and side shoots need to be removed as they develop.

Gardeners who choose to grow their sweet pea plants naturally, and train their plants up wigwams or other support structures, save the vast amount of time that cordon growers spend in tying in and training their plants, removing their sweet pea plants’ tendrils etc, as well as benefitting from the natural beauty and charm of keeping the decorative tendrils intact.

Wigwam grown plants usually produce more flowers than cordon trained plants, although naturally grown sweet pea plants usually produce flowers with slightly shorter flowering stems, and fewer flowers per stem.

If you’re growing your sweet pea plants naturally and plan to train your sweet pea plants to cover wigwams, arches, or obelisks, don’t give yourself any additional, unnecessary work – there is no need to tie in your plants!  I simply give my sweet pea plants a gentle shove in the right direction if they show any signs of harbouring an inclination to head away from their allocated wigwam.  I have not found a need to tie in my naturally grown sweet pea plants, despite growing these magnificent flowers for a great many years.

Sweet pea plants have perfectly adapted themselves to climb, and will cling onto any support you provide, tying themselves in place rather beautifully, yet securely, with their decorative tendrils.

For my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, the sweet pea wigwams were created with hazel poles and other twiggy sticks.  These were separated into groups of the same number, then inserted into the soil in the trials beds, ensuring that the space in the soil between the branches formed a circular shape.  The branches were then gathered together and tied at the top with garden twine to form wigwams.

The wigwams provided the sweet pea plants with a great many twiggy stems to hold on and secure themselves to.  If you’re looking to create a wigwam to provide a support for your sweet pea plants, then I would advise you to look for tall branches with a great many twiggy side shoots to give your sweet pea plants plenty of options of where their tendrils can cling onto.  Hazel is ideal, but any twiggy stemmed branch will work well.  What will not work is the more easily found canes of bamboo from the garden centre, or any other tall branches which are devoid of any side shoots or branching, these single stemmed poles will work perfectly for cordon trained sweet peas, but are not a good choice for naturally grown, wigwam trained plants.

Beautiful willow wigwams can be created, which are ideal for sweet peas.  If you’re not the creative type, you can find ready woven wigwams available for purchase at garden centres, nurseries, or online.

Naturally grown sweet pea plants can also be grown up open wire fencing.  The sort of fencing often seen, where the wire forms open diamond shapes works well, but other open wire fences could also be a successful support for sweet peas, as long as there are sufficient rungs for the sweet pea tendrils to cling to, and the fence is tall enough.

Wigwam trained sweet peas take up less room than cordon trained sweet pea plants, meaning that you’ll have room for more of your favourite sweet pea cultivars, should you opt to use this growing method.

Wigwams of sweet pea plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

One downside of growing sweet pea plants using the natural wigwam method, is that when cutting your sweet pea flowers, sometimes a flower will become caught up in a tangle of tendrils, or pinned down onto the twiggy branches of the wigwams, and the flowering stems occasionally snap as they are harvested.  Somewhat sporadically, these interlaced flowers can become separated from their flowering stem as the blooms are harvested.  This is only a rare occurrence, far worse atrocities are experienced while gardening, but it’s still a shame to lose a flower.

Wigwams of sweet pea plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Sweet Pea tendrils

Naturally grown sweet pea plants support themselves with their tendrils, which weave, wend, and wind, as the tendrils reach out and twirl themselves around each other, feeling their way, as the plant explores its new territory and finds a place to secure itself.  The tendrils bind the sweet pea plants onto the wigwam teepees the plants were grown up.

I love the tendrils that the naturally grown sweet pea plants produce.  These elegant flourishes are functional, yet beautiful, and add an embellishment to the wigwam trained sweet pea plants.

Here are some of the tendrils that were produced by the naturally grown, wigwam trained plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial:

One of the beautiful, twirling tendrils that was produced by the naturally grown sweet pea plants, that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

One of the fascinating tendrils that was produced by the naturally grown sweet pea plants, that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial. This tendril shows how the sweet pea plant’s tendrils cling and attach onto one another to give support to the plants.

I enjoy seeing the tendrils that are produced by my sweet pea plants. To me the tendrils enhance the appearance of the plants, as well as securing the sweet pea plants in place as they climb up their supports.

This sweet pea tendril is forming a pretty heart shape. Pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

These tendrils and leaves were produced by the naturally grown sweet pea plants, that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial

Two sweet pea tendrils forming a secure union, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

These sweet pea tendrils have bundled and rolled up this sweet pea plant’s leaf and secured it firmly in place! Pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

One of the sweet pea tendrils seen on the naturally grown sweet pea plants during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

This sweet pea tendril is rolling and folding up a sweet pea leaf. Pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Sweet pea wigwams and plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A hoverfly resting on a sweet pea tendril, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

I love growing Lathyrus odoratus plants naturally using wigwams. The sweet pea plants produce such charming tendrils, which are a joy to behold, especially when they’re heart shaped, like this one!

Scrolling sweet pea tendrils, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Sweet pea tendrils forming unions, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Sweet Pea cordons

Cordon trained Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’, Lathyrus odoratus ‘Naomi Nazareth’, Lathyrus odoratus ‘Joyce Stanton’, and Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’ plants, growing for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Cordon trained sweet pea plants are a labour of love!  Cordon grown sweet pea plants need to be regularly tended to, at least once a week as a minimum, although twice a week, or more, would be preferable.

Regular maintenance

At each maintenance session, the sweet pea plants’ tendrils and side shoots are removed, and the plants are then tied into their support framework.  As you’re removing your plant’s side shoots and tendrils, it’s important to regularly brace your plants by tying them to a support, such as a wire support system, pole, or tall bamboo cane, as by growing your plant as a cordon you have taken away your plant’s natural ability to be able to support itself.

The cordon trained sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were all secured in place against their respective bamboo cane, using reusable metal sweet pea rings, which I purchased a few years ago, from the National Sweet Pea Society’s online shop.  These metal sweet pea rings are easier and quicker to use, both when it comes to securing your plants in place against their supports, as well as when you want to untie your plants to layer them, or wish to untie your plants to take them down at the end of the season.

Here are some of the cordon trained sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Layering cordon grown sweet pea plants

The cordon grown sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were trained up a support system that featured tall bamboo canes.  Once a plant reached the top of its cane, the plant was untied and removed from its support and gently laid down on the ground.  Care was taken so as to avoid snapping or damaging any part of the sweet pea plant, particularly the plant’s stem, which is particularly vulnerable during this time.  The sweet pea plant’s growing tip was then gently coaxed to grow upwards towards the base of another bamboo cane that was sited further along the same row.  Then the process of regularly removing the plant’s tendrils and side shoots, and tying the plants onto their new bamboo canes begins again.

Layering sweet pea plants in this manner reinvigorates the plants.  You’ll find that even rather dismal, feeble looking sweet pea plants can surprise you, and will go on to produce an abundance of new, healthy looking blooms after they have been layered.

When you’re training sweet peas following the cordon method, the sweet pea plant’s tendrils and side shoots are removed at regular intervals to allow the plant to focus all of its energy in producing flowers.  For every cordon grown plant that featured in my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, I tried to ensure that one small side shoot was left in place on the plant, so the side shoot was available in reserve, in case of emergency, as a back up, should the main cordon itself become damaged.  If the main cordon of your sweet pea plant does become damaged or loses its vigour, it can be cut out and another side shoot further down the plant can then be trained up and take over.  I have found that keeping a side shoot in reserve is a useful strategy to adopt when training sweet pea plants following the cordon method.  This is a strategy that I would advise you to adopt yourself, if you plan to train your sweet pea plants using the cordon training method.

Before layering your sweet pea plants, it’s advisable to thoroughly weed the sweet pea bed.  To avoid covering any weeds with your layered sweet pea plants, and thereby providing a safe haven for weeds, as it will be difficult, if not impossible to remove weeds from beneath the layers of sweet pea stems once you’ve layered your plants.

A cordon trained Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’ plant, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

The cordon growing method encourages the sweet pea plant’s energy to focus on producing flowers.  Cordon trained sweet pea plants receive more light and enjoy better air circulation than the sweet pea plants that are grown naturally up wigwams.  Generally speaking, the quality of the cordon trained sweet pea plants’ flowers are superior to that of wigwam grown sweet pea plants.  Cordon trained sweet pea plants produce larger flowers and a greater number of blooms per flowering stem.  Their flowering stems tend to be longer than those produced by naturally grown, wigwam trained plants.

Cordon trained sweet pea plants tend to produce fewer flowers, but their flowers are inclined to have a greater number of flowers per flowering stem, and the flowering stems that cordon grown plants produce tend to be taller than those of wigwam grown plants.

Cordon trained sweet pea plants, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Sweet Pea Fertiliser

Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Wool Compost.

The sweet pea seedlings that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were grown in the Dalefoot Composts Potting Compost mix that I detailed earlier in this Trial Report, these young sweet pea plants received sufficient nutrition from the soil and compost they were grown in, and needed no further sustenance.

Before the sweet pea plants were planted into the trials beds for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, the ground was weeded and Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Compost was applied as a mulch over the trials beds.  Care was taken to apply the mulch evenly, at the same consistent rate across all of the beds.  This mulch was the only fertiliser I used during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.  The sweet pea plants were still flowering as they were removed at the start of October.

The first Sweet Pea flowers

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’ was the earliest flowering sweet pea cultivar that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial; two flowers of this variety were harvested at the same time on the 27th May 2017.  One of the plants that produced one of these first two flowers was sown on the 29th October 2016, this particular plant was sown in a Maxi Rootrainer and was cordon trained.  The other Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’ plant that produced the other of the first two open flowers, was also sown on the 29th October 2016.  This plant was again sown in a Maxi Rootrainer, but this particular sweet pea plant had been wigwam trained.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’ as pictured in May 2017, during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

The latest flowering sweet pea cultivar that featured in my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial was Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’.  The first flowers that this sweet pea cultivar produced were picked on the 11th June 2017, from a cordon trained Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’ plant, that was sown on 29th October 2016, in a Maxi Rootrainer.

The joint second Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’ flowers were picked on 13th June 2017, from plants that were both sown on the 12th November 2016, in Maxi Rootrainers, one plant had been wigwam grown, while the other was cordon trained.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

The first Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’ flower to be picked from the plants, that were originally sown in the Deep Rootrainers, was harvested on the 15th June 2017, from wigwam trained plants, that were sown on the 12th November 2016.  Six Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’ flowers were picked from the plants that were originally sown in Maxi Rootrainers, before the first Deep Rootrainer sown plants of the same cultivar produced an open flower.

Harvesting Sweet Pea Flowers

It’s important to pick your sweet pea flowers at regular intervals, harvest your flowers every day if you can.  Regularly harvested plants have more energy to be able to produce their maximum number of flowers.  If the sweet pea flowers are not picked, and the blooms are left on the plants, they will quickly run to seed, then flowering will cease.

Sweet Pea Pests

I didn’t apply any preventative sprays for pests, I didn’t spray the sweet pea plants at all, even when pests arrived.  I made no attempt whatsoever to remove any of the aphids, thrips, slugs, snails, or any of the other pests seen during the 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

The only precaution I took to prevent pest damage to my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, was to soak the sweet pea seeds for a moment in liquid paraffin, prior to sowing, to deter mice from eating the seeds.

Aphids

All of the sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial attracted colonies of aphids.  Neither of the sweet pea growing methods proved to offer any protection from aphids, and nor did the seed trays, that the plants were originally sown in.  No particular sweet pea plant grown for the 2017 Sweet Pea Trial proved to be any more, or less attractive to aphids than another.

Aphids are sap sucking insects, which take nutrients and energy from their host plants, weakening the plants they feed on, leaving the plants looking stunted, distorted and maligned, and vulnerable to virus.

Aphids have an ability to greatly increase their numbers and expand their population within a short period of time.  Most aphids reproduce parthenogenetically, or asexually – without the need for a mate.  They give birth to live young, which are genetic clones of their mothers, and can give birth themselves when they reach maturity within two weeks of their birth.

An aphid pictured giving birth on one of the sweet pea plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Aphids are virus vectors.  They spread disease from one plant to another through their straw like, piercing mouthparts, which they use to feed on the plant’s sap, infecting plants as they move from one virus infected plant, to another previously healthy plant.

Aphids were often found feasting on the Lathyrus odoratus plants’ sap through the tendrils of the wigwam grown Sweet Pea plants. In this image you can see the aphids sharp mouthparts piercing this sweet pea plant’s tendril to feed on the plant’s sap. Pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Colonies of aphids pictured dining out on Lathyrus odoratus ‘Naomi Nazareth’ flower buds, during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Colonies of aphids pictured feasting on Lathyrus odoratus ‘White Frills’ flower buds and flowers, during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Aphids were often found on the tendrils of the wigwam grown sweet pea plants. Pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A Lathyrus odoratus ‘Joyce Stanton’ flower and accompanying aphids, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Aphids pictured on sweet pea flower buds, where the aphids are feasting on the sweet pea plant’s sap, as they feed through the sweet pea flower buds, on sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A closer look at a Lathyrus odoratus ‘Joyce Stanton’ flower and accompanying aphids hidden under the wing petals in the keel of the inflorescence. Pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Many predators feed on aphids.  This natural balance within nature controls the numbers of aphids and keeps their population in check.  Ladybirds and their larvae, spiders, parasitic wasps, lacewing larvae, as well as over one hundred species of hoverfly larvae, and many species of birds, all feed on aphids.

Many predators, such as ladybirds and hoverfly, will only lay their eggs on a plant where a large infestation of aphids are present, to ensure that there are sufficient food sources for their offspring when they emerge from their eggs.

If you spray aphids with an insecticide or pesticide, then you won’t benefit from ladybird larvae, hoverfly larvae, ladybirds, birds, or other predators devouring the aphids on the plants in your garden.  These beneficial creatures are dependent on finding colonies of aphids as a food source for their own survival.

If you spray aphids on your sweet peas in your garden or at your allotment, the aforementioned beneficial insects and others, bees for example, may be killed by your spray.  If you feel you really have to spray your plants, and nothing that I could write would dissuade you from doing otherwise, please at least try to lessen the negative effects by spraying your plants at night, when insects such as bees are not active.

One of the many aphid colonies seen during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial. You might not be able to spot them, but there are some young aphid predators in this photograph.

Caterpillars

I was unable to spot any caterpillars on the leaves of the sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.  But there were a few occasions were I saw a bird take what looked to be a leaf green coloured caterpillar from one of the sweet pea plants’ leaves.  Of course the birds could have caught a hoverfly larvae, or indeed another insect entirely, I was not close enough to clearly see what the birds had caught on any of these occasions.

Slugs

Slugs were often spotted during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, but the slugs did not cause any noticeable damage to the sweet pea plants that were grown for this trial.  A few slugs were spotted a couple of times each week, as they fed on the discarded tendrils that had been removed from the cordon grown sweet pea plants, as they were attended to and trained.

The slugs were not removed from the trials beds when they were spotted, no steps were taken to dissuade the slugs from eating the sweet pea plants.

A slug pictured eating the cut and discarded sweet pea tendrils, below the cordon trained sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Snails

Snails were spotted in large numbers every time the 2017 Sweet Pea Trial was surveyed.  The smaller snails, that were of very small to medium sized, seemed to cause the most damage to the sweet pea plants that were grown for the 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.  I observed these snails as they concentrated their energy on feasting on the upper surface of the sweet pea plants’ leaves, rather than taking solid bites out of the leaves eating then from the outer edges working inwards, or eating the sweet pea flowers, these snails left a thinner structure of the leaf behind, with some of the upper surface removed.  Having said that, the snail damage really wasn’t a serious problem – the sweet pea plants still looked good at every stage of the trial, and they flowered prolifically.

None of the snails that were seen on the sweet pea plants grown for the 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were removed, and no measurers were taken to discourage the snails from eating the sweet pea plants at any stage of the trial.  No particular sweet pea cultivar was noticed to be more or less alluring to the snails, both the cordon trained and naturally grown sweet pea plants endured snail damage of equal measure.

If you’re looking for natural methods to prevent snails and slugs from eating your plants, you might be interested to read the results of my Slug and Snail Trial.

A variety of snail species were observed on the sweet pea plants that were grown for the 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.  You can see photographs of some of these snails below:

A pretty Cepaea hortensis, or white lipped snail, pictured on one of the sweet pea plants that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A young garden snail, also known by its scientific name of Cornu aspersum, pictured on one of the sweet pea plants that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A garden snail, also known by its scientific name of Cornu aspersum, pictured on one of the sweet pea wigwams created for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A pretty Cepaea hortensis, or white lipped snail exploring the Sweet pea wigwams created for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Cornu aspersum, also known as the garden snail, pictured on one of the naturally grown sweet pea plants that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Here’s a tiny snail that I spotted on the wigwam grown sweet pea plants, that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A garden snail, also known by its scientific name of Cornu aspersum, pictured on one of the sweet pea plants that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Snails of this small size were frequently spotted on the sweet pea plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Cornu aspersum, also known as the garden snail, pictured on one of the wigwams that supported the naturally grown sweet pea plants for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Cornu aspersum, also known as the garden snail, pictured on the sweet pea plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Snails of all sizes were found on the sweet pea plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A young garden snail, also known by its scientific name of Cornu aspersum, pictured on the leaf of one of the sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Cornu aspersum, also known as the garden snail, pictured on the sweet pea plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Snails were commonly seen on all of the sweet pea plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Cornu aspersum, also known as the garden snail, pictured on the sweet pea plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A pretty Cepaea hortensis, or white lipped snail, pictured on one of the sweet pea plants that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Cornu aspersum, also known as the garden snail, pictured on one of the sweet pea flowers grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

One of the beautifully patterned snails that were seen on the sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A pair of garden snails, also known by their scientific name of Cornu aspersum, pictured resting on the faded sweet pea leaves that were produced by the plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Thrips

Thrips are tiny insects, they measure just a few millimetres in size and can vary in colour, from the orange-brown thrips that you can see in my photographs below, to thrips in different tones of orange, brown, yellow, and black.

There a number of species of thrips, each of which have differing requirements.  Many thrips are sap sucking insects, which feed on their host plant’s sap through their flowers, leaves, and buds.  Thrips can quickly weaken plants, they damage their flower buds and leaves, resulting in distortion and leaving a noticeable, whitish grey, silvery hue over the leaves and flowers.  Thrips can be virus vectors – they can spread viruses from infected plants to healthy plants.

None of the sweet pea cultivars that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial proved to be any more, or less attractive to thrips.  No particular growing method made the sweet pea plants any more or less inviting to the thrips, and the seed trays that the sweet pea plants were sown in, did not seem to have either a negative or a positive effect on the thrips.

None of the thrips that were seen on the sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were removed.  No sprays, precautions, or any other measurers were taken to either harm the thrips, or to protect the sweet pea plants from the thrips themselves.

Here are just three of the thrips that I observed during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial:

Thrips pictured on a Lathyrus odoratus ‘Naomi Nazareth’ flower that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Thrips pictured on a Lathyrus odoratus ‘Naomi Nazareth’ flower that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Thrips pictured on a Lathyrus odoratus ‘White Frills’ flower that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Beneficial insects

Sadly I encountered fewer beneficial, insectivorous insects during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial than in any of my previous Sweet Pea Trials to date.

Hoverfly

The larvae of over one hundred different species of hoverfly are insectivorous and predate on aphids, making hoverflies a valuable ally of both plants and gardeners.  With the nature of hoverflies being that of fast flying insects, whose visits are often fleeting, and more often than not go unnoticed; it’s rather difficult to be precise in such matters, but there seemed to be a similar number of hoverflies around the sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, as I had observed during each of the previous two years’ trials.

Here are some of the hoverflies that I saw on the sweet pea plants that were grown for the 2017 Sweet Pea Trial:

Episyrphus balteatus, commonly known as the marmalade hoverfly, is a well established species, found in widespread area across Europe, North Asia and North Africa.

Episyrphus balteatus, commonly known as the marmalade hoverfly, pictured laying eggs during my 2017 Sweet Pea trial.

Volucella zonaria, a hoverfly which looks a little like a hornet. Pictured on one of the bamboo canes that the cordon sweet peas were grown up during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Syrphus ribesii, a commonly seen species of hoverfly whose young feed on aphids, pictured resting on a sweet pea leaf during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Episyrphus balteatus, commonly known as the marmalade hoverfly, pictured resting on a Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’ flower during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

This female hoverfly is one of the Melanostoma species, a commonly seen species of hoverfly. This hoverfly is pictured resting on a Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’ flower that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea trial.

This small hoverfly is a Melanostoma species, a commonly seen species of hoverfly, which is resting on a Lathyrus odoratus ‘White Frills’ flower grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea trial.

A closer look at this Melanostoma species, a commonly seen species of hoverfly, resting on a Lathyrus odoratus ‘White Frills’ flower grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea trial.

Episyrphus balteatus, commonly known as the marmalade hoverfly, pictured resting on Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’ during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Syrphus ribesii pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A female Eupeodes luniger, pictured on one of the bamboo canes that supported the cordon grown sweet pea plants during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A hoverfly flying near a Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’ flower that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A female Episyrphus balteatus, commonly known as the marmalade hoverfly, pictured resting on Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’ during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A hoverfly pictured laying eggs on a sweet pea flower pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Episyrphus balteatus, a commonly seen hoverfly, flying near a Lathyrus odoratus ‘Joyce Stanton’ flower grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea trial.

Entomologist Andrew Halstead, very kindly checked my identifications for the hoverflies pictured above.  Thank you Andrew.

Hoverfly larvae

The number of hoverfly larvae that were found on the sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial was far fewer than had been observed during my previous Sweet Pea Trials, held prior to 2017.

Having said this, I observed a greater number of hoverfly larvae than the total combined number of ladybird larvae, ladybirds, and lacewing larvae that were spotted during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

The hoverfly larvae that you can see in the photographs below are insectivorous and are predators of aphids.

A hoverfly larvae pictured on a Lathyrus odoratus leaf during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

The next three, rather gruesome photographs, show a hoverfly larvae eating a live aphid caught on one of the sweet pea plants that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.  You can see the poor aphid flailing as it tries to escape from the clutches of the hoverfly larvae, unsuccessfully on this occasion.

A hoverfly larvae predating on an aphid on a Lathyrus odoratus leaf. Pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A hoverfly larvae predating on an aphid on a Lathyrus odoratus leaf. Pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A hoverfly larvae predating on an aphid on a Lathyrus odoratus leaf. Pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A hoverfly larvae predating on an aphid, pictured on one of the bamboo canes used to support the sweet pea plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lacewing larvae

Lacewing larvae are insectivorous and predate on aphids.  Sadly I didn’t spot any lacewing larvae during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, this is far fewer than in previous trials.

I didn’t spot any adult lacewing during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial; although as lacewing tend to be more active in the evening, I am less likely to spot them than many of the other beneficial insects that predate on aphids.

Ladybirds

Ladybirds are insectivorous and predate on aphids.  Fewer ladybirds were seen during the 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, than during any other Sweet Pea Trial to date.  The two ladybirds you see captured in my photographs below are the only two ladybirds that were seen during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A Harlequin ladybird pictured on one of the sweet pea plants that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A ladybird pictured on the sweet pea plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Ladybird larvae

Ladybirds larvae are also insectivorous and predate on aphids.  I only saw one ladybird larvae during the 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, this is far fewer than in any of my previous Sweet Pea Trials.

A Harlequin Ladybird Larvae preparing itself for pupation, pictured on a sweet pea plant grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Spiders

Please look away now if you’re scared of spiders!  Five photographs appear below, each of which feature spiders that were seen on the Lathyrus odoratus plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.  The next section after spiders is ‘Birds’.  I hope that this information will help you to speed through this section rapidly, and will help you to avoid feeling uneasy or uncomfortable if you are fearful of these insects.

None of the sweet pea cultivars that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were any more or less attractive to spiders, neither of the two growing methods induced a greater amount of spiders, or discouraged them.

Here are some of the spiders that I observed during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial:

A crab spider, also known by its scientific name of Misumena vatia, pictured on a Lathyrus odoratus ‘Queen of Hearts’ flower that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A crab spider, also known by its scientific name of Misumena vatia, pictured on a Lathyrus odoratus ‘Queen of Hearts’ flower that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A female crab spider, also known by its scientific name of Misumena vatia, pictured on a Lathyrus odoratus ‘Naomi Nazareth’ flower that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

This garden spider, also known by its scientific name of Zilla diodia, is pictured with its prey on a web the spider has made across a Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’ flower, that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A female crab spider, also known by its scientific name of Misumena vatia, pictured on a Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’ flower that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Other insects

Pollen beetle

Pollen beetles were seen on a great many of the sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.  Pollen beetles, as you might expect, feed on pollen.  They can often be seen scuttling about inside the keel of sweet pea flowers, foraging for pollen.  Pollen beetles don’t damage sweet pea flowers, there’s absolutely no need whatsoever to try to protect your plants from this harmless tiny, black, shiny beetle.

Neither of the two sweet pea growing methods proved to make the 2017 sweet pea flowers any more or less attractive to pollen beetles.  No particular sweet pea cultivar proved to be any more or less popular with the pollen beetles than another.

A pollen beetle pictured on a cordon trained Lathyrus odoratus ‘Naomi Nazareth’ flower, that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Dragonfly

On a few occasions I noticed a dragonfly resting on the sweet pea flowers that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A large red damsonfly, also known by its scientific name of Pyrrhosoma nymphula, pictured resting on a Lathyrus odoratus ‘Joyce Stanton’ flower that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A large red damsonfly, also known by its scientific name of Pyrrhosoma nymphula, pictured resting on a Lathyrus odoratus ‘Joyce Stanton’ flower that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A large red damsonfly, also known by its scientific name of Pyrrhosoma nymphula, pictured resting on a Lathyrus odoratus ‘Queen of Hearts’ flower that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Entomologist Andrew Halstead, very kindly checked my identifications for the hoverflies and dragonflies pictured above.  Thank you Andrew.

Bees

I was fortunate enough to spot this tiny mining bee snuggled between a Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ flower and flower bud.

A female mining bee, also known by its scientific name of Lasioglossum calceatum. This commonly found bee is pictured resting between two Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ flowers that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A closer look at a female mining bee, also known by its scientific name of Lasioglossum calceatum. This commonly found bee is pictured resting between two Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ flowers that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Flies

A number of flies were spotted around the sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.  Almost all of these flies were too fast for me to photograph.  Here is the one exception:

This blow fly, a Lucilia species, is pictured resting on a Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’ flower that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Birds

A variety of bird species were seen amongst the sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, including blackbirds, blue tits, coal tits, long tailed tits, great tits, dunnocks, robins, and thrushes.

The birds were seen capturing and eating aphids, snails, and slugs, as well as what looked to be caterpillars and possibly some hoverfly and/or lacewing larvae, taken both from the naturally grown wigwam trained plants and the cordon trained sweet pea plants.  Birds were also observed eating worms and other creatures from the soil and compost that the sweet pea plants were growing in.

During the 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, birds were by far the most frequently seen predators of the pests that afflicted the sweet pea plants.  If the birds had not been present throughout the trial, predating on the aphids and the other sap sucking insects that plagued the plants throughout the trial, then these sweet pea plants would have been in a far more weakened state, and would not have performed as well, or flowered as prolifically.

Here are the few birds that I managed to photograph during the 2017 Sweet Pea Trial:

A male blackbird, also known by its scientific name of Turdus merula, pictured among the cordon trained sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A Dunnock, also known by its scientific name of Prunella modularis, pictured amongst the cordon trained sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A young Robin, also known by its scientific name of Erithacus rubecula, pictured among the sweet pea wigwams and Lathyrus odoratus plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A young Robin, also known by its scientific name of Erithacus rubecula, pictured among the sweet pea wigwams and Lathyrus odoratus plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A young Robin, also known by its scientific name of Erithacus rubecula, pictured among the cordon trained Lathyrus odoratus plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

A young Robin, also known by its scientific name of Erithacus rubecula, pictured on the sweet pea wigwams and Lathyrus odoratus plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Sweet Pea diseases

Powdery mildew

The first signs of Powdery mildew, as seen here on a cordon trained sweet pea plant, that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial. Pictured on the 10th July 2017.

Powdery mildew is a commonly seen fungal disease, that affects sweet peas and a great many other plants during spring, summer and autumn.  Powdery mildew reduces the plant’s vigour.  Powdery mildew is very noticeable and it spreads very rapidly, it can be quite alarming to watch plants as they succumb to this prevalent fungal disease.  This disease leaves affected plants with a white powdery coating, that’s usually seen over the top surface of the leaf, although you might also notice powdery mildew on the plant’s stem, and even on the undersides of the leaves on some plants.

Powdery mildew, as seen here on a cordon trained sweet pea plant, that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.
Pictured on the 16th August 2017.

Powdery mildew is host specific.  It will only spread to the same, or very closely related plant species.  So the particular strain of powdery mildew that infects your sweet pea plants, won’t be able to spread to, or harm your courgette plants.  Although your courgette plants could of course be infected with their own strain of powdery mildew!

Powdery mildew, as seen on a cordon grown sweet pea plant, that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial. Pictured on the 4th August 2017.

One of the ways that you can help to prevent your sweet pea plants from becoming susceptible to powdery mildew is to grow your plants as well, and as healthily as is possible.  Ensure that your plants are watered regularly, so the plants don’t suffer from any additional stress.  Water your plants carefully, directing your water to the base of the plant, taking care to avoid splashing your plants or their leaves.  Provide your plants with sufficient water and all of the nutrients required for growth, to give your plants all the strength they need for healthy growth, and enable your plants to maintain their vigour.

Using a top quality compost, apply a thick layer of mulch over the soil, across the area where your sweet pea plants will be planted.  This mulch will suppress any fungal spores that might be present in the soil and create a barrier between any fungal spores and your plants.  Mulching your plants will also help to reduce water stress by creating a more water retentive soil and will help to suppress weed growth.

Bin or burn the remains of any powdery mildew infected plants promptly at the end of the season, to prevent the spread of powdery mildew spores, which overwinter in a resting, dormant state, but will be released from the infected plant remains, as the weather warms up in springtime.

A closer look at Powdery mildew, as seen here on the leaf of a cordon trained sweet pea plant, that was grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial. Pictured on the 25th August 2017.

The sweet pea plants that were grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea trial were infected with powdery mildew, but despite this the plants flowered prolifically.  The first sign of powdery mildew was seen on the 10th July 2017, which was later than during my 2016 Sweet Pea Trial, when powdery mildew was first spotted on the 18th June 2016.

The sweet pea plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial were sown in a specially mixed growing medium, which included a top quality compost (Dalefoot Potting Compost), together with other components to keep the compost open and prevent it becoming saturated during periods of very inclement weather.

When the sweet pea plants were planted out in the trials beds, the plants were mulched with a thick layer of premium grade compost (Dalefoot Double Strength Compost) that supplied the plants with additional elements, micro nutrients, and trace elements, and also provided an important buffer and protector between the plants and any fungal spores that were present on the soil surface.  The sweet pea plants received adequate irrigation, thanks to an automated watering system that delivered water directly to the soil around the base of the plants, and avoided splashing the plants and their leaves with water or soil.

Sweet Pea Conditions

Bud drop

This cordon grown sweet pea plant has produced a flower with ‘bud drop’, the bud will not open and will drop off at an immature stage. Pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Bud drop is a commonly experienced condition, where a sweet pea flower bud will dry out and drop off before the flower has formed.  I am uncertain as to whether bud drop is caused by stress to the Lathyrus odoratus plants caused by particularly warm or cooler temperatures, a sudden change in temperature, drought, insect damage or some other factor or reason.

In my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, as in all of my other Sweet Pea Trials to date, no correlation was found from the data collected.  All of the sweet pea plants that were grown for this 2017 Sweet Pea Trial experienced a similar rate of bud drop.  No growing method or seed tray offered any protection to the plants from bud drop.

Once you have seen bud drop for yourself, it becomes very easy to spot the flowering stems that are suffering from this condition – an affected sweet pea flower bud appears in a somewhat lighter tone than that of healthy sweet pea flower buds.  Affected flower buds have a more yellow tone to their colouring, these age to the beige coloured buds that you see in the photographs that I have listed above and below.

I remove any flowering stems that are suffering from bud drop at the earliest stage – as soon as I spot them, so as to conserve the plant’s resources for healthy flower buds that will grow on, open, and flower beautifully.

This cordon grown sweet pea plant has produced a flower with ‘bud drop’, the bud will not open and will drop off at an immature stage. Pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Sweet Pea Trial 2017, The Results:

Here are the results of my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial!

Optimum Sowing Date

When is the best time to sow sweet peas to achieve the most flowers?

There is a long standing myth that says that October is the best time to sow sweet peas.  I have often been told that October sown sweet pea plants build stronger roots and establish an extensive root system over autumn and winter, which benefits these autumn sown plants, and enables October sown sweet pea plants to produce more flowers, with longer flowering stems the following summer.  So it may surprise you to hear that the results of my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial show that March is the best time to sow sweet pea seeds to enjoy a bountiful supply of blooms during the summer months.

The sweet pea plants that were sown on the 12th March 2017 produced more flowers than the sweet pea plants of any other sowing made during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, producing 1,028 flowers.  975 flowers were produced by the sweet pea plants that were sown on the 11th February 2017, while 752 flowers were produced by the sweet pea plants that were sown on the 12th November 2016, and 619 flowers were produced by the sweet pea plants that were sown on the 29th October 2016.

The numbers of flowers that the sweet pea plants produce deteriorates in correlation with the age of the plants, sweet peas are annuals after all.  They are grown from seed, the plants develop, flower, set seed and die all within the period of a year.  So sweet pea plants that do not have to waste their energy being held back in their prime, as winter forbids their flowering, yet takes away a little of the energy from the plant during this suppression, and are able to grow away in March perform at their maximum floral attainment level.

Flower harvest by sowing month:

This chart shows the total number of flowers broken down by sowing month. As you can see, the tradition that sowing sweet peas in October produces better plants that will produce more flowers does not stand up to the data, which clearly demonstrates that sweet pea plants that are sown in springtime produce many more flowers. The March-sown sweet pea plants produced over 50% more flowers than the sweet pea plants that were sown in October. The growing method split demonstrates that growing sweet peas naturally, trained to climb wigwams produces a greater number of flowers – although as the other charts show, the wigwam grown flowers will typically have shorter stems.

Flowers picked for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial!

Total number of flowers over time by sowing date:

This chart shows the total number of flowers over time, broken down by the plants’ sowing date. You can see that although the autumn-sown sweet pea plants do indeed produce the earliest flowers, the number of flowers produced by the autumn sown plants aren’t significant, and the spring-sown sweet pea plants soon catch up. By late June 2017, the sweet pea plants that were sown in February and March were producing significantly more flowers that the autumn sown plants.

Rootrainers evaluation

Total number of flowers by Rootrainer:

  • The total number of flowers produced by the sweet pea plants sown in the Maxi Rootrainers was 2,247 flowers.
  • The total number of flowers produced by the sweet pea plants sown in the Deep Rootrainers was 1,424 flowers.

This chart shows the total number of flowers that were harvested during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, divided by the seed tray the seeds were sown into. As you can see, the sweet pea plants that were sown in the Maxi Rootrainers produced a greater number of flowers than the sweet pea plants that were sown into Deep Rootrainers.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’ pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Number of flowers by Rootrainer:

This chart shows the total number of flowers picked for each sweet pea cultivar grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial. I have split the total harvest for each cultivar, so that you can see how many flowers were harvested from the sweet pea plants that were started in Deep Rootrainers as opposed to the sweet pea plants that were originally sown in Maxi Rootrainers. As you can see, for most cultivars, more flowers were produced by the sweet pea plants grown in Maxi Rootrainers, the exceptions being Lathyrus odoratus ‘Joyce Stanton’, Lathyrus odoratus ‘White Frills’, and Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’. Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ produced the most flowers during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial – 730 flowers – whereas Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’ produced the least – 168 flowers.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Maxi Rootrainer versus Deep Rootrainer:

Of the following sweet pea cultivars, the plants that were sown in the Maxi Rootrainers produced the most flowers:

  • Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ (Maxi: 504, Deep: 226)
  • Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’ (Maxi: 489, Deep: 196)
  • Lathyrus odoratus ‘Naomi Nazareth’ (Maxi: 299, Deep: 288)
  • Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’ (Maxi: 318, Deep: 153)
  • Lathyrus odoratus ‘Queen of Hearts’ (Maxi: 302, Deep: 79)

Of the following sweet pea cultivars, the plants that were sown in the Deep Rootrainers produced the most flowers:

  • Lathyrus odoratus ‘Joyce Stanton’ (Maxi: 152, Deep: 237)
  • Lathyrus odoratus ‘White Frills’ (Maxi: 101, Deep: 159)
  • Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’ (Maxi: 82, Deep: 86)

This chart shows the total number of flowers broken down by sowing month. As you can see, the tradition that sowing sweet peas in October produces better plants with more flowers does not stand up to the data, which clearly demonstrates that sowing in spring produces many more flowers. The March-sown plants produced over 50% more flowers than those sown in October. You can also see how the Maxi Rootrainers helped; regardless of the sowing month, the plants that were originally sown in Maxi Rootrainers produced more flowers than those that were originally sown in Deep Rootrainers.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’ pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Flowering stem length by Rootrainer:

The average flowering stem length of the flowers produced by the sweet pea plants that were sown in the Maxi Rootrainers was 19.2cm (7.6″).  Whereas 18.8cm (7.4″) was the average flowering stem length of the flowers that were produced by the sweet pea plants that were sown in the Deep Rootrainers.

The longest flowering stem out of all of the flowers harvested during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial was 35cm (13.8″).  This flowering stem was produced by a Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’ plant, that was sown on the 11th February 2017, in a Maxi Rootrainer, and had been grown naturally, as a wigwam trained plant.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Average and Maximum flowering stem length by Rootrainer:

This chart shows the overall sweet pea flowering stem length (max and average) produced by plants grown in Deep Rootrainers and Maxi Rootrainers. Although the sweet pea plants grown in Maxi Rootrainers produced longer flowering stems, there wasn’t a huge difference in the flowering stem lengths, so my conclusion is that sweet pea plants grown in Maxi Rootrainers don’t produce significantly longer flowering stems than sweet pea plants grown in Deep Rootrainers.

Number of flowers over time, by Rootrainer:

This chart shows the total number of flowers over time, split by the Rootrainer that the sweet pea plants were sown in. The Maxi Rootrainer grown sweet pea plants produced more flowers, and these plants flowered earlier than the deep Rootrainer grown sweet pea plants. The Maxi Rootrainer grown sweet pea plants outperform the Deep Rootrainer grown sweet pea plants consistently throughout the trial – with a longer flowering period too.

A vase of sweet pea flowers picked from the sweet pea plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Flower Stem Lengths

Which sowing month produces longer flowering stems?

The sweet pea plants that were sown in springtime (February and March) produced flowers with a longer  average flowering stem length than the sweet pea plants that were sown during autumn (October and November).

This chart shows the average and maximum stem lengths by sowing month. It’s clear that the spring-sown plants produce flowers with longer stems; on average 1-2cm longer than the flowering stems produced by sweet pea plants sown in October and November.

Average and Maximum flowering stem lengths by variety:

This chart shows the average and maximum stem lengths, broken down by variety. You can see that the Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’ plants produced the longest stems – 5cm longer than the longest Lathyrus odoratus ‘Joyce Stanton’ flowering stem – and Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’ produced flowers with the longest average stem length too. The differences between the averages isn’t very pronounced. Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ was runner up in the stem lengths, which shows what a good performer that sweet pea cultivar is, given that it also produced the most flowers during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Minimum usable stem length:

After reading my 2015 Sweet Pea Trial Report, Roger Parsons suggested that I introduce a minimum usable flowering stem length to my results, to filter out the shortest flowering stems that were not as desirable, or so easily accommodated and displayed in vases.  I opted for a minimum usable flowering stem length of 15cm (6″), so as to select a flower that could happily be accommodated in a regular sized jam jar.

This chart shows the number of flowering stems that were harvested during the 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, split by short (under 15cm (6″)) and long (15cm (6″) and taller) flowering stems. You can see that the vast majority of the flowering stems were of a long length for most of the trial, only about 15% of the flowering stems were classed as unusable throughout most of the trial.

Average flowering stem lengths, of the flowering stems produced that measured 15cm and above, by variety:

This chart shows the average flowering stem lengths of 15cm (6″) or taller that were harvested from each of the sweet pea cultivars that featured in my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Average flowering stem lengths over time by sowing month:

This chart shows the average flowering stem length of the flowers over time, split by sowing month. You can see that once the sweet pea plants get going, the spring-sown plants produce stems 1-2cm longer, on average, than the plants sown in October and November.

Cordons versus wigwams:

This chart shows the stem length (max and average) split by growing method. As expected, the cordon grown sweet pea plants produced flowers with a longer average stem length, but the outlier is that the longest flower stem in the trial was produced by a wigwam grown plant, not a cordon!

Flowering stem lengths by growing method:

This chart shows the stem length by growing method. For the majority of the time, the cordon trained sweet pea plants produce longer stems than the flowers produced by the naturally grown sweet pea plants that have been grown against wigwams; however, at the flowering peak there is a point where the wigwam grown sweet pea plants are producing longer stems on average!

A cordon trained Lathyrus odoratus ‘Joyce Stanton’ plant, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Total number of flowers over time by growing method:

This chart shows the total number of flowers over time broken down by growing method. The number of sweet pea flowers produced is similar for both sweet pea growing methods at the start of the trial, but towards the end of June the wigwam grown sweet pea plants really get going and start to produce significantly more flowers than the cordon grown sweet pea plants. By late summer, the wigwam grown sweet pea plants are consistently producing twice as many flowers as the cordon grown sweet pea plants.

Sweet pea wigwams and plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Temperature and weather:

This chart plots the total number of flowers against the minimum and maximum temperature. Once the flowers get going in around mid-July, there is some correlation between temperature and number of flowers – but it’s not particularly marked.

Best Performing Cultivar

Which was the most floriferous sweet pea cultivar in the 2017 Trial?

The most floriferous sweet pea cultivar of my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial was Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’.  The Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ plants that were sown in Maxi Rootrainers produced 504 flowers, while the plants that were sown in the Deep Rootrainers produced 226 flowers.

A cordon trained Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ plant, pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

This chart shows the average number of flowers over time, split by variety. You can see that once they began flowering, the Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’ plants produced the most flowers consistently, with the Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’ plants coming a close second. Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’ trails the results, producing the least flowers of all of the plants grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial. Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’ was the earliest flowering sweet pea cultivar grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’ pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

2017 Sweet Pea Trial Summary

  • Sowing sweet pea seeds in early spring (February and March) resulted in better plants, that produced more flowers, with longer flowering stems, than the sweet pea plants that were sown in autumn (October and November).
  • On the whole, sowing sweet pea plants in Maxi Rootrainers resulted in better plants, that produced more flowers with longer flowering stems than the sweet pea plants that were sown in Deep Rootrainers.
  • The sweet pea plants that were sown on the 12th March 2017 produced 1,144 flowers, this was the most flowers of any sowing during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, outperforming the sweet pea plants that were sown on the other sowing dates.
  • The October sown sweet pea plants were the worst performing plants in the 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, these plants produced 658 flowers.  They produced fewer flowers than the sweet pea plants sown at the other three sowing times (November, February, and March).
  • Adopting the cordon method to train sweet pea plants produces fewer flowers than growing sweet peas plants naturally, using wigwams as supports, but the flowers produced by the cordon grown plants are of better quality, having longer stems (1.5cm (0.6″) longer on average), larger sized blooms, and more blooms per flowering stem.  
  • Growing sweet peas plants naturally using a wigwam as a support produces 40% more flowers, but the naturally grown plants produce blooms which have shorter stems and smaller flowers, with fewer blooms on each flower stem.
  • The earliest flowering sweet pea cultivar from my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial was Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’, which opened its first two flowers simultaneously on the  27th May 2017.
  • The last sweet pea cultivar grown for the 2017 Sweet Pea Trial to produce an open flower was Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’, which opened its first flower on the 10th June 2017.
  • The most floriferous sweet pea cultivar grown for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial was Lathyrus odoratus ‘Alison Valentini’, which produced 730 flowers during the Trial.  In second place, producing 685 flowers was Lathyrus odoratus ‘Betty Maiden’, while in third place, Lathyrus odoratus ‘Naomi Nazareth’ produced 587 flowers.
  • The least floriferous sweet pea cultivar from my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial was Lathyrus odoratus ‘Marjorie Carrier’, which produced 168 flowers during the Trial.
  • The total number of flowers produced by the sweet pea plants sown in the Maxi Rootrainers was 2,247 flowers.
  • The total number of flowers produced by the sweet pea plants sown in the Deep Rootrainers was 1,424 flowers.
  • The average stem length of the flowers produced by the sweet pea plants sown in the Maxi Rootrainers was 19.2cm (7.6″).
  • The average stem length of the flowers produced by the sweet pea plants sown in the Deep Rootrainers was 18.8cm (7.4″).
  • The spring sown sweet pea plants produced flowers, which had a 1-2cm (0.4-0.8″) longer average flowering stem length, than the autumn sown sweet pea plants flowers’ average flowering stem length.
  • Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’ produced flowers with the longest average flowering stem length of 19.7cm (7.7″) during the 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.
  • Lathyrus odoratus ‘Joyce Stanton’ produced flowers with the shortest average flowering stem length of 17.9cm (7″) during the 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.
  • A Lathyrus odoratus ‘Grandma Butt’ plant that was sown in a Maxi Rootrainer on the 11th February 2017, and grown naturally as a wigwam trained plant, produced the longest flowering stem length of all of the flowers harvested during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, with a flowering stem that measured 35cm (13.8″).

I hope that 2018 will be another great year for growing sweet peas.  I am already looking forward to my 2018 Sweet Pea Trial!

Further Trials

Sweet Pea Trial Reports

To read the results of my 2016 Sweet Pea Trial, please click here.

To read the results of my 2015 Sweet Pea Trial, please click here.

Compost Trial Reports

To see all of my Compost Trials, please click here.

To read advice on planting up containers, please click here.

Scented Daffodil Trial Reports

To see the results of my 2018 Scented Daffodil Trial, please click here.

To read the results of my 2018 Scented Daffodil Container Trial, please click here.

To read the results of my 2017 Scented Daffodil Trial, please click here.

Slug and Snail Trials

To see the results of my Slug and Snail Trial and discover the best methods of protecting your plants from slugs and snails, please click here.

To read about using nematodes to protect your plants from slugs and snails, please click here.

Terrarium, Vivarium, and Orchidarium Trials

To see how my Orchidarium was created, please click here.

To see the design of my Rainforest Terrarium, please click here.

To read the first part of my White Orchid BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.

To read the first part of my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.

To read the first part of my Miniature Orchid BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.

To see a planting list of ferns, orchids, and other plants that are perfectly suited to growing inside terrariums and bottle gardens, please click here.

To read about the general care I give to my orchids and terrarium plants, and the general maintenance I give to my BiOrbAir terrariums, please click here.

To read how I track the temperature, humidity, and light conditions inside my terrariums, please click here.

Tomato Trials

To read about my Trial of New Tomato Varieties, please click here.

Vegetable Trials

To see all of my Vegetable Trials, please click here.

Other articles and links that may interest you……

I sowed all of my Sweet Pea seeds in my own compost mix.  The main ingredient of my compost mix was Dalefoot Composts’ Wool Potting Compost.  I enriched the soil where the Sweet Pea plants were planted, with Dalefoot Composts’ Double Strength Wool Compost for my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.  To visit Dalefoot Composts’ website, and find out more about their composts, please click here.

I sowed my Sweet Pea seeds in Deep Rootrainers for my 2015, 2016, and 2017 Sweet Pea Trials.  To visit Haxnicks’ website, where you can find out more information about Deep Rootrainers, please click here.

For my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, I also trialled growing Sweet Peas in Maxi Rootrainers, to find out more about Maxi Rootrainers, please click here.

I used the Rootrainers Racking Station for my 2015, 2016, and 2017 Sweet Pea Trials.  To visit Haxnicks’ website, where you can find out more information about the Rootrainers Racking Station, please click here.

I purchased my seeds for my 2015, 2016, and 2017 Sweet Pea Trials, from Roger Parsons Sweet Peas, to visit Roger Parsons’ website, please click here.

I am a member of the National Sweet Pea Society.  If you’d like to visit the National Sweet Pea Society’s website, where you can find out more about this charity and learn more about Sweet Peas, please click here.

For gardening advice, lovely tips and ideas of what you could do in your garden, or at your allotment, from mid-October to mid-November, please click here.

For information on terrariums and bottle gardens, please click here.

For gardening advice and lovely tips and ideas of what you could do in your garden, or at your allotment, from mid-November to mid-December, please click here.

For ideas of beautiful, edible plants to grow in your garden, or at your allotment, please click here.

Other articles you might like:

One thought on “Sweet Pea Trial 2017

  1. Barb Pearson

    February 11, 2020 at 2:57pm

    What a fabulous post! I just purchased a farm in British Columbia Canada and am hoping to put 1/4 acre into sweet pea production for seed as there seems to be a shortage of it here unlike in the UK! I have always grown sweet peas but never on a large scale so i am trying to learn as much as i can and this article is extremely helpful.

    • Author

      Pumpkin Beth

      February 11, 2020 at 3:01pm

      Hello Barb

      Thank you for your message. I’m so glad you’ve found my article helpful. Your sweet pea seed farm sounds like a great idea; I wish you every success.

      Best wishes
      Beth

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