Royal Flowers Lathyrus odoratus, the common Sweet pea was first introduced from Sicily into the gardening fraternity of England in 1700.
There it languished for nearly 150 years until Henry Eckford created 200 new varieties that soon made common Lathyrus the most sought after climbing annual in Europe.
Since then over 3000 varieties have been produced, some even in New Zealand.
The 300 varieties currently in cultivation, have brought pleasure to millions and made millions for commercial growers especially around Los Angeles where 2/3 of all the world's sweet pea seed is grown.
Today they are among the most highly developed annuals being prized by gardeners, commercial growers and florists as the " Queen of Annuals". These cool weather plants quickly collapse in drying heat.
In colder districts of New Zealand, the "early" varieties can be planted now for a late summer show while in milder areas progressive sowings will provide flowers for nearly 8 months of the year.
They need full sun, rich soil, plenty of water, shelter from wind, and a strong trellis or support. Compost and wood ashes ( potash ) makes an excellent fertiliser, mulch and soil conditioner but avoid direct contact with the vines.
Do not use high nitrogen foods as these can cause burning. Foliar feeding with potash, epsom salts and trace elements is also beneficial.
Remove faded blooms to keep plants flowering. Lime sulphur or copper sprays will stop most fungal attacks.
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