Tag Archive: sweet pea

PicPost: Sweet Tee Pea

PicPost: Great Garden @ Harlow Carr

‘Harlow Carr is a garden dominated by water, stone and woodland and is very much part of the surrounding Yorkshire landscape.

We seek to push the boundaries of design and planting styles, creating displays that are beautiful but sometimes provocative. Careful gardening techniques, reflecting our respect for the environment, ensures that wildlife will flourish in the garden.’ (RHS website)

Sunflowers were planted by a local playgroup at the May opening of the garden - with the wet summer they grew to over 2.5 metres tall!

Sunflowers were planted by a local playgroup at the May opening of the garden – with the wet summer they grew to over 2.5 metres tall!

A renovated garden is moving towards maturity in what were once exercise yards for tramps and unmarried mothers at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum, Norfolk.

The garden occupies what were once two exercise/work yards for inmates of the Victorian Workhouse. The footings of what was once the dividing wall between these two yards can still be seen, emerging as the lawn above is worn away.  In Victorian times these yards joined two blocks of accommodation:

  • for so-called  ‘casuals’ or tramps who used to travel between workhouses earning ‘a night’s board for 2 days hard labour’ – possibly crushing stones for use in road building
  • for unmarried mothers nursing their babies – they wore distinctive uniforms to mark them out from the other workhouse inmates.
The refurbished 'Education Garden'

The refurbished ‘Education Garden’

These buildings today provide the Museum’s Learning Centre and space for occasional groups and events. Until last year the garden area between the two buildings was kept maintained as grass and a range of mixed borders which is an important picnic/ rest spot as well as being used by school and pre school groups for art and learning activities. In 2012 funding from the Friends of the Museum as well as the Museum itself and donations from a range of local businesses were secured to refurbish and redesign it. A number of design issues were tackled, including:

  • Providing further paved terrace space with new picnic tables and some renovated paving
  • Introducing a number of planting containers to add interest to the paved terraces
  • Realigning paths to follow ‘desire lines’ and make access easier
  • Deepening borders to provide more visual interest and unified planting
  • Creating a new ‘curiosity corner’ to provide a space designed for under 5’s which contains a range of features to encourage children to explore.
Mary and Derek Manning plant a tree to mark the opening of the garden

Mary and Derek Manning plant a tree to mark the opening of the garden

The newly renovated garden was formally opened on 6th May 2012, and two of the original gardening volunteers, Mary and Derek Manning, planted a ‘Paper Handkerchief Tree‘ to mark the occasion. Local children also played their part and cut ribbons to open ‘Curiosity Corner’.

One of the new residents of the Garden!

One of the new residents of the Garden!

The Curiosity Corner proved to be very popular in its first season last year and included some giant sunflowers planted by a local play group as well as a turf seat; a willow tunnel and arches; hazel wigwam; mirror; ‘fossil slab’; various ‘animals’  hidden away in the planting and a range of different path surfaces and planting. There is also a half barrel filled with stones,water and pond plants, so that youngsters can ‘get up close’ to this watery habitat.

 'Curiosity Corner'

‘Curiosity Corner’

The coming year will see the garden mature further and hopefully there will be sunny days so that visitors can really enjoy this lovely picnic area at its best.

New planters with sweet peas on conical obelisks

New planters with sweet peas on conical obelisks


Two more cryptic clues to the names of plants, fruit or veg…

  • The scourge of female chickens
  • Cheap goods in a pile of dung

Old School Gardener

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sweet-pea-flowerThe ‘Queen of Annuals’ is being billed as the cottage garden favourite for 2013′.

It’s botanical name- Lathyrus odoratus- comes from an ancient greek word (Lathyrus) meaning  pea or vetchling and odoratus meaning ‘fragrant’. The genus Lathyrus contains about 160 species and of the many cultivars of the Sweet Pea, some 52 varieties have been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit.  The many varieties of Sweet pea available today come in a wide range of colours, but not yellow!



“The Sweet Pea has a keel that was meant to seek all shores; it has wings that were meant to fly across all continents; it has a standard which is friendly to all nations; and it has a fragrance like the universal gospel, yea, a sweet prophecy of welcome everywhere that has been abundantly fulfilled” – Rev. W. T. Hutchins 1900

Sweet pea cultivation is thought to have begun in the 17th century. The originator of the modern plant naming system, the swedish botanist Linnaeus, carried on using the genus name Lathyrus, which was in common use in the 18th century, but gave the Sweet pea it’s species name odoratus to codify the various names used for it at the time.

sweet-pea-flowers-7Victorian times saw a craze for the plant and a host of new cultivars were created as a result, many beginning their lives as mutations or ‘sports’ of known varieties. The original dwarf sweet pea was found growing in a row of a popular grandiflora variety in California  in the late 19th century. It had similar flowers to its parent but was much shorter and with a spreading habit. Given the name ‘Cupid’, this later became the general name used for dwarf sweet peas. Later crossings of these and other grandifloras produced a wide range of ‘cupids’ and later still these were crossed with the newer ‘Spencer’ sweet peas which resulted in a range of ‘cupids’ with larger flowers.

The large-flowered Spencer sweet pea appears to have arisen in two or three places at around the same time, but perhaps the most famous source was the home of the Spencer family (of Lady Diana fame) in Northamptonshire. The head gardener of Althorp HouseSilas Cole – named this ‘Countess Spencer’, though he seems at the time to have claimed it arose from deliberate cross breeding rather than as an accident of nature!

Sweet peas can be grown in different ways, but perhaps the most common technique is the cordon, introduced in 1911 by Tom Jones of Ruabon. This is used to produce flowers of the highest quality and in effect is a form of pruning and training which channels the plant’s energies into a smaller number of larger blooms. This process involves:

  • The top of a young seedling being pinched out once it has produced several true leaves, which encourages branching
  • One of the resulting side shoots (a strong one emerging near the base of the plant) is retained, and the others removed before they develop
  • The remaining stem is allowed to grow and is tied in, but all of its side shoots are removed as they form, as are any tendrils to prevent them fastening onto the flower stems
  • The fewer flower stems produce larger blooms and once finished these flowers are removed to encourage new ones to form.

Several plants can be grown in this way along a row to produce a sweet pea screen.

Fresh sweet pea flowers in the house have been shown to improve general wellbeing, boost both male and female libido, and lessen the effects of a hangover! However, the seeds of some species of Lathyrus contain a toxic amino acid which if eaten in large quantities can cause the serious disease Lathyrism.


Sources and further information:



Sweet Pea Flower pictures

Quizzicals: two more cryptic clues to plants, fruit or veg:

  • Has had too much already
  • A country full of automobiles

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