ZEN AND THE ART OF GROWING SWEET PEAS

This is how a dream begins. Pouring over a seed catalogue on a gray and dismal winter day I discovered a variety of sweet peas called “Cuthbertson Blend”. My grandfather was an avid gardener. He imported his seeds from Cuthbertson in England. His sweet peas regularly took first prize at the Prince Albert Horticulture Show, and in recognition it was named for him. The Fred Henderson Sweet Pea Cup.

I have been rather casual about planting sweet peas. I plant the seeds directly into the garden a week or so after the last frost. It is a bit of a hit and miss affair. Some seeds don’t germinate and others suffer an early death as insects and birds enjoy their oh so tender leaves. I thought of my Grandfather and how he would start has plants indoors. He didn’t have a lot of space and spring in Northern Saskatchewan is one of bitter cold and frequently snow. Growing plants indoors was a challenge.

I bought the Cuthbertson sweet peas. They promised me heavenly fragrance and flowers the colours of dreams. I nicked the hard coating of the seeds. All 68 of them. I mixed the potting soil. I planted the seeds and calmly, quietly and patiently I waited for them to sprout. The first sight of a tiny green shoot was pure joy. I was following my grandfather’s footsteps.

I remembered my Grandfather always planted two seeds. The weaker seed to be nipped off. It was difficult for me to do this. I had been nurturing these sweet things and I left a few pots to see how these double plants would grow. I counted the leaves on the stem of the sweet pea and when the fourth one made an appearance I nipped part of it off. The plant would slow its spindly growth and spout side leaves. I planted the seeds March 6th. It is April 26th. The lack of sun shine is evident in these spindly plants. They are growing in south and west windows but it is clearly not enough. Here on the West Coast of British Columbia I do not have the brilliant clear skies and endless days of sunshine of Northern Saskatchewan. This is the zen of gardening. A learning experience. Patience. Understanding. Acceptance.

In a few weeks these plants, tenderly cared for, will be ready to set out in the garden. They will climb towards the sky filling the air with their fragrance. I will continue to care for them. Rising early in the morning to water, weed, and dead head flowers. Then to cut glorious bouquets to fill my home with their beauty.

This is the zen of garden. It is not always perfect but these past two years have required one to remain calm and take the happiness each day as it is given.

4 thoughts on “ZEN AND THE ART OF GROWING SWEET PEAS

  1. You’ve inspired me, Virginia. My mom loved and grew sweet peas but in this northern climate they need to be started indoors and I’ve never tried that with them. That will change next year! Thanks for the clear instructions. Hope you soon have armfuls of these lovelies!

    • Gayle, this has been an enjoyable learning experience. I had already planted my seeds in the small biodegradable pots when I saw how to grow them in toilet paper rolls on U tube. MUCH better because sweet peas have deep roots. I planted a few more and it REALLY works and the price is right. I am already saving TP rolls for next spring. Cheers Virginia

    • Dear Cornelia, The little darlings are a tangle of green desperately wanting to grow free. We continue to have an unusual cold spring with a touch of frost every morning. I promise them soon soon. My cutting garden is close to a hay field and the cow barn. It will be the perfect home for sweet peas. Cheers Virginia

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