Plants - Annuals

Plant profile: Sweet peas

These easy-to-grow annuals are known for their sweet scent and rainbow coloured blooms.

Common & botanical name: ‘Bobby’s Girl’ Spencer sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus ‘Bobby’s Girl’)
H x W (cm): 200 x 30
Description: Both the waved standards and the spreading wings are cream flushed with salmon; strongly scented
Notes: Large-flowered Spencer with stems bearing five flowers each. Introduced in 2000 by Robert Bolton & Son (Essex, U.K.), sweet pea breeders since 1901; Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit, 2000

Common & botanical name: ‘Charlie’s Angel’ Spencer sweet pea (L. o. ‘Charlie’s Angel’)
H x W (cm): 200 x 30
Description: Short, almost hooded standards are flat or ruffled with ruffled wings in a pale true blue; strongly scented
Notes: Introduced in 1988 by Charles Hanmer (Yorkshire, U.K.), it produces large flowers on long stems. Dubbed “one of the best” by sweet pea expert Graham Rice and Anna Pavord (b. 1940) calls it “outstanding”; RHS AGM, 1993

Common & botanical name: ‘Colin Unwin’ Spencer sweet pea (L. o. ‘Colin Unwin’)
H x W (cm): 200 x 30
Description: Ruffled standards are pale scarlet-rose with paler edges and wavy wings are watery scarlet; lightly scented
Notes: Introduced in 1987 by sweet pea breeder Rev. Ken Colledge (d. 1990), who named it after the eldest son of his friend and rival, Charles Unwin (d. 1986). Colin later became director of Unwins Seeds (1992-2005); RHS AGM, 1994

Common & botanical name: ‘Dorothy Eckford’ Grandiflora sweet pea (L. o. ‘Dorothy Eckford’)
H x W (cm): 180 x 30
Description: Distinctive standards shaped like a ship’s prow with broad wings, both in purest white; strongly scented
Notes: With an average of three blooms on long stems, ‘Dorothy Eckford’ was an important commercial cut flower until the 1920s when it was overtaken by white spencers. Introduced by Henry Eckford in 1901 and named after his granddaughter; RHS AGM, 1997

Common & botanical name: ‘Explorer Mixed’ Intermediate sweet peas (L. o. [Explorer Series] ‘Explorer Mixed’)
H x W (cm): 60 x 90
Description: Bushy, spreading plants without tendrils; large, waved flowers (four per stem) in eight colours; variable scent
Notes: Irishman Dr. David Lemon considered his stake-free Explorer cvs. Improvements over his earlier Snoopea and Supersnoop series. Perfect for cutting, containers or as an annual groundcover; RHS AGM, 1994

Common & botanical name: ‘Knee-hi Mixed’ Semi-Dwarf sweet peas (L. o. ‘Knee-hi Mixed’)
H x W (cm): 100 x 40
Description: Waved standards on large, long-stemmed flowers in cream, rose, red and purple-violet; lightly scented
Notes: Each flower is about 5 cm wide; several seed companies sell ‘Knee-Hi Mixed’ and some variability between stocks exists. Originally introduced by Ferry-Morse Seed (U.S.) in the 1960s; RHS AGM, 2000

Common & botanical name: ‘Patio Mixed’ Dwarf sweet peas (L. o. ‘Patio Mixed’)
H x W (cm): 30 x 30
Description: Compact plants with slightly rippled flowers in shades of red, blue, pink and white; well scented
Notes: Best in containers and hanging baskets, with shorter internodes and stems than the older Cupid Series; pinch back tips for a bushier habit. Bred by PanAmerican Seed (U.S.); RHS AGM, 1996

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