Tag Archives | sweet peas

Palette on a Plate from an English Summer Wedding

When I asked if they had any colour preferences for their wedding flowers, keen foodies Gaenor and Paul presented me with a picture on their phone of an amazing plate of salad…

 

They certainly had food at the top of their list when they chose Michelin-starred Caldesi In Campagna in the village of Bray, Berkshire for their reception celebration.

Their wedding was in June, in the midst of a heatwave, it certainly felt like the hottest day of the year…

Fantastic Foodie Wedding in Bray - Clare West Photography

I was so pleased when they chose Clare West as their photographer, as I knew her love for photographing flowers would mean there would be more than the normal quota of flowery pics and I would get a good idea of how well my flowers stood up to the extreme conditions.

I never guarantee specific flowers for a couple’s wedding day, that would be a dangerous game when you are relying on our unreliable weather to play along. But I always work with colour choices and in this case I had a plenty to conjure up – blue, lilac, pink, peach, coral, oh and of course, green were all on that inspirational plate.

June is the peak flowering time for hardy annuals,  so sweet peas, cornflowers and nigella ticked most of the colour boxes, whilst the annual quaking grass briza added movement and a wildflower meadow feel.

I love arranging with sweet peas –  they come in such a range of colours, are wonderfully fragrant and if picked with some of the vine, create a lush, untamed feel. We grow about 30 different varieties both indoors and out so that they are available from May through till July.

Sweet pea jungle in our tunnel, seasonal British flower grown by Green and Gorgeous

The high temperatures had brought my roses on all at once so they were centre stage in the bouquets and table flowers, providing plenty of scent along with the sweet peas.

Tall spire shaped flowers for the milk churn and church pedestal arrangements were provided by larkspur in an unusual smokey lilac, blush pink delphiniums, peach chantilly snapdragons and a punchy coral penstemon.

These grow to extraordinary heights in our tunnels sheltered from the wind and the rain.

I was pleased to see that even the flower girls crowns stood up to the high temperatures, a testament to using freshly picked, seasonal flowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And being next to a picturesque stretch of the Thames, the guests were able to have a chance to cool off at the end of a perfect day…

 

 

 

Sweet Pea Grow Along – Part 4

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Now I know this is a bit overdue and you have probably all planted your Sweet Peas by now but I thought I had better finish what I started!

Our Sweet Peas were planted out last month 20-25cm apart staggered either side of the bean netting. They had been well hardened off for two weeks prior to planting and given a good seaweed feed a couple of days beforehand.

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Once the plants were in, we laid out some irrigation. Sweet Peas like a cool moist root run so we use 2 lines of drip tape and ensure they do not dry out during flowering as this really hits production. We finished off with a mulch of straw in the path, this helps to keep the all important moisture in but is also useful if a frost is forecast in the next few days. Despite being hardy and making it through the winter unheated, young transplants can be killed off or checked by a sharp frost. We simply push the straw up against the plants and pull it back again in the morning, it is much easier to deal with than horticultural fleece once netting is involved.

Slugs can also be a major problem at this stage, we use Ferramol (wildlife friendly) for the first couple of weeks if conditions are wet until they have toughened up and become less appetising.

Now your plants may look rather sad at first, a bit yellow, slightly frosted and slug chewed…well mine did anyway. I don’t worry about it any more as I know they are quietly putting down lots of roots and will burst forth with green abundance when they are ready. This usually takes a good 3-4 weeks.

Once they start to grow away they must be tied in to encourage them up the bean netting or the support of your choice rather than off horizontally across the garden. I am a big fan of the tape tool (Max Tapener) – no fiddling around with string or rings.

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I do not trim tendrils and find if you are growing bush style you will end up with a few kinky stems but as long as you keep up with picking and deadheading it will not be too much of a problem.

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Once the plants start to flower begin feeding with a high potash feed once a week, we use our own homemade comfrey brew and a dilutor.

The most important thing about Sweet Peas is that they must be picked regularly to keep them flowering. I try to go through mine every three days, ruthlessly deadheading. Feeding and regular picking will help to keep the stems long for as long as possible.

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We ran our Sweet Pea masterclass last week which was brilliantly timed for our indoor harvest. I sent everyone off into the polytunnel to pick a bucket of sweet peas.

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Watching everyone enjoying the experience has given me an idea…watch this blog for an invitation to Flower Club – a monthly pick you own and arranging session here at the garden…

 

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Sweet Pea Grow Along – Part 3

Your carefully sown seeds should be showing some signs of life by now. Remember to keep them cool and bright as they start to grow.

The next job is preparing the ground outside, probably not terribly appealing right now unless you are outside the UK!  If your ground is too wet to dig, a mulch of compost would be better than nothing at the moment. Sweet peas like a rich, moisture-retentive soil.

They prefer an open, sunny position,  so avoid anywhere that is in shade for more than a couple of hours a day.

I plant in long 25m rows so I can have an overwhelming quantity to harvest. If you are planning on something smaller, a teepee/wigmam is attractive (made from hazel or older bamboo canes). Sweet peas must be picked or dead headed to keep flowering. I find it hard to reach the flowers in the centre of a teepee, which can make this task a bit of a chore.

I also do not enjoy tying in, as it is far too labour intensive. I find bean netting offers enough support for sweet peas to do most of this bit themselves. It is cheap, quick to erect and creates a veritable wall of scent once the netting is clothed with Sweet Peas. Here is a picture of our indoor sweet peas at this time last year. Note the sunshine….

 

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Here’s how we prepare our rows. Ground is dug over (ideally in the autumn) with plenty of well rotted FYM. Stout 2.4m posts are banged in at intervals, approx. 3-4m apart. A hole is drilled through the top of each post, wire (electric fence wire) is threaded through and at the same time woven through the top of the netting and tied as taut as you can . Think of it like hanging a simple curtain,  with the bean netting secured to the post using a staple gun to stop any wafting about. Depending on the length of your rows, your end rows may need bracing with a post section notched in and dug into the ground.

 

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This picture was taken by Shannon Robinson last year, when we let the public pick their own. Our next installment will cover hardening off and planting.

Rachel Siegfried

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