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Your Garden: Strew sweet peas now for summer bouquets

The graceful beauty of annual sweet peas with their ruffled blossoms, soft texture and glowing colors makes them one of the most irresistible and nostalgic of all flowers. Their scent is an exquisite perfume of orange blossoms and honey, surely one of the most seductive of all flower fragrances. A generous handful of their long-stemmed, winged blossoms make a beautiful bouquet that will truly scent an entire room.

Here in the Willamette Valley, with our cooler summers, we’re in an ideal climate for a long bloom season of sweet peas. They can be directly sown in the ground in late spring throughout April and have blooms that will last into late summer and early fall – just keep the young plants protected from the hungry Northwest slugs and snails.

Plant your sweet peas in full sun in a garden spot with well-drained soil. Dig deeply to loosen the soil and enrich it with aged manure or compost before planting seeds. Don’t forget to set up a well-anchored trellis, fence or vertical support for climbing varieties before planting seeds. The eight- to ten-inch “Cupid” varieties are great for containers, and intermediate types such as the knee-high “Explorer” don’t need staking. Another idea is erecting a wire netting along a pathway the plants can scramble over so passersby can enjoy the flowers’ heady fragrance up close. Avoid south-facing walls, however, as the intense heat may promote mildew and stunt growth.

If all your seeds don’t germinate in ten days to two weeks, don’t hesitate to plant more as they will catch up quickly. Some gardeners like to soak sweet peas overnight before planting them; others never do it and still have good results. If you do soak seeds, be sure you leave them in water no longer than eight hours before planting immediately.

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