The reason I found Heard’s Gardens oh so many years ago is due to two years of unsuccessfully trying to grow sweet peas. I had friends who grew mass quantities of these butterfly winged beauties and I was quite often the fortunate recipient of many heavenly smelling bouquets.
t that time, I lived in a condo with a wee little back patio that was fine for growing many hanging shade loving plants but alas nothing in a pot on the ground, as its contents quickly became my mini lop eared rabbit, Burnout’s, next meal, and besides, it was too shady to grow these sun loving flowers.
So when my hubby and I moved into a house with a front and back yard with areas in full sun and sadly our Burnout had passed over the Rainbow Bridge, I decided that I too was going to grow my own bouquets of sweet peas to enjoy and share with friends.
Well much to my horror, after two years of planting and having most of the seeds not even sending up a shoot, I bemoaned my inability to grow them to my mom (who could plant a dead stick in the ground and it would grow). She took me to this amazing little gardening center in Westminster to talk with its owner Mary Lou Heard aka the Queen of Sweet Peas, who so kindly shared what to do with the seeds BEFORE you plant them.
It turns out the the seed coat of sweet pea seeds are very tough, so you need to either nick them with a sharp knife or soak them in water. I tried both methods, and for me, soaking in water is the easiest, the least bloodiest (have I ever shared that Klutz is my middle name?) and provides the largest amount of seeds that sprout. Now why hadn’t my friends shared this with me you might ask? Well when I asked them, they looked at me like they thought that it was common knowledge! Several then explained that they soaked their seeds in glasses of water and one laid hers between layers of wet paper towels in a 9×12 baking pan.
So I planted my little soon to be lovelies into the ground with a trellis to support them, and we were off to the races! That first year the ones that were soaked in a glass of water grew quicker and bloomed better. So much better that they quickly overcame the trellis that my hubby installed for me. The next year, he made a much stronger and taller trellis and I was in SWEET PEA HEAVEN!
Another trick that Mary Lou taught me is that the more you pick the flowers (and any forming seed pods) the more blooms you’ll get… so sharing bouquets brings the gardener a more bountiful harvest! This year I’ll be planting Color Palette Cupid, Cupani’s Original both from Renee’s Garden and Botanical Interests Bouquet Blend. And I’ll be trying Martha Stewart’s method of soaking them in homemade buttermilk first (half gallon of whole milk to a quarter cup of white vinegar). Soak them overnight and then remove and rinse them thoroughly in a strainer allowing them to drain. Then I’ll plant them along my garden fence in my front yard so that not only I can see them, but all my neighbors and those who are out walking in the fresh air (cuz we’re going COVID stir crazy!) can enjoy them too!
So in honor of Mary Lou Heard – plant some sweet peas and share some fragrant bouquets with your neighbors and friends!
Contributed by Cindie Reilly
MLHMGT Board member