Sweet peas are a long-standing favourite amongst gardeners, thanks to many of their admirable qualities, yet sweet peas still require intelligent planting. Sweet peas are great plants for a cut-flower garden and add scent to a summer border so they need to be accessible, not sited away at the back of a border.

Where to plant sweet peas

According to plant expert Graham Rice, there are some key factors to keep in mind when planning to plant sweet peas in the garden – colour and scent. Decide where your sweet peas will sit in the border, before choosing your colours.
Intricate types should be placed at the front as to be obscured by showier planting in the centre. Plain colours, or selfs, show up better from a distance. Support for sweet peas is also very important. Whether you choose to support them with a traditional wigwam or a more contemporary obelisk, make sure it is high enough for the type of sweet pea you decide to grow.
To guide you to some of the best sweet peas to grow in the garden, Graham has chosen 12 of his favourites below.

The best scented sweet peas

Lathyrus ‘Albutt Blue’

A delicate picotee with a spectacular scent, the subtle and soft bluish purple edgings create a charming picture. Prolific, and good scrambling through a winter jasmine by the front door. Spencer hybrid.


Buy Lathyrus ‘Albutt Blue’ from Chiltern Seeds

Lathyrus ‘America’

Dating as far back as 1896 and still delightful, the flowers are prettily patterned. Plants with no white may appear; if so, buy from a different supplier next time. Grandiflora hybrid. AGM*. RHS H4†.

Lathyrus ‘Matucana’

Descended from the original wild sweet pea, with an exceptional fragrance, this is the one to add to a poorly scented bouquet for a boost. Grandiflora hybrid.

Lathyrus ‘Erewhon’

This unique reverse bicoloured variety switches the usual arrangement and features pale pinkish lavender standards
above rich blue wings. Derived in part from the Turkish species Lathyrus belinensis.
Spencer hybrid.

Lathyrus ‘Karen Louise’

Powerfully scented, ‘Karen Louise’ has large, beautifully waved flowers, shading to white at the very centre, and carried on
strong stems, making it ideal in both the garden and the vase. Spencer hybrid.

Lathyrus ‘Janet Scott’

Dating back to 1903, this simple classical heirloom in soft salmon pink has a hooded standard that creates the impression
of an unusually substantial flower. Grandiflora hybrid. AGM. RHS H4.

Buy Lathyrus ‘Janet Scott’ from Owl's Acre Seeds

Lathyrus ‘Black Knight’

More a sort of chocolate bronze maroon, with a little purple often gleaming in the wings of the flower. Not clearly visible from a distance unless seen against silver or gold foliage. Grandiflora hybrid.

Lathyrus ‘Bramdean’

Raised by Victoria Wakefield at her Bramdean garden in Hampshire, this new cultivar in the old Grandiflora style is pure white, with a faint pink blush in some conditions. Modern grandiflora hybrid. AGM.

Buy Lathyrus 'Bramdean' from Chiltern Seeds

Lathyrus ‘Fire and Ice’

Another bicoloured variety in the old-fashioned style. At its best ‘Fire and Ice’ has pink to red upper petals and lilac blue wings. Very vigorous. Modern grandiflora hybrid.

Lathyrus ‘Flora Norton’

This classic, pale blue, old-fashioned heirloom sweet pea dates back to 1905. The purity of its simple colouring is enchanting and it features unusually large wings and relatively small seeds – though they germinate well. Grandiflora hybrid. AGM. RHS H4.

More like this

Buy Lathyrus ‘Flora Norton’ from Chiltern Seeds

Lathyrus ‘King Edward VII’ (pictured)

This vivid crimson red antique variety, introduced by the great Henry Eckford in 1903, is one of the best heirloom varieties in stronger colours and certainly the best red. Grandiflora hybrid. AGM. RHS H4.

Lathyrus ‘Mrs Collier’

Once described overenthusiastically as ‘primrose’, the yellow buds open to creamy white flowers. With its especially strong scent this is one of the essential antique varieties. Grandiflora hybrid.

*AGM Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.
† Hardiness rating given where known.

Useful Information

The National Collection of Sweet Peas is held in Sussex by Roger Parsons.
Group visits can be made in June by appointment.
Tel 01243 673770, www.rpsweetpeas.co.uk

The Sweet Pea Book by Graham Rice (Batsford) is aimed at gardeners rather than exhibitors.
There’s also Sweet Peas: An Essential Guide by Roger Parsons (Crowood).


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