Bum Rap on Sweet Peas

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In a recent article, we sounded so enthusiastic about the old-fashioned Early Spencer strain of sweet peas, which we had grown in pots for several years, that we badly slighted some of the newer strains.

Howard Bodger, of Bodger Seeds in El Monte (a major grower), suggested we try the Multiflora Gigantea series, which is easy to find in seed racks, even at supermarkets.

It is available in 20 colors and Bodger says each flowering stem has five to six flowers, instead of the two to three on the Early Spencers. He reports that the plants are not as susceptible to root rots as old strains.


He also mentioned a strain called Old Spice that is especially fragrant, a modern, easier-to-find equivalent of the old Painted Lady strain we grew.

Another reader scolded us for not mentioning there are bush varieties of sweet peas that don’t require the eight-foot poles we recommended for the vining kinds. Bush sweet peas grow about two to three feet tall and need no support, however, in our experience, they do not flower as long or as profusely.