The different types of sweet pea
There are many types of sweet pea currently available, and others which have been lost to cultivation. Some of the more significant are listed below.
The Spencer sweet peas
This is a modern large flowered strain, also known as the English sweet pea. Available in a very wide range of colours, many of which are very sweetly scented. The Spencers are the standard exhibition sweet pea, and are also the most popular for providing cut flowers from the garden in temperate areas.
The grandiflora sweet peas
Mostly dating from between 1880 and 1910, it was the grandifloras which first gave the sweet pea its popularity as a garden flower. Informal in growth, and covered in highly scented flowers, the grandiflora sweet peas are currently staging a comeback. Tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions.
The early flowering sweet peas
Originally developed as a cut flower for the Christmas market from a chance mutation, winter flowering sweet peas are less vigorous than the later flowering sorts, and need good winter light levels to give of their best. They have differentiated over time into the winter and spring flowering strains of cut flower sweet peas.
The dwarf sweet peas
Derived from the 'Cupid' mutation over 100 years ago, the dwarf sweet peas make spreading mounds only about six inches high. They like plenty of sun, well drained soil, and make excellent flowers for tubs and hanging baskets.
The acacia leaf sweet peas
The no-tendril or acacia leaf sweet peas are a reversion to a primitive ancestral form where the leaflets had not yet mutated into tendrils. Compact bushy plants with much denser foliage than the normal sweet peas, they make a bold statement in the garden but have never become really popular.
The intermediate height sweet peas
Growing only 3 or 4 feet tall, these need less support than the normal tall strains and offer a new way of using sweet peas in the garden, particularly in a mixed border. Contrary to popular belief, these sweet peas are not the result of a cross between tall and dwarf varieties.