History of sweet pea highlighted at Ponoka ag fair

Having survived time and space in the common garden for the last 300 years, the sweet pea is being highlighted

Having survived time and space in the common garden for the last 300 years, the sweet pea is being highlighted at the Ponoka Agricultural Fair Home Hobby and Horticulture Show this year.

“The really neat thing about sweet peas is they started out as a weed, like most flowers do. A Sicilian weed,” said Doreen Broska, convener for the Home, Hobby and Horticulture Show.

“What I’m planning to do is having several little factoids throughout the bench show, and perhaps spill into other events,” said Broska. She also wants extra sweet peas displayed throughout the show and illustrate how they’ve been used as cultural decoration in society.

Sometime in the late 1600s the weed began being developed as a flower. “By 1713 they had been developed to the point, they were introduced to the Royal Society of England,” said Broska.

“So we thought this was an auspicious year because this is the 300th year it’s been available to the common gardener,” she added.

The sweet pea’s popularity is interesting because, unlike other flowers the sweet pea isn’t edible.

Gardens have been used mostly as a food source and people haven’t wanted to take up space to grow only flowers. However, the sweet peas can be grown vertically and it doesn’t take up the space other flowers do.

Since its introduction sweet peas have been developed into several different varieties of colours and families, including the royal and mammoth families.

“But they still have that wonderful, amazing fragrance,” says Broska.

Despite genetic tampering the flowers have maintained their soft pastel colouring too. “It’s like having a watercolor on the edge of your garden,” said Broska.

Double varieties with extra petals have also been developed. “I don’t really like them. I don’t like the extra petals, I don’t think they’re necessary,” said Broska.

“But that’s just my bias. There may be people out there that like them,” she added.

Like all annual flowers, the more sweet peas are picked the more they bloom. The forgiving flower can be planted anywhere from the beginning of April to the end of May but if the seeds are too wet and cold they don’t germinate properly.

“In England I’ve noticed they’re pretty determined to put them in good, well-rotted manure,” said Broska. However, she feels that level of “finicky” gardening isn’t necessary.