Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Yesterday I noticed two volunteer sweet peas growing in a crack along the edge of our front walk. I tried pulling them up, but they were deeply rooted. and I fully expect to see them emerge again. Sweet pea surveillance will be part of my puttering routine until the path is cleared..

My first experience with volunteer sweet peas was in November 2010, when I carefully transplanted every one to stand along the fence, interspersing them with sweet peas I'd grown from seed. These became the plethora of purple sweet peas noted in spring 2011.

On the verge of spring 2012, thanks to having mulched last summer with spent sweet pea vines and their mature seeds, I have countless volunteer sweet pea seedlings in the front garden. I provided stakes for the first ones to climb on, and even placed a tomato cage over a big clump of them. But, having read somewhere that sweet peas may be allowed to sprawl, I think I'll remove these props and see what happens.

With three volunteers thriving in the space where sweet peas have been planted in the past, we WILL have a dependable source of blooms -- probably dark purple. Their spent vines will again become mulch for the front garden. Meanwhile, regardless of their state of development, the sprawling sweet peas will be fulfilling their fabaceous destiny by drawing nitrogen out of the air and into the soil. If they manage to bloom, we'll enjoy seeing the flowers rear their little heads in unlikely places. What fun it would be to watch them climb up the camellia or azalea, or even venture among the epiphitic plants on my beloved dead tree-fern trunk,

While sweet peas compete for space, my single hyacinth bean stalk has become rampant on the side fence and garden arch. Its unscented blossoms, though not as frilly as the purely ornamental sweet pea, make lovely bouquets with the addition of African blue basil or another fragrant herb. I try to keep the hyacinth beans from setting mature seed, but it would not surprise me to see them show up as next year's new volunteers.
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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License