Sweet peas are the star benchmarks of the gardening year; planting them kicks off the gardening season for me, and picking my first bouquet of sweet peas means summer has arrived. It's time to order sweet pea seeds, especially if you're one of those good, thrifty gardeners who starts them indoors. I'm afraid I don't - the last couple of years I've had sweet peas in bloom from mid-June through mid-September by planting starts from the nursery (Wells-Medina in Bellevue and Swansons Nursery in Ballard carry a good assortment) and seeding directly into the soil around the starts for a second flush of bloom. The result is an array of colors over a very long season.
My tips for sweet peas are simple. Wait to plant until the soil dries out a bit, usually by mid-March. Dig lots of manure into the soil - you can't overfeed these prolific bloomers. Sweet peas like a deep root run, and require regular watering, full sunshine, and a scaffold to climb. Sweet peas earn the best real estate in my little garden with their abundance of fragrant, frilly flowers.
Renee's Garden Seeds offers an enticing array of sweet peas - I choose different kinds to grow each year, just making sure to choose a few dark purples for contrast with the pastels, and always the most fragrant varieties. I asked Renee Shepherd what she's excited about this year, and she reminded me that the supremely fragrant 'April in Paris' is her favorite. But she also recommends the new knee-high introduction 'Jack and Jill' and also 'Watermelon' for its "glowing color and perfume'.