Did you know that Sweet Pea flowers are toxic?
It's ok though, because you'd have to ingest many, many blooms and for a long period of time. Although toxic, they are absolutely one of the most beautiful and fragrant climbers in the garden.
A bit of Sweet Pea History
Most the sweet peas that I grow for cut flowers are of the Spencer strain, which is characterized by their wavy petals, and historically those were the Unwin varieties. Dating back to 1696, the founding sweet pea flower was discovered by a Franciscan Monk, Father Cupiani in the hillsides of Sicily. This original plant had deep blue lower petals and purple upper petals, known as wings. Father Cupiani sent some of the seed to his friend in Britain and by 1724 the seed was available commercially as Cupiani's Original, or Matucana.
Later down the road, Silas Cole, the gardener at Althorp--yes, Lady Diana Spencer's family estate, discovered Lady Spencer, a spectacular plant with huge wavy flowers, but without the captivating scent. The Spencers transformed the sweet pea. By 1910, the sweet pea was the most popular annual flower in cultivation.
Today, with hybridizers I hold in gratitude, we have the best of both worlds. A huge, wavy flower coupled with extraordinary fragrance. And some varieties have even more fanfare such as long and sexy legs for vase and tidy upright growth habits.