The best sweet peas for cutting have richly scented medium to large flowers and long, strong stems. Pictured is Pastel Sunset (from Renee's Garden, see "RG" in sources below), a new blend in creamy sherbet colors. Other great choices for cutting ― all vining types ― include creamy white, lilac-edged 'April in Paris' (RG); lavender-blue 'Blue Celeste' (RG); clear pink 'Grace of Monaco' (FGN); lavender-blue 'Lady Diana' (FGN); and rosy coral 'Watermelon' (RG).
The best choices for hanging baskets have short-stemmed blossoms and a cascading habit. Pictured at left is 'Heirloom Cupid' (RG), which grows only 8 to 10 in. tall; it has small, closely spaced leaves and diminutive blooms with a rich, fruity fragrance.
The pot (12 in. wide and 11 in. deep) hangs from a wrought-iron holder by Sierra Mirage (916/481-7910 for store locations). Another good choice is Color Palette Cupid (RG), a mixture of blossoms in shades of lavender, rose pink, shell pink, purple, and white on 10-in.-tall plants.
Vining sweet peas make great accents for flower beds or borders when you train them on freestanding trellises, such as the ones pictured here.
'Oban Bay' (FGN) and mixed sweet peas climb these spirals of rusted steel (from Sierra Mirage; see above). Both trellises stand 5 ft. tall and have four 1-ft.-long legs that poke into the ground to anchor them.
The easy way to get started with sweet peas is to grow a dwarf type in a patio pot.
In the picture, Little Sweetheart Mix (FGN; to 12 in. tall) fills an 18-in.-diameter container nestled beside deep blue lobelia and purple sweet alyssum.
Other varieties suitable for pots benefit from the light support of obelisks or bamboo stakes. They include old favorites like Jet Set and Knee-Hi as well as Explorer Mix (bushy, 2 1/2-ft.-tall plants), which has long-stemmed flowers in blue, crimson, lavender, rose, salmon, scarlet, and white.
Design: Bud Stuckey, Sunset test garden coordinator
Garden centers and nurseries sell seeds and seedlings. For the best selection, try one of these specialists:
ESP, Enchanting Sweet Peas (800/371-0233)
FGN, Fragrant Garden Nursery (541/412-8840)CP]
RG, Renee's Garden (888/880-7228).
For further guidance, check out The Sweet Pea Book, by Graham Rice (Timber Press, 2002; $20).