Sweet Peas in April :: Birth Flower of the Month
Like ruffled spring skirts, the old fashioned Sweet Pea flowers have a particular charm about them which suggests gentle romance.
In the Southern Hemisphere, it's time to plant the seeds of this gorgeously scented flower in the still-warm Autumn soil. And in the Northern Hemisphere, waking up to the warmth of Spring, the Sweet Pea is a welcome addition to a new season posy. Oh the fragrance!
Following on in our series exploring Birth Flowers, let's have a look at what this sweet little flower symbolises in the secretive Language of Flowers....
fair tidings on parting.
The symbolism of the Sweet Pea as "modest" seems to suit it perfectly. Because with its wayward tendrils, the little plant does seem to not take itself too seriously - it's more of a joyful "here I am, just happy to be".
In both the Language of Flowers (the Victorian custom of sending "secret" messages via a curated selection of flowers) and as the Birth Flower for April, this humble flower has the same meaning - sweetness, simplicity, gratitude.
Lathyrus Odoratus is a flowering (inedible) annual, thought to have originated in the Mediterranean. The wild ancestors of our common garden cultivars can still be found growing wild in Italy, in a version which has much shorter stems and delicately scented purple flowers.
But from around the 17th century, these plants were selectively bred for scent, colour and vigour. And especially towards the end of the 18th century, Sweet Peas were bred in rich, bold colours with a very pronounced scent. They became a very popular plant, both as a fresh flower, but also as a scent in perfume, talc and face creams.
The seeds are best planted in early Autumn, when the soil is still warm, ideally in a sunny spot with rich organic matter worked into the soil. They need sun for at least 6 hours a day, and prefer slightly alkaline soil. What they absolutely will need, is some sort of support for growing, as the tendril-curling stems will reach up to 2 metres high in the quest to reach the sun.
So a simple trellis is ideal. You can buy a cone or flat trellis, or you can bundle long sticks together and tie with twine for support. The plant is not heavy, so it's more about being a tall trellis than a strong one. And just imagine how good the scent of an arched trellis, filled with Sweet Peas, would be!
You can form a simple trellis for Sweet Peas with bamboo canes, tied together where they cross at the (almost) top with biodegradable twine. The annuals will happily grow in a pot as long as the position recieves plenty of sun each day and the soil does not dry out.
Can you eat Sweet Peas?
Sweet Peas are part of the Lathyrus genus, many of which contain toxic amino acids. (Other members of this family are edible though - like L. sativus (Indian pea) and L. tubersosa (tuberose pea) both of which are grown as food crops.
But the Sweet Pea itself, no matter how sweetly scented, is not edible.
GIFT IDEAS OF sweet peas FOR april BIRTHDAYS
In the Northern Hemisphere and have the birthday of a friend or loved one coming up this month? Then perhaps consider gifting the birthday person with a watering can filled with a huge bunch of the fabulously-scented Sweet Peas. They can enjoy the flowers now, and use the watering can for ages - especially if you buy a good quality version made from recycled plastic or from long lasting steel.
In the Southern Hemisphere this April and needing an idea for a birthday gift? A packet of heirloom variety seeds, in pale colours and strong scents, could be perfect for a garden-loving friend.
Or you could also gift a pot made from recycled plastic, like this one from TerraCycle made from 100% recycled e-waste (like crushed computer cases & fax machines), and tuck the packet of seeds into it with a bundle of long canes ready to create a cone shaped trellis for when the Sweet Peas start growing madly in Spring.
And for a gift that highlights the fabulous scent for which these April Birth Flowers are so famous, you could include a selection of soy wax candles or plant-based soaps which feature the delicious aroma of Sweet Peas.
Images via our Pinterest board here.