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Behind the Bloom: Sweet Pea

Behind the Bloom: Sweet Pea

| Rosie Jeffares-Levitt

"Lathyrus odoratus" is the botanical name for sweet pea. It smells great no matter what you call it!

The sweetest flower name, and term of endearment, is that of “Lathyrus odoratus”, the sweet pea. And the name befits the bloom. With fluttery petals in pastel hues they are sweetly feminine and fragrant. 

Who doesn't love sweet peas, despite their short vase life? They mix well in bouquets with most other blooms. But best of all is enjoying them "neat", all on their own. A posy of sweet peas is an extraordinary treat!

The airy smell of lathyrus falls somewhere between orange blossom and jasmine, with a hint of grape. The scent is demure rather than bold, and best appreciated by bringing the flower to your face. Then inhale!

Last year, I started growing my own vines. Unlike garden peas, sweet pea seeds are poisonous if ingested. I let the pods dry, and collected them in the fall. I carefully stored them, and planted the seeds in the spring. Currently my plants are showing promise, if not flowers! (Gardening is to floristry as orthodontics is to dentistry. That is to say, it requires a completely different skill set!)

Luckily I have an excellent source for sweet peas - a wonderful grower from Delhi Ontario, Janet Ternes. Janet took over the family flower farm from her late father, who would say a prayer over each seed he planted. I remember him well from the early days of Quince -- always with a few florets tucked in the brim of his straw hat. These days, Janet wraps each bundle she sells in a hosta leaf to set off the butterfly shaped blooms.

Sweet peas have got me under their spell right now! Hope you'll enjoy them too, for as long as they last.
• Rosie, owner Quince Flowers

Botanical Blog

Written By: Rosie Jeffares-Levitt

A collection of blog posts written by one of Toronto's top florists. With two on-going blog series, the first about flowers called Behind The Bloom & the second about plants called Plant Life.