How I grow Sweet Peas, by Darren Everest

On 14 February, Grayshott Gardeners were treated to an informative and amusing talk by Darren Everest on how he came to cultivate and show sweet peas also on his rivalry on showing sweet peas between him and his father.

His interest in growing flowers started when he was thirteen by growing and showing dahlias but the showing times for dahlias is short lived, so he started to grow and show sweet peas and compete against his father.

The audience learnt how and when to sow seeds. With winters getting warmer, Darren said that it is preferable to sow in January so that plants are ready to be planted out in March/April time. Darren sows his seeds in November on heated beds for them to germinate quicker, so the plants are ready for showing in Spring. He also shared tricks on how to keep mice at bay, so they could not eat your seeds, how to pick side shoots to encourage flowers and how stroking stems helped to straighten them. You can take a tip off the tap root if the plant gets leggy, this will help the plant shoot. As sweet peas flower off the side shoots, he said it was good to take the plant down to two leaves when large enough.

Darren explained that the weather played a big part in growing sweet peas, how they can tolerate frost and temperatures down to -6 but not -14 and that if the temperature dropped dramatically between day and night, buds were likely to drop off.

The audience were treated to a detailed description of how to display blooms for show purposes, how side shoots need to be taken off to get the best blooms on straight stems, and making sure they are not water damaged in transportation to avoid water marks.   He illustrated how to show sweet peas using fifteen stems in a vase for exhibiting nationally. Starting with seven stems at the back of a display, five in the middle and three at the front.

Darren referred to his wedding in 2012, not knowing what to give his wife as a wedding gift he named a sweet pea after her. Cultivating a sweet pea can take up to five years, this flower was ready and ‘released’ at his first time showing at Chelsea last year, where he achieved a Silver Gilt Prize. 

This well attended evening concluded with Darren answering questions from the audience.

Lots more tips and information on how to grow sweet peas can be found on Darrens website: