Before I think about my “plant of the centenary” I must say a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who left a comment on my last post Garden Bloggers Question. All of you who took the time to leave a comment came up with a wonderful array of suggestions and thoughts for our front garden. Simply brilliant. Sadly, my troublesome head is still playing up making computer life and non computer life generally rubbish, but … (fingers crossed) the medication seems to be kicking in now, so I just need to get my “oomph” back and then everything will be fine and dandy.
VP asked us to think about our plant of the centenary as this year is the RHS Centenary Show, this post was supposed to go up last week, but along with my troublesome head, I really had difficulty in making up my mind so I am glad that I am not Roy Lancaster or one of his experts!
Like Angie, peony was one of the plants that came to mind – particularly Paeonia lactiflora “Bowl of beauty” AGM. I have three in this garden, and I love them.
Helen went for Ashwood Hellebores – which is also a plant that was high on my list, as I do adore hellebore, and the breeding that has been done by John Massy has produced some delightful cultivars.
Bren chose Tulips, yet another of the plants high on my list, and the one I would have chosen is t. Orange Favourite, which is totally over the top and smells divine I think it is from the 1930′s so eligible for the plant of the centenary. Sadly I decided in the Autumn to give myself a “year off from tulips” so there will be no orange Favourites here this year.
I toyed with the grasses and “prairie plants” but I suspect that they are rather “fashionable” and will not necessarily stand the test of time – in a few years will someone looking at my garden find it dated and liken it to the dwarf confers and heathers that were so prevalent in the 1970′s.
So, what have I decided upon? well it is the sweet pea. I know the original sweet pea is at least 2 centuries too old, but there are newer varieties!
Purportedly the earliest sweet pea seeds arrived in England in 1699 they were sent by a sicillian monk to among other people Robert Uvedale of Enfield and is known as Cupani named after the monk. Compared to some sweet peas available today it was perhaps small and modest, but it did have that wonderful sweet pea scent, and what a legacy! It is from this flower that all our modern sweet peas are descended.
Sweet pea breeding continued and by the mid 1800′s “sweet peas” became established. Henry Eckford is perhaps the father of sweet peas as we know them today. From 1879 and for the next few years Eckford perfected his breeding of sweet peas and established the Grandiflora strains, or the “Old fashioned” varieties. The next big break-through in sweet peas was the introduction of the Spencer varieties. Silas Cole loved sweet peas and grew a lot of the Eckford varieties He worked as a gardener for the Spencer family one of his plants had flowers that were bigger and had a wavy edge – and so Countess Spencer was born, it was first shown in 1901. At around the same time William Unwin also discovered a frilly form in the flowers he grew for cut flowers. Unwins seeds still today develop and breed sweet peas for our gardens.
So the sweet pea evolved from the simple “Cupani” through the elegant grandifloras to the frilly spencers, in the 20′s and 30′s we had ripples and flakes. Now we have modern grandifloras, which are bred from the victorian grandiflora sweet peas, keeping the stunning scent of the originals but generally have more abundant flowers together with the long stems of the spencer types.
That is a (very) potted history of the sweet pea and now what do I chose for my plant of the centenary. Obviously to fit with the allotted time span, it will have to be a modern cultivar. Oh but which one? So I am going for 2 which will look well grown together Sweet pea “Fire and Ice” together with Sweet Pea “Almost black”. It would appear that I didn’t take any pictures of sweet peas last year, so you will have to take my word for it – they are very pretty. So instead I am showing you a random bunch of sweet peas from last year.
Sadly although I cannot have sweet peas in my house – I do pick bunches of them for the garden tables and market. They seem to bring such pleasure to the people who see them and that is why they are my plant of the centenary.