Sweet peas: flakes and stripes

September 26th, 2014 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Sweet peas 'Solway Blue Vein' (left) and 'Sir Henry Cecil' (right)Flakes and stripes are some of the loveliest sweet peas. Both are special kinds of bicolours, both repay close inspection in the garden, both are valuable as cut flowers and both have a white background and coloured markings. But gardeners often get them muddled, so what’s the difference?

In flakes, the background is white, or sometimes a slightly greyish white and the petals are streaked in colour, with similar markings on the standards (the upright petals) and the wings (the lower petals). The backs of the petals are patterned in the same way as the front, sometimes in a richer shade. A good examples is ‘Geoff Hughes’ (orange-red).

Stripes too have a basic background of white. The standards are edged with a narrow picotee of colour while most of the rest of the standards remain white, or off white, sometimes with a haze of colour. The backs of the standards are more intensely coloured, often with only a narrow white zone between two zones of colour. The wings are basically the opposite: strongly coloured on the upper surface, with a narrow white zone between the two areas of colour while underneath is more like the front of the standards: white, with a picotee of colour. ‘Wiltshire Ripple’ is a good example.

Sweet Pea 'Tiller Girls'Sounds complicated? It’s really not. Take a look at the stripe ‘Solway Blue Vein’ (above left) and the flake ‘Sir Henry Cecil’ (above right) and you can see the difference.

I should also mention that there’s also a new mixture of flakes just out, to go with Mr. F’s mix of stripes, ‘Ripple Mixed’. ‘Tiller Girls’ (left, click to enlarge) is subtle blend of three flake varieties, all from the world’s leading sweet pea breeder Keith Hammett. The varieties ‘Burlesque’ (purple), ‘Pandemonium’ (pink) and ‘Vaudeville’ (pale blue) are combined into harmonious blend which is lovely in the garden and in the vase – and well scented too. And seed is best sown in the autumn, I’ll be explaining why here soon.

Leave a Reply

Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
Read more.

Shop Online

Graham’s Books