Posts Tagged ‘sweet peas’

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.

Big Money Prizes on offer again with Mr Fothergill’s Sweet Pea Competition

September 22nd, 2014 | Competitions, The flower garden | 0 Comments

Six winning vases of sweet peas will together be worth £2500 to the six growers who win a national sweet pea competition in July 2015.

Sweet peas awaiting judging in the 2014 sweet pea competition

Mr Fothergill’s has announced it will once again be running its sweet pea growing competition, with £2500 in prize money, for a third successive year.  The event, to be held on Saturday 18 July,  and aimed at ‘ordinary’ gardeners rather than at exhibitors, will once again be hosted by Capel Manor College in north London.  It was decided to move the date back a fortnight to ensure a greater number of potential entrants have plenty of blooms from which to choose.

Entrants may either post their blooms in a two-litre soft drinks bottle or turn up at the college on the day of the show to stage their flowers.  The two categories will be judged separately and there are also categories for schools and individual youngsters.  Each of the two adult and school classes will carry prizes of £500, while the youngsters’ classes will have two prizes each of £250.  Mr Fothergill’s have developed a tried and trusted method of packing and mailing sweet peas through the post, allowing postal entries to arrive in good condition.

Mr Fothergill’s competition coordinator Pim Dickson said he hoped that by making the competition two weeks later than in earlier years, everyone’s sweet peas would be in full bloom.  “We are looking for attractive bunches of mixed sweet peas, which will be judged on their overall appeal.  No one should feel their blooms are not good enough to enter and, after all, it is only a bit of fun,” he explained.  “The competition is becoming increasingly popular with schools, and we hope this trend continues.”

You can request a copy of the Mr Fothergill’s Seed Catalogue 2015 online, which features an extensive range of sweet peas suitable for October sowing, or you can make a catalogue request by calling 0845 371 0518 or by writing to Mr Fothergill’s, Gazeley Road, Kentford, Suffolk CB8 7QB.   Alternatively, you can take a look at the sweet peas on offer online at

Keith’s Sweet Peas are worth £50 per stem in Mr Fothergill’s Sweet Pea Competition

July 7th, 2014 | Competitions | 0 Comments

Winner of Capel Manor sweet pea comp 2014

A bunch of 10 sweet pea stems were valued at £50 each in a national competition held at Capel Manor College, Enfield, north London on Saturday, 5 July 2014.  Keith Thompson of Guilden Morden, Hertfordshire, secured the £500 first prize in Mr Fothergill’s national sweet pea competition, which attracted entries from as far afield as Ross-shire, Co Tyrone and Cornwall.

The winner originally grew sweet peas as a schoolboy, presenting his mother with the first bunch he ever cut.  He took up the hobby again 15 years ago.  This year he has grown 18 varieties in his garden, where he nets the plants to protect against pollen beetles.  He pinches off the tendrils and side shoots to encourage large blooms and long stems.  Keith lists Mr Fothergill’s Gwendoline and Alan Titchmarsh as his two favourite varieties.   He puts his success down to the incorporation of plenty of farmyard manure into his soil and the addition of blood, fish and bone fertiliser just prior to setting out his young plants, after which he waters them regularly, but does not feed them again.

While Keith won the class for entries submitted in person on the day, there was also a £500 first prize for the best postal entry, which was won by Margaret Smith of Burton on Trent, Staffordshire.  Mr Fothergill’s Pim Dickson, who devised the postal method using a two-litre plastic soft drinks bottle to ensure safe transit of blooms, said he was really pleased at the good condition in which they all arrived.  “Not one of the 34 postal entries was damaged,” he commented.

There were similar on-the-day and postal categories for schools, which were won by Priory Junior School, Bicknacre, Chelmsford and All Saints Primary School, Youlgrave, Derbyshire respectively.  Each received a first prize of £500.

The judges for the competition were John Fothergill of Mr Fothergill’s, gardening writer Peter Seabrook MBE and Stephen Dowbiggin OBE, principal of Capel Manor College.  Entries were judged on their overall appeal.

Keith with the judges

Free sweet pea seeds for schools to grow for the Mr Fothergill’s Sweet Pea Competition

March 12th, 2014 | Competitions, News, The flower garden | 12 Comments

Any of Britain’s schools which would like the chance to win £500 just by growing sweet peas this summer for Mr Fothergill’s national competition are being given an added incentive with the offer of free packets of sweet pea seeds.


The company has a packet of 35 seeds of its Sweet Pea Incense Mixed, each worth £2.05, to give to the first 100 schools which contact it expressing an interest.  The judging will be held at Capel Manor College, North London on Saturday 5 July, and postal entries are welcomed.

The category for schools’ entries has a £500 first prize, £300 second prize and £100 third prize to be donated to the winning schools’ funds.  There is also a category for individual youngsters, with a £250 top prize for the winner.

Competition coordinator Pim Dickson said, “The event is aimed at ‘ordinary’ gardeners, with prizes being awarded to entrants whose displays have the greatest all-round appeal in the opinion of the judges.  We want it all to be to be as much fun as possible.  Sweet peas are easy to grow and everyone loves their flower form and fragrance.”

Entrants may either post their blooms in a two-litre soft drinks bottle or turn up at the college on the day of the show to stage their flowers.  Pim has devised a method of allowing postal entries to arrive in good condition.

To request a free packet of Sweet Pea Incense Mixed for a school, please request using this online entry form, telephone on 0845 371 0518 or write to Mr Fothergill’s, Gazeley Road, Kentford, Suffolk CB8 7QB.

Make a New Year’s resolution: Grow and win with Sweet Peas

January 10th, 2014 | Competitions, Events, News, The flower garden | 0 Comments

Sweet Pea Old Spice MixedGardeners can make the best and most easily kept New Year’s resolution by sowing sweet pea seed in January for both the satisfaction of producing armfuls of cut flowers and the chance to win a large cash prize in Mr Fothergill’s national sweet pea growing competition.  The Suffolk seedsman has put £3500 up for grabs at its event to be held at Capel Manor College, Enfield, on Saturday 5 July 2014.

“Sweet pea seed can be sown in small pots of compost and placed in the greenhouse or on the kitchen windowsill any time during January or February”, says the company’s John Fothergill.  “The seedlings grow away well as the days lengthen to provide stocky young plants for setting out to their flowering positions in March or April”.

Several of Mr Fothergill’s recent and exclusive sweet pea introductions, such as Sir Henry Cecil, Chelsea Centenary and Pandemonium, have been bred in New Zealand by the renowned Dr Keith Hammett.  Such is his reputation that Mr Fothergill’s now puts a special flash on all its sweet pea variety packets bred by him to highlight the fact..  “We are delighted to be forging links with the world’s foremost sweet pea breeder”, comments John.

Sweet Pea Hammett CollectionThe competition is aimed at ‘ordinary’ gardeners rather than sweet pea exhibitors, and John is offering a collection of seed of six Hammett-bred varieties for just £8.95 – saving over £3 on the normal catalogue prices, to encourage as many people as possible to grow sweet peas this year (2014).  Collection includes: ‘Sir Henry Cecil’ (chocolate flaked), ‘Hi Scent’ (cream/mauve picotee), ‘Chelsea Centenary’ (pale lavender), ‘Pandemonium’ (frilly pink flake flowers), ‘Blue Shift’ (purple-blue) and ‘Almost Black’ (rich, dark colouring). Simply visit the main website to order our Sweet Pea Hammett Collection.

As the competition approaches, entrants may either post their blooms in a two-litre soft drinks bottle or turn up at the college on the day of the show to stage their flowers.  The two categories will be judged separately and there are also categories for individual youngsters and for schools.  Each of the four classes will carry a prize of £500.

Sending Postal Entries

The company has devised a method of allowing postal entries to arrive in good condition.   Follow the instructions for how to do this in the competition rules page.   All entries received this way last year arrived in good condition for judging.


The new Mr Fothergill’s catalogue features an extensive range of sweet pea seeds, which you can also browse online.   Request a copy of Mr Fothergill’s Seed, Plant and Bulb Catalogue 2014 online now or you can telephone 0845 371 0518 or write to Mr Fothergill’s, Gazeley Road, Kentford, Suffolk CB8 7QB for a copy.