Dr. Keith Hammett is the world’s leading sweet pea breeder. I’ve always been a big fan of his varieties, and he’s made so many important steps forward including integrating the most recently discovered species – the red and yellow Lathyrus belinensis - into his breeding work.
This year I trialled seven of his varieties, some of which I’ve never grown before, and I was especially pleased with four of them. Just to be clear, seed was sown in late winter, they were grown in ordinary garden conditions, on a wigwam of bamboo canes, in a corner of the cutting garden just round the corner from here at boutique florist Foxtail Lilly.
This has been outstanding, not so much for its productivity but for its wonderful cream colouring with the strong rose pink picotee.
One of the few tri-coloured sweet peas, with pale cherry red standards, white at the base, and pale mauve-blue wings opening from yellow buds. A delightful soft combination.
I was really looking forward to the vertical magenta-pink stripe through each pale pink standard but found it much less clear than I expected. I’ll give it another try next year, in better conditions.
This is a two-tone pink with darker standard and paler wings, very pretty but not as striking as I’d expected.
Nine flowers per stem – yes really! I loved this for the long life of each stem, provided by its eight or nine flowers. We need this in other colours.
Gorgeous, nicely frilled, pink and white bicolour that was taller and more vigorous than any other sweet pea in the cutting garden. ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is similar, but bright red and white.
An extraordinary combination of pinkish mauve maturing into soft turquoise blue. Very pretty in posies with pinks.
I’ll definitely be growing ‘Bix', ‘Enchanté’, 'Pink Nines’ and ‘Route 66’ again, and I suspect that the others would be more effective with better treatment.
Sadly, since Brexit, Keith is unable to send seed from New Zealand to the UK. However, many of his varieties are available in the UK from English Sweet Peas and from Mr Fothergill’s. In North America try Sweet Pea Gardens.
And you can find out more about Keith’s sweet peas here.
• I’m still waiting for my copy of the new RHS monograph on Lathyrus by Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, botanist Greg Kenicer and Plant Heritage National Collection holder Roger Parsons. Of course, it includes sweet peas. When it finally arrives, I’ll be discussing it here… It's arrived! It looks stupendous. Review coming...