Usually I plant sweet peas for the scent: this year, it was all about the colour scheme. This was a mistake: I really miss the perfume wafting in through the patio doors on a summer evening, and the planned colour scheme of dark blue and lime green hasn't come off yet as I am not sure if any of the 'Lemonade' have survived. If you don't want to repeat my error, sow 'Perfume Delight' this October. There have been some consolations, though.
In addition to my October to December sowing, in late winter I impulse-sowed 'Blue Shift' direct into a big pot containing the compact clematis 'Countess of Wessex', kindly given to me by Raymond Evison on a press trip to his amazing nursery last year. 'Blue Shift' is a new sweet pea sent to me to try by Thompson & Morgan.
By the time they started flowering, I'd forgotten their trick: the flowers start out winey-red and purple, and slowly shift (get it) to the palest of blues as the flowers mature (whether on the plant or in a vase), as you can see from the picture above.
Is this merely a gimmick, or a useful feature in a sweet pea? In many ways it's rather annoying: some of the phases I am not so keen on, and mixed together on the plants, I am not sure it really works (see left to get what I mean). However, each flower goes through a fabulous moment where it is wonderfully psychedelic, with vibrant purple and pink-veined petals (visible in the top picture, second and third from the right, and below). Then, finally before the petals fall, it's a blue not dissimilar to the a Himalayan poppy, which is rather good too.
No doubt T&M sold a good number of these to gardeners wanting the "novelty factor": there's an orange variety called 'Clementine Kiss' from Matthewman's, but again, why would you want an orange sweet pea?
I am not sure 'Blue Shift' is a variety I'd grow again, but it's faded blue glory has woken me up to the possibilities of some of the blue sweet peas, such as Noel Sutton and Charlie's Angel. The great thing with the sweet pea growing cycle is there really isn't that long to wait until you can begin to muse on next year's choices: seeds can be sown from October. But for the moment, these aren't looking too shabby in a vase, even if they're sadly lacking in scent. (By the way, if anyone can tell me the name of the rose (repeat-flowering climber) pictured, I'd be very happy. I have a notion it is 'Eternite' but far from sure. The camera has dulled the pink somewhat - it's rather more vibrant with the naked eye.