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Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Sweet Pea Evening

Sweetpea multiflora

It’s a warm, easy-livin’ summer evening here in the Valley. I’m sitting on the deck in the shade of the big maple tree. The leaves rustle gently and on the breeze rides a flood of fragrance. Sweet peas. Mid July and they are in full bloom, saturating the evening with their nose titillating aroma. An investment made in March now pays off in a burst of pastels and a heady perfume.

Last fall I gleaned the spent vines for seed, seed I planted March 30.burst of fragrance Several evenings last September I would make my way down the trellised rows picking the swollen pods, now crisp and brown from the summer’s heat. I shelled the pods into a paper sack, gathering enough surplus to plant a fifty foot row. Last time I checked, sweet pea seed was selling for $65.00 a pound and that was years ago. Of course a pound of seed would plant a lot of ground. But since the price of seed is dear, it pays to save your own. Besides, it’s a putterin’ type of task, the kind I’m best at. A half hour of seed gathering in the pea patch on warm fall evenings—a good way to wind down the day—or keep it at bay for a pea

The olfactory sense is a strong trigger of memory and as the sweet air wafts around me, I’m thinking of  another evening almost a year go. Sweet peas featured prominently at that gala: my daughter’s wedding to Mr. Avi Finkel. Sweet peas were her flower of choice, sweet peas grown in the backyard garden of the house where she grew up.

We had a lot riding on last summer’s patch. I planted 125 feet of sweet pea rows. In the weeks that followed, I tended the vines with vigilance and Miracle Gro, on the lookout for aphid and other pests. We would need bushels of blossoms for bouquets, centerpieces and the wedding cake. I planted a special ten foot section of a single color, burgundy, for the bridal bouquet.

As the wedding day approached, we picked bouquets daily; you must keep the flowers picked, the new seed pods clipped, for the vines to keep blossoming. Five days before the wedding we gave the vines free rein.  The morning of the wedding, the trellised rows were a profusion of color. I picked for three hours until  I had gathered every blooming stem in the patch. Trecia made the bride-to-be a beautiful bridal bouquet from the burgundy flowers and two more from the multi-flora rows. Sweet pea bouquet

At Lord Hill Farms, the wedding site, family members snipped individual blossoms into buckets. Sister-in-law Vicki who has an eye for the artistic, the decorative, sprinkled the blossoms around the centerpieces. Sweet pea centerpiece(A three and a half gallon bucket of sweet peas was used for the wedding party and guest tables. The spare blooms we scattered around on the remaining support stations.) Burgundy sweet peas not used in the bridal bouquet ornamented the wedding cake.Marika's big Day 010  Now that was one very special sweet pea evening!

As I gaze out at this year’s sweet peas—a patch less than half of last—I think of that memorable evening a year ago and what pleasure my sweet pea endeavors brought me, the members of the wedding and the guests. In fact the raising of sweet peas—as I see it—should be for the pleasure of others, as well as the gardener. Each year I try to spread a little sweet pea cheer among friends and neighbors: a bouquet for the ladies at the bank, one for Mrs. Larry at Courtesy Tire, another for my old neighbor Tina Streutker. My environmentally-sensitive friend Nancy L has her annual bouquet. And there’s one for Phyllis Bickler at Safeway. A special one next door for Cindi who’s struggling with cancer. Today I picked a bouquet that is currently in transit to Eastern Washington to adorn and perfume my mother’s kitchen table. And in between the gift bouquets, we bring indoors our own fragrance and color  to enjoy.

In fact I picked this virtual bouquet for you. Bury your face in the pastels blossoms and breathe in the virtual fragrance.

Virtual sweet peas

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  1. I was sad that I couldn't have done more to help out that day, but snipping the sweet pea blooms was a great pleasure! And they made the whole room smell so wonderful!

  2. I am forever grateful for my beautiful wedding sweet peas, not to mention all the hard work that went in to last year's crop. Sweet peas have always been my favorite, but now hold an even more special place in my heart!