It’s A Great Day For The Irish And…

Sweet peas. While the Irish, those of Irish descent, and lovers of all thing Irish (including green beer) kick up their heels to celebrate St Patrick’s Day on March 17th, it is also the perfect day for those of you who, like me, live in a temperate sub-tropical climate to plant sweet peas.

Detail of stained glass window depicting St. Patrick

Detail of stained glass window depicting St. Patrick. Photo in public domain.

And who better to wax lyrical about the beauty of the sweet pea than the famous British Romantic poet, John Keats.

" I stood tip-toe upon a little hill" is poem where John Keats pays homage to the sweet pea

” I stood tip-toe upon a little hill” is poem where John Keats pays homage to the sweet pea.

Photo courtesy izquotes.com

I was hoping I could say the Irish poet, William Butler (W.B.) Yeats, wrote about sweet peas, but this is not true. Although Keats and Yeats names are similar, and he did include flowers in his repertoire, Yeats’ poems were about roses.

 W.B. Yeats wrote a collection of twenty-two poems called ""The Roses" that were published in 1893

W.B. Yeats wrote a collection of twenty-two poems called “”The Roses” that were published in 1893

Photo courtesy http://www.redbubble.com

But back to sweet peas, this flower has been cultivated since the 1600s in their native Sicily. These original plants had weak stems and small flowers, but an intense ‘orange-jasmine-honey’ perfume.

Botanical drawing of sweet peas

Botanical drawing of sweet peas.

Photo courtesy http://www.pinterest.com

In 1699 a Sicilian monk called Franciscus Cupani sent seeds of the local wild sweet pea to his friend, English schoolmaster Dr Robert Uvedale. This was the beginning of a love affair between gardeners and sweet peas that continues to this day.

A delightful range of sweet pea colours

A delightful range of sweet pea colours.

Photo courtesy n53_w1150&ltvia Photopin and Creative Commons

The sweet pea became wildly popular during Victorian era because of its delicate perfume scent and the lovely colours of the flower. Sweet peas were often worked into “tussie-mussies” to convey the secret language of flowers.

Examples of Victorian tussie mussies to hold nosegays of such flowers as sweet peas.

If a gentleman was particularly fond of a lady, he might have given her a nosegay of sweet peas to symbolise sweet partings or, if he were journeying abroad, as a token of his intention to return in her favour.

William Worchester Churchill's portrait of "A Nosegay of Violets" - but the lady might have been hoping for sweet peas!

William Worchester Churchill’s portrait of “A Nosegay of Violets” – but the lady might have been hoping for sweet peas!

Photo courtesy http://www.artistery.net

The sweet pea was used as the floral emblem of Edwardian England, and no grand wedding or dinner party would be complete with a fragrant bouquet of these exquisitely scented blooms.

No Edwardian bride would be complete without a bouquet of sweet peas

No Edwardian bride would be complete without a bouquet of sweet peas.

Photo courtesy http://www.pinterest.com

The Hs and Ws of growing sweet peas:

A vintage sweet pea seed packet

A vintage sweet pea seed packet.

Photo courtesy n53_w1150&ltvia Photopin and Creative Commons

How to plant sweet peas:

  • Plant sweet pea seeds about 3cm deep and 7 cm apart – this will result in a magnificent display of colours when in bloom.

How to support sweet peas:

  • Dwarf varieties that can be grown in pots but otherwise prepare a good, strong trellis to support your sweet peas’ growth.
Sweet peas that are not grown in a pot need to be supported by a trellis

Sweet peas that are not grown in a pot need to be supported by a trellis.

Photo courtesy Sweet peas via Photopin and Creative Commons

When to plant sweet peas:

  • If you are a superstitious type, it is believed that it is best to sow the seeds before sunrise on St. Patrick’s Day to ensure large and fragrant blossoms.
  • If you miss this opportunity, any time before Anzac Day is appropriate.
The only way is up for these sweet peas!

The only way is up for these sweet peas!

Photo courtesy up, up and awayvia Photopin and Creative Commons

Where to plant sweet peas:

  • Sweet peas love full sun and rich soil.

If you can’t or don’t want to grow these butterfly-shaped flowers, you can enjoy the beauty of sweet peas through fragrance.

The petals of the sweet pea flower are butterfly-shaped

The petals of the sweet pea flower are butterfly-shaped.

Photo courtesy Maroon_20080608_2.jp via Photopin and Creative Commons

For those who like designer fragrances, try:

  • Dior – L’or J’adore – The Absolute Perfume – a voluptuous fruity-floral bouquet; top notes include sweet pea and peony; middle notes are violet, champaca and magnolia; the base is composed of amaranth, nutmeg and musk.
  • Jimmy Choo – Blossom – a floral and fruity composition that begins with citrus notes and red fruits, among which raspberry dominates. Its gentle floral heart includes sweet peas and roses, followed by the base of sandalwood and white musk.
  • Hermes – Jour d’Hermes – top notes are lemon, grapefruit and water notes; middle notes are gardenia, sweet pea, green notes and white flowers; base notes are musk and woodsy notes.
A white sweet pea blossom

A white sweet pea blossom.

Photo courtesy Early Sweet Pea flowers via Photopin and Creative Commons

For more sweet pea fragrances.

Enjoy your St Patrick’s Day whether you decide to celebrate by planting sweet peas, dancing an Irish jig or toasting your mates with green beer!

Enjoy green beer on St. Patrick's Day!

Enjoy green beer on St. Patrick’s Day!

Photo courtesy Green Beer on St. Patrick’s Day via Photopin and Creative Commons

 

4 Comments on It’s A Great Day For The Irish And…

  1. Elisa
    March 17, 2015 at 5:56 am (2 years ago)

    oh, what a gorgeous bouquet! I never imagined sweet peas on their own could make such a lovely one!

    Reply
    • The Hipsterette
      March 17, 2015 at 7:17 am (2 years ago)

      Yes, they are lovely, aren’t they? No wonder those strait-laced Victorians went wild for sweet peas!

      Reply
  2. Allan Gardiner
    March 17, 2015 at 12:44 pm (2 years ago)

    I was wondering about the link between the flower and St Patrick until I came to the advice about planting. The Keats poem was clever and the flower symbolism interesting. It seems to have quickly disappeared from our culture. I wonder what violets mean?

    Reply
    • thehipsterette.com.au
      March 17, 2015 at 2:37 pm (2 years ago)

      Allan,

      Violet flowers symbolize delicate love, affection, modesty, faith, nobility, intuition and dignity. The meaning of the violet changes depending on the colour of the flower and the person the flower is sent to. Blue violet flowers symbolizes love and faithfulness, white violets represent purity and chastity, and yellow violets symbolize high worth and goodness. Violets are also the official flower for the month of February – and the national flower of Greece… you did ask!

      Reply

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