Sweet pea fatigue and snails
If, like me, you're a keen gardener, you've doubtless swapped views this summer on which of your garden plants have survived, thrived - or sunk without trace. Sadly, due to the prolonged cold and wet weather - which has brought out the slugs and snails in unprecedented armies - there are more failures than success stories to be reported.
My dahlias, despite my best efforts, are being decimated by snails, despite the fact that I've grown them in pots and mulched their compost with sharp grit; I've even seen snails half buried in the grit, so they look like a larger stone in the mix. Even my succulents have signs of chomping. The runner beans ran to ground soon after they started and it is clearly not going to be a bumper year for tomatoes. However against the odds, one flower has gone berserk, and shows no signs of giving up: the sweet pea.
So forgive me if this sounds like swanking, but I have sweet pea fatigue. After weeks of cutting the flowering stems every other day, if only to prevent them from going to seed, my thumb has a blister from excessive scissor action and, to be frank, I have had my fill. And as I write so have every vase, jug and a few of our drinking glasses - 18 in all. They're full of gorgeous, sweet-scented bouquets in shades of lilac, scarlet, magenta, white, purple, sky blue, sugar pink, burgundy; there is even a sweet pea of purple and violet that is a dead ringer for the sublime Matucana.
Strange, because they were all a mixed bunch - seedlings - picked up from the garden centre in late March, and called something weedy like Summer Skies Mix. I planted about a dozen at the base of a wigwam of hazel poles and there they sat, for weeks on end, doing absolutely nothing through those weeks of grey skies and perpetual rain.
And I panicked, thinking they had been there too long and for them, it would be too little, too late. So I planted more, at the sides of both garden arches, as insurance. Surely some would flower? Some and more indeed did, as soon as the sun put in an appearance. I could practically see them growing on a daily basis. And because they were late starters, unusually for this late in summer, they're still flowering.
It takes me at least an hour every two days to snip off the flowering stems and still they come… the house smells sublime, there are sweet peas in every room. Neighbours, friends and family have been delighted by bunches of the pretty perfumed blooms. To paraphrase Elvis Costello's song, It's been a good year for the sweet peas. But next year, I just might plant a few less.