Sweet peas remind me of my English aunt.
She stayed with Mum and Dad, often, when she visited Australia, and tactfully kept a low profile, never interfering in her sister-in-law's house, let alone the garden. (Nor did Dad.)
But when the sweet peas weren't being picked, she'd get, well, fidgety is too strong a word for this lovely lady, maybe a little restless, and she'd offer to pick some blooms for the house. (Mum was always pleased to say yes.)
She had a point: like any annual plant, setting seed is it's life project. So leaving flowers to set seed will mean less blooms; constant removal will produce many more flowers. Dang, the annual plant thinks, I just want to set a few seeds; is that too much to ask?
It's a case of you `should do' versus laissez-faire - often because the garden owner has a large garden (as was Mum's), and can no longer maintain it to neat suburban standards, or maybe isn't well, or the busyness of life takes away valuable (and pleasurable) gardening time.Being contrary, I've rebelled against `should do' tasks in my garden, and not a single sweet peas has been picked - yet. Besides, I have a moderately large country garden and I don't think super neatness would suit it. As I've written before, I love Mirabel Osler's philosophy: `A Gentle Plea for Chaos' (1989), and doesn't that suit a country garden? - softness, fullness, exuberance, a bit of self-sowing of the loveliest plants so that the planting (if not the structure) is at times informal.
Simplicity and neatness can look great; it just isn't possible any longer in my flower-stuffed meadow-like garden beds. (My green spheres are a very late addition to wrangle some continuity and structure to the garden...much to J's dismay.)
Incidentally, all the sweet peas are the same - and I haven't sown seeds for a while. So - I think - I have a Mendelian experiment going on, with all these (seeming) identical plants being progeny of other, quite different, plants. If so, their progeny may be an interesting mix of colours, as the recessive genes get paired up again, and express their characteristics.So I'll collect the seeds - or let them fall on the ground, to germinate haphazardly around the iron tripods. I know this sounds lazy, but I'm garden-time-poor, and I love the informal effects that can arise.I suspect that Mirabel Osler would approve.
Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria. (www.jillweatherheadgardendesign.com.au)