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Lathyrus - Growing Guide
Caring for Lathyrus
We stock two very different types and species of Lathyrus. One is a spring flowering herbaceous perennial (L. vernus) and the other is a summer flowering herbaceous perennial climber with winged stems which can readily be self-clinging with its tendrils onto an adjacent wall support (L. latifolius). The thing which lumps these two plants together into the genus Lathyrus is their ‘sweet pea’ or ‘pea’ flowers.
Most ‘sweet peas’ that are so popular in gardens are annuals. These two differing species are not.
L. vernus is a dense, clump forming herbaceous perennial with ‘unwinged’ (ie unable to cling to anything nearby) upright stems which grows about 10-20in tall with a similar spread. Its common name is ‘spring vetchling’ which gives the game away! In spring it produces racemes of one sided (ie unlike ‘sweet peas’) racemes of attractive purplish-blue flowers that fade to greenish-blue before they drop. It is an interesting and rather different form of perennial sweet pea.
L. latifolius (which we offer in three different colours in three named varieties) is a totally different ‘animal’! The pink flowering form (L. latifolius ‘Pink Pearl’) is the most common of these garden climbers. On the road to the King Harry Ferry there is an early signpost which is always adorned with this climbing sweet pea in mid to late summer. L. latifolius is commonly known as the ‘everlasting pea’ or the ‘perennial pea’. Like all annual ‘sweet peas’ L. latifolius is a vigorous climber which can readily reach a height of 6-8ft. In a very mild winter it may not die down completely, but it generally will, and reshoot vigorously each year from the base. It has racemes of six to eleven pink or purplish flowers from summer and, on and on, to the first frosts (or a Cornish autumn with none!).
L. latifolius is a tremendous garden plant. There are other perennial and semi climbing species which Burncoose would very much like to stock in the future.