June 24, 2012

The Exhibition Spencer Sweet Peas Arrive

Spencer Variety of Sweet Peas picked, and resting on the back porch before we distributed to the 'old ladies" in the neighborhood. If one is over the age of 85, Sweet Peas is like Cat Nip. I'm not sure why I love them so!

Ok, bear with me as I bore you with more sweet pea photos. What was I thinking...exhibition sweet peas in most every color, and no place to exhibit them? I forgot that sweet peas must be picked every day, otherwise they will stop blooming, so now, the porch, bedrooms and most every table in the house, as well as the neighbors' houses are filled with fragrant sweet peas with long stems.

I promise, only one (maybe two)  about this project ( because remember? the sweetpea party next weekend - if they last!) and then I will need to write a big round-up showing the step-by-step images. Why? So that next year, some of you can try growing these beauties. You know you want to.

 Here in Massachusetts, we had our first heat wave of the summer, with three days over 90 deg. F. Normally, this would prove fatal to most sweet peas grown conventionally, as they dislike significant temperature shifts, and those as we have been experiencing since the week before last, fall between a 50 degree spread. Still, the plants have broken out of their funk, the buds and stopped dropping, and suddenly, Joe and I are swimming in some of the most glorious sweet peas, with one foot long stems and a fragrance that can make even a raccoon, swoon.
I'm a little busy with work presentations this week, so I will simply share these images with you.

I kept the freshly picked sweet peas in the kitchen, overnight, and in the next morning, the entire house was scented. Using every spare glass that I could find, I separated varieties by color. If I didn't have to work this weekend on a project, I would have played around a bit creating some designs with various color combos. I might have ever made a sweet pea wreath. Maybe next weekend.
 The last time I grew Sweet Peas, it was 1986, which is amazing once I think about it, since it seemed like it was just few years ago. I was just out of college, and spent that summer home before moving to New York for a job at another ad agency, when I decided to grow an entire garden of exhibition sweet peas. Not only because they are so rarely seen, but because I remember my father and my aunt Harriet talking about how 'Ol Mrs. Usher" who lived on a large dairy farm behind the house where we live now, who apparently grew 'amazing' sweet peas. She must have, for at a family 4th of July party that year, I brought baskets of sweet peas. My fathers brothers ( there were 9 of them), all mentioned the legend of Mrs. Usher. I thought, how times have changed, here are 9 men who as boys, shot ducks and went skiing on home made skis in the 1920's and 1930's., then survived WWII, and now, decades later, they still remember Mrs. Usher and her sweet peas. Maybe because three of them married sisters, all who lived in this neighborhood. Sweet Peas today, remind me of this connection. The Usher children, now grown, own an automobile repair shop up the road, I wonder.....
Sweet Peas come in an amazing range of colors, especially those in shades of purples and blues, my favorite. You may be tempted to buy a mixed packet of seed, but by selecting exhibition varieties which are sold by named selections, one can assemble a more pleasing monochromatic collection of tints like this - a selection of periwinkle, lavender, violet, purple and magenta. This combination is the finest, I think.
After Cutting early in the morning, cut sweet peas are laid out and arranged by color before being plunged into cool, fresh water to harden off.

Keeping up with sweet peas while they mature during blooming season can be hard, but it's a chore no one truly hates. Daily picking is essential if you want to continued season of bloom, Allow just one plant to produce a seed pod, and it could all be over.

These colors reminded me of black raspberry ice cream, so popular here in New England, so, I decided to make some Black Raspberry Crumble Muffins for breakfast, as Joe was still sleeping, and the ducks provided us with a few fresh eggs.
Inspired by the Blueberry Muffins on the blog of Jenny Steffens
This morning, after discovering a blog written by a neighbor of mine, I became inspired to make these muffins. So much for that diet! But I had fresh eggs, fresh berries and everything else. They were easy, and although mine look less perfect than Jenny's ( look at those folds in the cup!), and, I didn't hand paint my napkin, they were still yummy. This was a warm, buttery red raspberry Muffin. I substituted Jenny's call for blueberries with some berries picked in the garden, since hey, that's what we had. I encourage you to visit her beautiful site and spend some time there. It looks like Jenny is the 'Me', of cooking and lifestyle blogs. I wonder why it has taken so long for my to discover her?

Black Raspberry Crumble Muffins ( use the recipe on Jenny Steffen's blog, and substitute black raspberries from your garden). The recipe is here. Our kitchen in not a pretty as hers, but, hey, we're dudes.


  1. Those are glorious. Here at our CA farmers markets bunches of sweet peas for sale are fairly common in spring and they are a big hit.

  2. hopflower9:37 AM

    Oh my! That project did turn out well, after all. Good for you and great job--I could just reach out and take a bunch home. Yes, we do have many springtime bunches at the Farmers' markets, but not quite like these!

  3. Glad to see you had so much success with the project. They must smell wonderful. Also thanks for the link to the muffin recipe. If it cools down soon, they maybe being baked my way too.

  4. Sweet peas are in almost every room in our house too.
    You must have had some good weather to get excellent blooms like this.
    Even with our really bad summer this year in the UK - cold winds and too much rain, the sweet peas have continued to flower.


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