I am soaking Sweet Pea seed today, the day after Anzac Day. We did not partake in any of the formal proceedings this year. We were mustering ghosts in the hills, looking for sheep that seemed to have lost their own battle with drought and dogs.
I missed the Twilight Service in Quilpie particularly. On Anzac Day eve, it takes place at the cemetery on sundown. It is a short and solemn ceremony with a Roll Call of Honour, a few succinct words with the waft of burning gum leaves drifting through the crowd. It finishes with those gathered placing a candle on the grave of every Returned Soldier buried there. The hillside (Boot Hill as it is affectionately known) glimmers in the darkness and it overwhelms me, every year, how many there are from such a small community. Usually this spectacle is mirrored in the dazzle of stars above as the night draws in. I think it would have been overcast this year though, with that leaden gloom making it all the more dramatic.
St. Patrick’s day is often lauded as the time to sow your Sweet Peas, however it is far too early here with the days still tediously hot. I had many false starts before my mother-in-law suggested Anzac Day and it has been far more successful. I soak the seed overnight before planting directly though I notice you can buy them as seedlings now. Study the label carefully though readers, what I have thought to be stunted growth has turned out to be a Bijou variety. My school girl French thought that to mean little. Subsequent checking (English Oxford) for your benefit states, small and elegant, which is all very sweet but will not fill your six-foot trellis.
Sweet Peas, Lathyrus odoratus, now come in a dazzling array of colours though I always choose for fragrance to avoid feeling cheated when I plunge my nose into them. For years I have read to add lime to your Sweet Pea bed but with my renewed interest in knowing your soil, add whatever will get you to about a pH6.5. Give them a support of some sort in a sunny position where they can romp along unimpeded and as they start flowering, keep picking them. Not only will they fill your rooms with fragrance and look, well, sweet, picking them will also encourage more flowers. An east-west trellis will allow for maximum winter sun for their growing season.
My dear friend Anna grew the best Sweet Peas, in fact they were prize winning in our highly competitive local Wool and Flower Show. A posy of Sweet Peas means thank you for a lovely time, it was lucky she brought them with her when she arrived for dinner as she often left here with a pounding headache so I may not have received them afterwards!
Finally, the English poet John Keats is credited at naming Sweet Peas and mentions them, amongst many flowers, in I Stood Tip-Toe Upon a Little Hill:
Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight:
With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white,
And taper fingers catching at all things,
To bind them all about with tiny rings.
I shall be hoping for a kind winter (for kind, read wet) as ever and sowing Poppy seeds throughout my garden beds as well, some years they thrive and some not. When they do, they are a joy to behold. I sow as many varieties as I can find and for years had Jo Brown’s flamboyant pink Poppies popping up throughout. Alas, they are no longer with me.
Although I did not wear a Poppy yesterday, I did remember. As I waited for directions from the plane above, I remembered how lucky I was to be doing what I love with such fine people around me. No challenges we face stand up to the challenges they faced for all of us. They still do. You don’t need the Last Post to give you the Anzac Day lump in the throat and to remember… but plant some Poppies and Sweet Peas anyway.
Lest We Forget,
The Moble Gardener.